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They are not capable of teaching, with anything like success, more than the ordinary branches of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Of the 560 pupils who were present in these schools at the time of inspection, there were only two who were learning geography. And if the manner in which twenty-four of that number who were learning English grammar did not convince me that the teachers themselves have no sufficient acquaintance with that branch of study, it at least seems to show their incompetency to communicate a knowledge of it to others.
Most of them stated that they were in the habit of explaining to the children the meaning of the words, and examining them upon the subject and general scope of the lesson. The process was, in most cases, merely mechanical; and even when it did assume more of the intellectual form, from the
limited amount of general knowledge which the teacher possessed, and his consequent inability to illustrate the lesson by adducing collateral information—from his not having, at any time, received instructions in the art of teaching, and his want of power to prosecute with sufficient facility and liveliness the necessary explanations and analysis, it did not appear to be followed by its usual beneficial results.
Upon the whole I feel compelled to say that these schools are, generally speaking, in a very unsatisfactory state.
Adventure Schools. These schools exist either in the towns, where the population far exceeds the educational means provided by the state, or in large and populous country parishes where the parochial or endowed schools are insufficient for the accommodation of all the children, or in localities where the established teachers are inefficient and unpopular. Three are situated in the town of Haddington; two in the town of Dunbar; two in Tranent; one in Prestonpans; and one in North Berwick. Three exist in large and thickly-peopled parishes ; two in localities where the parochial schoolmasters are inefficient; and one where the parochial teacher, whose reputation for ability is not exceeded by that of any teacher in the presbytery to which he belongs, has come into collision with the wishes of the people, and the attendance at whose school has in consequence recently considerably decreased.
I shall speak of the teachers of these schools as arranged into two classes; the first class consisting of six, the second of nine.
The gentlemen composing the first class are possessed of very considerable literary acquirement; one of them is a preacher of the church of Scotland, and three have attended college during several sessions. Three of these gentlemen evinced a considerable degree of skill in the management of their schools, and displayed an amount of energy in the performance of their duties, and an anxious desire to benefit the children intrusted to their care, that are deserving of the very highest praise. One of these had evidently studied with great care the general subject of education, and had employed every means within his reach of making himself acquainted with the improvements that have recently been made in the art of teaching.
It is of importance, however, to remark that the gentlemen thus spoken of labour in pretty large towns, whence, from the extent of the population and the grievous inadequacy of the endowed educational means to the wants of the people, there are many children whose parents are not able to pay more than the ordinary fees, and anxious to obtain for their children a good and sound education, are willing to offer something like remuneration enough to induce a liberally-educated man to remain among them.
But while it is true that, owing to such circumstances, there is generally to be found in every considerable town, in addition to the parochial or endowed school, at least one well-taught and wellconducted private school, it is also certain, and greatly to be regretted, that in the towns universally, and generally in large and populous parishes, the educational means for the children of the poorer classes of the population are very defective both in amount and quality:
This leads me to speak of the nine gentlemen composing the second class. All of them originally followed some other calling, and, with only one exception, became teachers when they had been rendered by accident or disease incapable of prosecuting the labours of their former occupation.
The narrow extent of their attainments prevents them from attempting to teach anything else than the most ordinary branches. They are altogether unskilled in the practice of the profession to which they have attached themselves. And, in short, it cannot but be regarded as in every respect unfortunate, that so many of our people are compelled by their inability to offer to sufficientlyaccomplished men an adequate remuneration, and in the absence of a sufficient number of endowed schools, to commit the education of their children into the hands of men who are only capable of imparting in the most inefficient manner the ordinary branches of knowledge, and who, however respectable in character and otherwise exemplary, are quite unworthy of being depositaries of interests so important.
These remarks apply with still greater force to the conductors of the nine female schools : while they confine their instructions to such branches as reading and sewing, they are worthy of being regarded as valuable auxiliaries in the great work of education, and it is most desirable that some expedient should be adopted whereby their labours would be attended by no other than beneficial results.
I cannot pass from the consideration of the present condition of the several classes of schools of which I have had occasion to speak, and from the statement of my opinion regarding the teachers, without bearing my most cordial testimony to the diligence and zeal with which, amidst numerous discouragements, and with an amount of remuneration so small in proportion to the degree of anxiety and labour expended in obtaining it, almost all these gentlemen have discharged their duties, and without expressing any sincere desire that such measures will soon be adopted by those upon whom devolves the duty of providing for the educational wants of our population, and of assigning to the schoolmaster the status to which the importance of his office and the extensively beneficial nature of his labours entitle him, as shall serve to stimulate the present teachers to accomplish themselves more thoroughly for the discharge of their difficult and important duties, by extending their acquirements, and by acquainting themselves with those methods of instruction which have been so excellent and admirable.
I have considered it desirable to bring under the special notice of my Lords the general character of the districts in which the partially endowed or side schools, and adventure schools, are situated, and the circumstances which originated their existence; and to point out in somewhat strong, though not unjust or overstrained terms, the deficiencies of most of the teachers, for the purpose of showing, in the first place, on how precarious, unsatisfactory, and infirm a basis the education of a great proportion of our population rests, and how deficient in real strength and solidity must be the superstructure reared upon it; and in the second place, and more especially, of demonstrating the great necessity of taking such means as will at once improve the existing educational machinery, and procure for remote and destitute localities a sufficient supply of good educational means.
I feel that the narrow extent of the sphere within which, in the discharge of my official duties, my inquiries have hitherto been confined, and the want of a sufficient amount of data on which to form any very decided opinion on the subject, should prevent me from stating at any length the manner in which these objects might be attained. I may here state, however, that the results of my observations
, have been a strong conviction of the desirableness and necessity of a more vigilant and stringent system of superintendence over the schools, and a confirmation of the opinion now almost universally held, that some security should be provided that every man who attaches himself to the profession of teaching shall, before having been appointed to any situation, and indeed before being permitted to practise the profession at all, have attained a competent knowledge of the branches to be taught, and shall have gone through, for some definite and somewhat lengthened period, a course of strictly professional training.
Full information on the more minute details such as the condition and size of the school-houses, the mechanical arrangements
within the school-room, the books used, the division of the pupils into classes, and the members constituting each class, the amount of fees charged for each branch, the remuneration of the teacher, and the proportion of that arising severally from salary, from school-fees, and from other sources will be found in the schedules which I have filled up, and which I now transmit.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,