-or with those recently issued by a Committee of the Parochial Schoolmasters of Scotland—and to those especially who have had opportunities of hearing our most eminent and successful teachers analyze, explain, and illustrate the lessons on those subjects contained in these books, and of thus witnessing with how great facility even very young children may be made firmly to grasp and retain the leading principles of elementary science, it is unnecessary to say how desirable-how necessary it is, that all the teachers of our Elementary Schools should be possessed of a somewhat systematic and extensive knowledge of the branches alluded to.

Upon the whole, and speaking generally, my opinion of the young men in respect of literary acquirement is, that, while they may be found to possess a considerable amount of general knowledge, their acquaintance with the more strictly technical branches of instruction will be found both loose and limited.

With respect to the amount of skill in the art of teaching of which they are possessed at the completion of the course of training, I now proceed to give my opinion.

I shall first speak of the course of training which they undergo to enable them to give a gallery lesson. This appeared to me most effective. The students gave these lessons with admirable skill. They had evidently brought their industry and powers to bear upon this exercise, and I am of opinion that the methods adopted and practised for the purpose of giving the students the power of performing this difficult duty are highly successful, and entitled to unqualified approbation. The impression however left upon my mind, both from the industry with which these lessons had been prepared, and the spirit, energy, and skill with which they were given, was, that the students had been led to attach an undue prominence and value to them.

This conviction was deepened when I came to the observation of the manner in which their labours in the Model School were conducted.

These, although most nearly resembling the employment in which the greater part of their time, as teachers of schools of their own, must be spent, and therefore apparently deserving special attention, were not characterised by even an ordinary amount of vigour, and in every respect contrasted most unfavourably with the animation and energy that distinguish this part of the training of the young men attending the General Assembly’s Normal School in Edinburgh.

It appears, therefore, extremely desirable that to both branches of training.--viz. Ist. the organization, classification, and general management of the school ; and, 2nd. the method of managing and instructing the children in classes, as well as in the gallerythe earnest attention of the conductors of this establishment should be directed; and to obviate the probability of the gallery lessons absorbing the attention and exhausting the energies of the students, it should be sedulously impressed upon them that, how efficient soever such' lessons may be in imparting general information, and in enabling us, by calling out the sympathies and simultaneously exercising the faculties of large bodies of children, to make upon their minds strong and lasting general impressions, we must have recourse to arrangements of a totally different nature for the accomplishment of all that is really difficult in the management and technical instruction of a promiscuous school, consisting of children of various ages, and at different stages of progress, and in which it is the business of one man to impart instruction in various branches.

The unison of these two kinds of training, the object of the former being to enable the students to conduct with ability the business of the gallery,--and this is very efficiently done by the methods at present practised,—and of the latter to train them to skill in the organization, general management, and technical instruction of a school, would, in my opinion, constitute the perfection of professional training.

By a too exclusive attention to the former, the conductors of this establishment run the hazard of justly subjecting themselves to the charge of having trained their students to the efficient performance of only one part of their duty.

Although I cannot speak from personal observation, and cannot adduce the testimony of any one to corroborate this statement, I have considerable confidence in affirming that these young men, after having completed their course of training in this seminary, and after having been intrusted with the organization and management of a promiscuous school, will feel very considerable difficulty in performing satisfactorily most of their duties. In the management of ihe children in the gallery, and in the giving of the gallery lesson, they will be perfectly at home; but in the classification of their scholars, in the general management and discipline of the school, in the wielding and directing of its machinery of assistants and monitors, in apportioning the time that should be allotted to each branch, and in their knowledge of the best methods of teaching particular branches, they will, I think, be found deficient.

In short, my opinion upon the whole is, that the training, so far as it goes, is admirable; but it has not reference enough to the peculiar circumstances in which the young men are destined to Tabour, and does not seem fitted to prepare them for encountering boldly and successfully contending against the difficulties which every one must meet when entering upon a new and untried sphere of labour.

With regard to the effect that their instructions and training may be expected to have in imbuing their minds with a love of their art, and in preserving them from the contaminating influences of a large city, it is not necessary to say much. Although they are not boarded in the establishment, and are not under direct control, excepting during the hours of their attendance

at the seminary, yet in consequence of the Rector and Secretary being careful to recommend to them only such boarding houses as are kept by persons of whose moral and religious character they are cognizant, and upon whose faithfulness and integrity in reporting to them any flagrant improprieties of conduct They can with confidence depend, it is not probable that any course of conduct unbecoming their views and profession can, for any lengthened period, escape detection. And the tendency of everything they see and hear in the establishment is to impress their minds with the conviction of the moral dignity of the profession to which they have attached themselves, as having for one of its objects the elevation and improvement of the present condition of their fellow-men, by directing all their faculties to lofty and ennobling objects, and as having for its highest and chief aim the training up of children in the way they should go, and as an employment which is well fitted to cherish in their own souls those feelings of humble and sincere piety, which so well become those who are permitted to be fellow-workers with God.

It may be proper, before drawing this report to a close, to mention that there are certain features in the methods of instruction adopted in this seminary, the propriety of which appears to me somewhat doubtful, and also that there are certain principles recognised and acted on which seem to be objectionable, both in principle and practice. It may be necessary to say that in stating my opinion on these subjects, it is not my wish to do more than suggest to the conductors of the establishment a reconsideration of the various points, and a re-examination of their nature and tendency.

The first point to which I shall allude is the manner in which Ellipsis is used, and especially the frequency with which it is employed. I fear that it would be impossible, within reasonable space, to give to those who may not have been in this seminary, or who have not heard a lesson given in the peculiar method spoken of, any clear notion of the manner in which it is done. Admirable illustrations of this may be found in “ Stow's Training System.”

My objections are two:

First, I consider that the frequency with which it is employed in the higher classes involves an unnecessary and unprofitable expenditure of time, does not demand from them any strenuous exertion of mental power, and originates in a miscalculation of the amount of their intellectual development.

And, second, I think, that by habituating them only to such simple exercises of thought, it has the tendency to give a distaste for studies demanding more vigorous mental application.

The second point to which I think it necessary to refer, is the toleration, and even encouragement, given to simultaneous answering, and the almost total exclusion of individual examination. There are two grounds on which I think this practice

liable to serious objections: 1 submit them to the consideration of my Lords.

In the first place I think that its tendency, and indeed its necessary result, is to engender in the minds of the mass of the pupils habits of indolence and inartention ; that a very close examination of the mode of its operation, and a very stringent test of its results, will demonstrate that while it may give full scope for the exercise of the faculties of the more energetic and activeminded, it permits the powers of those whose minds are at all characterised by volatility or torpor to remain uncultivated, and even unexercised; and that it renders it impossible for the teacher to ascertain the precise amount and character of intellectual power in individual pupils.

It is extremely difficult to present in a definite form, without specifying examples of the results of this method and the mode of its operation, the basis on which these convictions are formed. The following instances occurred in my presence :

A class, consisting of seventeen, were doing sums in Compound Division. On presenting their slates the exercises of seven were right, and of ten wrong. The sum was written down upon the black board by the teacher, and the boys were requested to direct him how to work it. They were permitted to do this simultaneously. The consequence was that those boys whose exercises had been at first correctly performed, and who, it was evident, knew the rule well, again went through the process, and those for whom alone this second performance of the exercise was necessary, sat apparently almost uninterested auditors. It is obvious that they alone should have been permitted to answer. The others had shown themselves acquainted with the rule, and with the manner of applying it, by having previously presented on their slates the exercise correctly wrought. I mention this as one among several instances of the same kind that came under my notice, and if such things happen frequently, as I believe they do, I think my Lords will agree with me in thinking that such a method is justly chargeable with the above-mentioned evils and defects.

But, in the second place, the advantages supposed to belong to this method, and the objects which it is thought to serve, may be gained by other, and simpler, by less hurtful and therefore more legitimate means. It has for many years been a rule in the best of our Scottish schools, that when a question is put to the body of the class, those who are capable, or who think they are capable, of answering it, should indicate this to the master and their fellow pupils by holding up the hand. This practice seems to have got its way into most of our well-conducted seminaries : it is in operation at Battersea and Norwood, and it seems quite adequate to serve all the purposes for which some teachers, and these, so far as my observation goes, of little energy and skill, or limited experience, have had recourse to simultaneous answering.

The third and last point to which I beg to direct the attention

of my Lords is,—the endeavoar utterly to repress, by the abolition of the taking of places and other means, the exercise of the principle of emulation. I do not intend to state the grounds on which I entertain the opinion that this is theoretically unsound and practically injurious. I only wish to suggest that if the practice is based upon the conviction that this principle is very apt to engender feelings of “envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness,” and does not spring from the belief that it is contrary to the true dignity of man and the genuine spirit of Christianity, there is room for the consideration, by the conductors of this seminary, of the following question :

First, Is it your opinion that you have obtained from each individual of your pupils as great an amount of strenuous application to his studies as you could have secured provided you had permitted the principle of emulation exercised in the taking of places to operate upon his mind?

If the experience of these gentlemen justifies them in answering in the affirmative, then they have succeeded in doing what I had thought it impossible to accomplish. I do not think they have. If I am correct in my opinion, then the following questions occur :

Is the amount of evil to be feared from the possibility, even from the probability, of the origination of malignant feelings from the exercise of emulation, so great as completely to counterbalance and interrupt the amount of good that results from its exercise ? And is it not the duty of the educator rather to regulate any feeling which cannot and ought not to be utterly extirpated, than to endeavour altogether to repress its exercise ?

And in conducting the business of the school-room, are you not frequently, and in many ways, compelled to recognise and have recourse to this principle as a stimulus to exertion both moral and intellectual, although you do not choose to give palpable demonstration of this by placing your pupils in the class according to the degree of merit which they may be found severally to possess ?

The object of these questions is not so much to indicate my own opinion on the subject, as to direct attention to the consideration of one of the most important and interesting questions that can occupy the regards of the educationist.

I have now presented to my Lords a brief view of the course of study and training pursued in this establishment, with a candid and honest statement of my opinion regarding its efficiency.

It is unnecessary to say that the teachers of the various departments are men belonging to the very first class in their profession, and that their duties are performed with unwearied diligence and admirable skill. The founders of the seminary have been fortunate in securing the services of Messrs. Heslop, Caughie, and Forbes.

I cannot close my Report without recording my obligations to Mr. Cunningham, the rector, for the full information which he

« ElőzőTovább »