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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, October 1909

The University Senate

page 61

The University Senate.

"If anyone jostles
Those obstinate fossils,
He gets no reward for his pains."

Capping Song.

The University Senate

The University Senate holds its Annual Meeting at the commencement of next year and the Spike would like to emphasise once again the two outstanding reforms which become more necessary every year, the raising of the matriculation standard and the abolition of examinations conducted from England. We fervently hope that the time is not very remote when neither of these will furnish material for capping songs.

There are two points of view from which to vie the question of the matriculation standard—the educational viewpoint and the viewpoint of age. As to the first we would again impress upon the members of the Senate a fact which they sometimes overlook, namely that the average boy who has spent not more than tow or at most three years at the elementary groundwork of a subject which he intends to study at the University—take Latin or French for example—cannot possibly do justice to the subject as University subject. He can pass his degree examinations if he can cram successfully, but we do not think that he most conservative of the many Tories who have seats on the University Senate, would care to designate the University as a cramming institution. That, however, is its primary function under the present system. Raise the standard of matriculation and the student will be able to gain some real benefit from his University studies.

The raising of the matriculation standard—and it seems to us that this could best be effected by making compulsory, prior to entering the University, at least four years, secondary school education—would have the effect of raising the age limit. There is no doubt that the present system is nnfair to student; the average boy who has just passed his matriculation, is hardly old enough to realize the comparative independence and responsibility attached to the status of a University student. But the fault lies in the University system, not in the student. The raising of the matriculation standard would have a beneficial result in every way.

But the policy of having the majority of the examinations conducted by English examiners is perhaps the most objection page 62 able and incomprehensible part of the present syllabus. It is difficult for the student who suffers it all to understand how a system which restricts the year's work to five and a half months can be better than one which would allow eight or nine months for study. The older student has grown accustomed to it and its necessary corollary, cram. Some of them, however, are not content.

What the supporters of the present absurd system put forward as an argument, is that the degree is much more valuable by reason of the fact that distinguished English scholars allow their names to appear at the head of the examination paper. We are open to conviction, but we have a shrewd suspicion that those same distinguished scholars would not refrain from allowing a trust worthy assistant to mark for them just one or two of the candidate's papers. But be that as it may, the argument as to the greater value of the degree is tantamount to saying that a three hours examination is of overwhelming importance, and training is of no importance. Rule one: cram; rule tow: cram; and rule three: cram an examination which should be but one of the means to an end, is made the end itself. Another important point is that the New Zealand professors who perform s creditably the responsible and important task of teaching, are not trusted with what should be the subordinate and is the more mechanical task of examining. The Australian States can provide their own examiners; and the worst that can be said of the Australian University teaching is that its standards are not lower than those of the New Zealand system.

And New Zealand prides itself on being an advanced nation educationally as well as politically.