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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83

Technical Education

Technical Education

From what has been already said, there can be no doubt of the importance of advancing technical education along the whole of the industrial and educational line. Our industrial schools occupy a position, however humble, in this line, and should therefore move with its movement. How this may be done, it is the object of the present paper to suggest.

The great obstacle in the path of technical education has hitherto been the difficulty of combining the school with the workshop. Marked as has been the success which has attended the establishment of science and art classes, the best results have been attained invariably by the special schools established in connection with, and directly adjoining special industries. I could quote examples, but want of time and space forbid. This difficulty, in the case of our schools is to a great extent non-existent; as they exhibit in their very name and nature, the necessary combination of school and workshop.

My recommendations will be of two distinct classes—the first applying to Town schools, and the second to Farm schools.

Firstly: with regard to Town Schools. Both Art and Science, so far as it can advance the thoroughness of the industrial training should be taught.

Upon examining the list of industries pursued in our schools, as shown in the "Classified List" published by the Reformatory and Refuge Union, I find that the majority of those taught to any great extent would certainly be better done if each child engaged in it knew how to draw. Drawing should be systematically and thoroughly taught in all our schools. To understand the extent to which this is done on the Continent, and with the very best results, you have only to look at the first volume of the page 26 Report of the Royal Commission, and if such results are produced abroad they can be at home. Very great facilities are now at hand for the attainment of this object. Most trained teachers are qualified to give the necessary instruction in the subject, and to earn grants from the Science and Art Department for successful work. In my own school—which by the way is not a town but a farm school—we have at present four drawing classes, one each for scale, freehand, geometrical, and model drawing; and we devote just one hour every Friday to the subject. At the last examination sixty-one boys were presented, of whom only two failed to satisfy the Examiners, while twelve gained the mark of distinction and a prize. I maintain that even as farmers each of these successful boys had gained a distinct benefit—eye and hand had been trained to observe and delineate with accuracy and intelligence. The advantage would be still greater to a boy who is to be a carpenter or joiner, plumber or gas-fitter, lithographer or relief stamper, and greatest of all in any industry where design plays an important part. Modelling, again, is a capital exercise for eye and hand, and under the Kindergarten system both on the Continent and in our own country, is employed with good results, especially among young children. Knowledge of form is gained, which is only obtainable by the actual manipulation of some plastic substance. The exercise is interesting, and calls out a child's faculties.

So far as industrial schools arc concerned, however, there is in most instances plenty of employment; what is most needed is the technical instruction which should accompany it, supplement it, and altogether raise the character of the work. The best way of supplying this need would be, of course, that the necessary instruction should be imparted by the regular teachers of the school; but in the present condition of things this would, as a rule, be out of the question. But most of our town schools are surely within reach of some science class, where the instruction can be procured; and I would recommend that all boys whose general education is sufficiently advanced, should be allowed, and even encouraged, to attend such classes.

Children above the third standard are now under the direction of enterprising School Boards, being taught science successfully. I might instance that of Liverpool, where in 1880, after a careful examination of the children being instructed in Mechanics, Professor Forbes, of Glasgow, says, "I was quite surprised to find so much clear intelligence and comprehension of the subject in boys so young," and this in a school by no means attended by the best class of children. I should add that in Liverpool this instruction is only to a very small extent given by the regular teachers in the schools,—the main part is done by a specially-appointed demonstrator who, with his apparatus in a hand-cart goes from school to school. It seems to me that all our friends in charge of industrial schools would do well to secure a regular visit from such a person. But even supposing both these suggestions should be found impracticable, there remains a third, which is to obtain the necessary assistance from volunteer helpers. A lady volunteer teaches botany very successfully in the York Industrial School, and most of us have good reason to know and appreciate the self-denying help of volunteers in our work generally.

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But, lest some should fail to see how scientific knowledge can be brought to bear on such industries as are carried on in our schools, I had better give an illustration. The City and Guilds of London Institute for the Advancement of Technical Education is an important centre for carrying on this work in London. Its schedule of subjects for lectures and examinations contains the names of all the chief industries of England under thirty-four different headings, and many of these are identical with those on the Reformatory and Refuge Union list I spoke of just now. Suppose we take the two representative trades of baking and carpentry, each of which is carried on in eighty of our industrial institutions.