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education. All who have been so unfortunate as to be present at many prize-givings at schools know too well how anybody, from the curate fresh from the university down to the local mayor, is prepared to speak at great length, to the infinite boredom of everybody, on the subject of education. Governing bodies exercising little influence in educational matters, teachers have been very largely at the mercy of boards of examiners.
It will be interesting to see in the future administration of education how far the matters to which I have referred will be remedied by the presence of a consultative committee of educational experts which shall advise the Board of Education, as provided for in the Board of Education Bill. Very much will depend upon the extent to which this committee will be consulted in drawing up syllabuses and schemes of study. In the Bill it is stated that the work of the committee will consist of (a) framing, with the approval of the Board of Education, regulations for the formation of a register for teachers, and (6) advising the Board of Education on any matter referred to the committee by the Board. It is evident from (6) that the consultative committee is not to speak unless it is spoken to; it rests entirely with the Board of Education how much or how little influence this committee shall have. It will hold a very different position from the Educational Institute in the scheme of administration in New Zealand. However, we must hope for the best.
The syllabuses of the Science and Art Department were drawn up by men distinguished in science, holding the highest academic positions, but who disregarded entirely in the course of instruction laid down the suitability of such subjects for mental training and discipline. The consequence was the ground covered by the syllabuses represented the amount of information which could be imparted by a successful teacher in thirty lessons, and the subject-matter was largely determined by its value as information.
This is the issue on which the whole matter turns. Is
instruction to be given in schools in science for the purpose of information in these subjects, or for the purpose of mental training?-a perfectly plain issue, utility or education-an issue on which there can be no compromise. A syllabus of work excellent from one point of view is quite useless from the other. If the intelligence is to be developed by this means, if the child is to find out things for himself, if he is to perform experiments, address his own questions to nature, make his own observations, and draw his own conclusions, and simply have the proper conditions supplied by, and receive suitable information and guidance where necessary from, his teacher, the amount of marketable information which he will acquire, as tested by ordinary methods, in a session will be about the same as his teacher might have imparted to him as information in two or three lectures. Further than this, the teacher who is most successful in storing the child's mind with the greatest amount of information is also the most successful in removing any necessity for the child to think for himself. He has simply to receive information and reproduce it preferably in the exact order in which it was given at a suitable opportunity in reply to examination questions.
There is a vast deal of truth in Thring's condemnation of this kind of teaching. "Education," he says, "is not bookworm work, but the giving the subtle power of observation, the faculty of seeing......If the cursed rule-mongering and technical terms could be banished to limbo, something might be done. Three parts of teaching and learning in England is the hiding common sense and disguising ignorance under phrases."
A very influential committee was appointed by the British Association in 1887 to enquire into the present methods of teaching chemistry. The full report, issued in 1889, was strongly in favour of chemistry being taught as a branch of mental education. As this report has had such a remarkable influence in modifying the teaching of science in schools, I make no apology for giving some important extracts from it.
British Association Report, 1889.
"The Committee are convinced that the high educational value of instruction in physical science has never been exhibited to its full advantage in most of our educational institutions. Nevertheless, there exists already a considerable body of experience which proves that there is no more effective and attractive method of training the logical faculties than that which is afforded by a properly arranged course of instruction in physical science; by no other means are the powers of accurately ascertaining facts, and of drawing correct inferences from them, so surely developed as they are by the study of this subject.
"It cannot be too strongly insisted that elementary physical science should be taught from the first as a branch of mental education, and not mainly as useful knowledge. It is a subject which, when taught with this object in view, is capable of developing mental qualities that are not aroused, and indeed· are frequently deadened, by the exclusive study of languages, history, and mathematics. In order that the study of physical science may effect this mental education, it is necessary that it should be employed to illustrate the scientific method in investigating nature, by means of observation, experimenting, and measuring, with the aid of hypothesis; the learners should be put in the attitude of discoverers, and should themselves be made to perform many of the experiments. The lessons ought to have reference to subjects which can be readily understood by children, and illustrations should be selected from objects and operations that are familiar to them in every-day life. Chemistry is particularly well adapted for affording this kind of instruction, and the committee are of opinion that a course which is mainly chemical will be most useful in developing logical habits of thought.
"Chemical enquiry involves, however, the use of various physical processes, and these are themselves of great value
Science Teaching in Schools.
from the point of view from which the instruction is being given. It is also of great importance that the learners should become acquainted with the characteristic instrument of physical science, viz., measurement, and therefore quantitative processes should be largely made use of.
"They do not desire to bring forward physical science as a substitute for any of the subjects of study, but they ask that like these subjects it should be looked upon everywhere as a necessary part of education, and that it should receive a due share of the time devoted to school work."
So much for the report. Here then is a very definite answer to the question, an answer given by a very distinguished committee of scientific men and experts in educational matters. The ruling spirit on this committee was Professor Armstrong, who since the issue of the report has left no stone unturned to get the kind of teaching it recommended introduced into teaching institutions. It is very largely due to his untiring advocacy that public opinion regards it at the present day with so much favour.
As an answer to the other side of the question, it may be said that, in an enquiry instituted by the Technical Education Board of the London County Council in reference to the teaching of chemistry, the evidence of chemical manufacturers, chemists at chemical works, and others was strongly in favour of chemistry being used as an instrument of education in schools rather than for the purpose of information. The opinions expressed were to the effect that the information so imparted in schools was of little value, even when the boys were afterwards to be employed in chemical works.
The recommendation of this committee with regard to the teaching of chemistry in secondary and continuation schools was as follows:
We are of the opinion that the teaching of chemistry in schools should be solely of an educational nature, and should have no reference to practical applications.
I. That chemistry is a valuable subject for school teaching, but that it should not exclude training in mathematics and languages, but should with these form part of a general education.
2. That it should be preceded by an elementary course of physics, to be treated as much as possible as exercises in measurements and practical arithmetic.
3. That the work should be always largely practical.
That attention should be paid to the style of the daily record of work, so that it may serve as an education in handwriting, grammar and English composition.
5. That no attempt should be made to impart in schools any knowledge of the application of chemistry for commercial purposes, except in so far as the products of such operations concern the common phenomena of every-day life.
Although the Report of the British Association was issued in 1889, and the conclusions were not combatted but highly approved by educational authorities, for a long time it made practically no headway in schools. Public examinations on which grants were obtainable, favoured the old style of teaching, and it was quite impossible to carry on the science departments of poor schools without these grants.
Here again we meet with the difficulty of having no organisation for bringing the influence of teachers' opinions to bear upon the proper authorities. If such a report had been published in New Zealand, the kind of teaching recommended would probably have been introduced into schools in the following session, or the Educational Institute would have known the reason why.
In some discussions which have taken place in reference to the tardy introduction of reforms in science teaching, blame has been cast most unjustly on headmasters and science teachers. Whoever may be to blame, we must surely exempt the teachers. Naturally they are anxious to make the science teaching in their schools as efficient as possible, but in many cases it