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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 85

Secondary Education: The System of two Famous Schools in Britain

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Secondary Education.

The System of two Famous Schools in Britain.

The Committee of Conference on Secondary Education in North Otago concurred in the petition, now granted, for Parliamentary inquiry "into the whole matter of secondary education in North Otago as affected by the disposal of the Waitaki endowment." The end in view of the movement represented by them is, "that secondary education should be placed within easy reach of both sexes and all classes" in the locality. The plan suggested for that purpose by the Otago Board of Education is, that in place of the existing Waitaki School and Oamaru Grammar School there should be one school serving the common purpose of both. In illustration of that suggestion, the Convener of Committee gave in the following statement to its meeting on Saturday last.

James Macgregor, Convener.


I communicate the following information as to the working constitution of two famous schools, because it is of extraordinary interest and value in connection with our present inquiries. They both originated in endowment : Dollar Academy, from a London Merchant, a.d. 1818; and Madras College, St. Andrew's, from a dignitary of the English Church, a.d. 1831. They both are governed by trustees, under direction of Parliament. And they both have achieved a world-wide reputation by successsful achievement of the true purpose of our Waitaki endowment, to put "secondary education within easy reach of both sexes and all classes." First, the education which they give is so excellent that they are numerously attended by pupils, from various parts of the world, whose parents go to reside in the locality for the sake of it, or who are placed as boarders within reach of it. Second, the fees are so moderate as to make it easily accessible to every class, and there is ample provision for gratuitous education of those who need it and deserve it. And third, girls are provided for on the same footing as boys.

It may be added that they show what may be clone with our Waitaki building, instead of starving the education of the people for the purpose of maintaining this white elephant because so much of the endowment has already been wasted on the purchase of an elephant. In Dollar and St. Andrews the school building is simply for school work. Pupils from a a distance are allowed to take as much "wholesome walking exercise" in going to and from school as they may find expedient. Those for whom this way of attendance is not open are placed as boarders, generally in private establishments, which are conducted in some cases by masters of the school, in others by retired clergymen or others who may choose to undertake the care of such au establishment. The Dunedin High School has itself two establishments of this sort, each under the care of a resident master, one for boys and one for girls. The Waitaki house might be so employed for boarded pupils of a North Otago High School at Oamaru, to which those not caring for "wholesome walking exercise" could be easily conveyed by one or more omnibuses kept for the purpose : Mahomet thus coming to the mountain, instead of the mountain going to Mahomet.

My information, first obtained from a distinguished Otagonian alumnus of each of the schools, Mr Morrison, one of the masters of Dunedin High School, and Robert Gilkison, Esq., of Stewart, Holmes, and Denniston, Dunedin, is now completed by authoritative documents received this week : namely, the full and clear Prospectus of Dollar Academy for 1877-78, and the Scheme, now under consideration of St. Andrews educationists, pioposed by the Endowed Schools (Scotland) Commission of Parliament. The page break two schools, originating in educations enthusiasm, have been always conductec and watched as educational experiments of great interest. The Dollar Prospectus exhibits the matured results of a vigilant experience extending over sixty years. And the scheme for Madras College shews what finishing touches of improvement are now suggested to educational science for a constitution which—independent in origin—is coincident with that of Dollar in effect. It is striking to observe the completeness of substantial coincidence of both with what bad occurred to some of us in North Otago as the right solution of the educational problem here. And very striking is the contrast presented by both to the state of things here apologised for by some educational theorisers,—a great endowment more than exhausted in supporting a head master with tutor and assistant, at an additional yearly cost to parents of ten guineas per pupil, in a school placed miles away from the local centre of population, and there so fatally misplaced as to be inaccessible to country boys who cannot go and come on horseback, while it makes no provision whatever for girls !

1. It is a curiously interesting coincidence, with contrast, that the St. Andrews endowment originally had to deal with the fact of a burgh school previously existing there; and dealt with it, not like the existing Waitaki constitution, but, as is now suggested, by "incorporating" the burgh school in the constitution of the new school. The Dollar endowment found a clear field there in respect of secondary education, and has practically absorbed (beneficently) the primary education of the parish. The Infant School is in Dollar Academy a distinct department. For Madras College the Commissioners propose that the primary education should so far be given off by the erection of a new common school under the Education Act. But they both alike have, within the substance of their abiding constitution, a Junior and a Senior division of the course. In Dollar the Junior ends with what is equivalent to the fourth standard of the Scoitish code, while in St. Andrews the Senior begins with what is equivalent to the sixth standard; the distinctively secondary instruction, thus appearing to begin in the Academy at one stage earlier than in Madras College. It will be remembered that in our existing Waitaki School, as also in Dunedin High School, pupils are received at nine years of age; while in New Zealand as in Old Scotland, they can hardly be ripe for the distinctively secondary instruction until, say, from the 11th to the 13th year; although the primary instruction may be conducted from the outset with a view to the secondary, and thus be different in type from that received in the common schools, even if the subjects be the same. Inconvenient crowding of a High School, through intrusion of pupils not intending to go on with the higher education, is checked at St. Andrew's by a fee, as it can be at Oamaru.

2. Teaching Staff and Curriculum—Really effective teaching is impossible without an adequate number of teachers. In Dollar there are ten masters, two assistants, and a number of persons giving instruction in special subjects. There, however, the number of pupils is so large, requiring that some of equal standing should be distributed in two or more classes, that two or more teachers may be employed where one would have sufficed if the number of pupils had been smaller. Perhaps, too, with their affluence of means, they do not, so much as they might, economise their teaching power by sending one teacher from class to class at different hours; correspondingly, for instance, to what we presume is the practice in Dollar, and is expressly prescribed in the St. Andrew's scheme, that ordinarily the instruction of the male and female pupils shall be in different rooms. Still, for any moderately-attended school a certain number of teachers is indispensible for effective teaching on account of the number of subjects which have to enter into a genuine good education of that type; were it only because Jack of all trades is master of none, and the cleverest tradesman alive cannot well go on with two or three barrowfuls of "notions" at one time. The central subjects are—classics, mathematics and physics, arithmetic, English (with) history and geography, French and German, drawing (ornamental, mechanical, and engineering), writing (plain and ornamental, book-keeping, mapping), and science. The St. Andrews scheme covers pretty much the same ground. So indeed must any plan of genuine good education of the type now in question. Here, again, for economy of teaching force, something may be further done through more of massing together of natively kindred subjects; so that, e.g., one master shall undertake arithmetic along with mathematics and physics, and another, the subjects placed under the page break head of drawing along with writing and those placed under it. But here, too, there is a limit, beyond which really effective teaching is a physical impossibility. The matter was carefully considered in 1873, at an inquiry by Parliamentary Commission regarding the Otago High School (of Dunedin) as it then was. Educational experts gave their opinions, with illustrative schemes, upon the question, What, with the utmost economy compatible with real efficiency, is the amount of staff required for such a school? The question is vital and fundamental in the present case. I have seen no reason to believe that the apologists for the existing Waitaki state of things have ever so much as thought of the question as thus stated.

3. As to terms of admission—The Madras college scheme provides for certain extramural bursaries and university scholarships. It also prescribes that a certain number of those needing it shall be admitted to gratuitous education by competitive examination (a pass entrance examination for all is common to the two schools). Otherwise there is a fee, of which the to-be-prescribed amount is not specified; but my information from Mr Morrison is, "Fees, varying in various classes, extremely moderate : from about 2s 6d (per quarter) for writing, up to, say, 12s for classics." In Dollar, the parishioner ("old identity") is in this relation distinguished from the householder ("new chum")of under three years' residence; and both, from boarders and day scholars from other parishes ("wholesome walking exercise"). The rate of fee is further graded according to degrees of wealth. For a parishioner with less than less a year of income there is no fee. If he have between that and L75 a year he pays, for "elementary branches," 10s 6d a year; and for classics, mathematics, modern languages, or drawing, 2s each (!). If he have more than L75, he pays, for "elementary branches," 153 a year; "general fee," L1 1a; for French, 10s; for German, 10s; for drawing, L1 1s. The L50 householder pays as the L75 parishioner, and the L75 householder as the boarders and the day scholars from other parishes. These pay at the highest rate, which over all comes to about L7 7s a year; but for the Junior School in this degree, L2 10s.

While there is a normal course of study prescribed for the school as a whole, in both schools there is permitted a large discretion for selection of subjects in the case of individual pupils. The constitution seems to be the ideally good one for a case like that of North Otago. With the existing Waitaki constitution, the above advantages to the community are manifestly and hopelessly unattainable for all time. On the other hand, it can be shown from careful calculation of ways and means, that the advantages can be easily realised through amendment of the constitution such as has been suggested by the Education Board, on a changed site as called for by the School Committees and County Council of Waitaki, as well as an overwhelming majority of householders in town and country voting by plebiscite. Allowing for coat of new building, even though the white elephant should bring nothing, the net existing means remaining will suffice for a full staff of teachers, provision for girls on the same footing as for boys, free education of those who need it and succeed in competitive examination, with a saving to others of much more than half of the ten guinea fee, and a saving to the education fund of some L200 a year laid out on secondary instruction in the Grammar School. The education obtainable in this way in Dollar and St. Andrews is famed for its excellence over the world. Are there any for whom it is not good enough here? Who are they] What are they? Why should they live at the expense of the community by absorbing the benefits of a national endowment of secondary education in the locality?