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for which it was established. It has fostered the growth of art teaching, and has spread some knowledge of science among the children and adult population of every town throughout the Kingdom. Although its methods may not always have been the best from an educational stand-point, its officers have endeavoured to profit by the criticism which has been freely bestowed upon it, and the widespread system of Technical Education, which is now so largely helping the commercial interests of this country, may certainly be regarded as the outcome of the early efforts of its founders.
After the close of the Exhibition of 1851 the Society of Arts, in whose Council the idea of the Exhibition is said to have originated, organised a series of lectures to draw attention to the lessons which it taught. Playfair delivered two of these lectures, and subsequently made a tour through Europe to learn the system of Technical Education as then developed in different countries. The results of his investigations formed the subject of an interesting lecture to the students of the School of Mines. To Lord Playfair is due our first authentic knowledge of the work of foreign schools, and his speeches and reports gave a great impulse to the study of foreign systems of education. In his diary Playfair says: In his diary Playfair says: "Having great faith in the education of public opinion, I began a crusade in favour of Technical Education. It was weary and dreary work. My voice sounded to myself as the voice of one preaching in the wilderness." The experience of others, a quarter of a century later, has not been very different. Nevertheless, it is consolatory to know that the vibrations of every voice, preaching in a good cause, are never really lost. They penetrate the wilderness, and by ways we cannot at the time discover produce some permanent effect. In the Board of Education Act, and in its consequences, which will be more fully realised ten years hence, we see the results of the efforts, during the last few decades, of many an eager worker in the field of Educational Reform.
Although as early as 1836 a grant of £1500 was made by the Government towards the establishment of a School of Design, it was not till after the Exhibition of 1851 that any systematic aid was given to the teaching of Science and Art. In a speech from the Throne at the opening of Parliament, November 1852, reference was made to "The advancement of the fine arts and of practical Science," and to a comprehensive scheme for the promotion of those objects, which resulted, as already stated, in the establishment in 1853 of the Department of Science and Art under the control of the Board of Trade. It remained under the Board of Trade till 1856, when it was transferred to the newly formed Education Department. In 1859 a system of grants in aid of Science and Art classes applicable to the whole country was approved; and, with some important changes, the system has remained in force until the present day.
The Department owed its existence to the early recognition of the fact, that manufacturing industry was destined to be more and more dependent upon the application of the discoveries of science and of scientific method to the processes of production. This fact was brought home to the minds of intelligent observers by the variety of products of different countries shown at the first Exhibition. What most struck our manufacturers was the absence of beauty and design which characterised the products of British industry, and from that time arose the belief in the saving influence of science and artistic skill.
If the Department, originally organised to assist industry, had restricted its efforts to the establishment in different parts of the country of schools for instruction in subjects cognate to the trades of the district, the history of education during the past half century would have been very different, and our commerce might have suffered less from foreign competition. It would seem, however, that the original purpose of the Department was partially lost sight of in the endeavour to
encourage, without reference to any organised system of instruction, a general knowledge of elementary scientific facts. A machinery was created, unknown in the educational system of any other country, for catching here and there a stray genius. It was described by Huxley as a "capacity-catching machine." It was cumbrous in its operations, and whilst it impeded the healthy growth of primary instruction, it helped by the very grants it distributed to postpone the organisation of a sound system of secondary education. Moreover, it left to voluntary effort the building up of a national scheme of distinctly technical instruction. There was, too, a detachment about the work, which is shown in its failure to recognise Literature and Language equally with Science and Art as a part of a liberal education whether primary or secondary. Through its Museums and its Art Schools the Department has undoubtedly helped industry; but looking back through the last fifty years, and comparing educational progress here and abroad, one cannot fail to be struck rather with what might have been than with what has already been accomplished. During the forty-seven years of the Department's existence, the outlook has never been so promising as now, when the Unity of Education has come to be recognised, and the organisation of its different branches under one Central authority is likely to be effected.
The dependence of industrial upon elementary education is so intimate that before referring to the causes which led to the establishment of technical schools in all parts of the country, some mention must be made of the great Educational Act, which will be for ever associated with the name of W. E. Forster. The year 1870 is a landmark in the history of Education in this country. Prior to 1870 although State Aid was given to a large number of elementary schools, primary education was almost entirely dependent upon voluntary effort. Forster's Act brought education within reach of every child in the land. The most remarkable feature perhaps in the
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history of primary education in this country is the parallel development of our Board and Voluntary school systems. No more striking instance can be adduced of the practical good sense of the British people, and of the wisdom of the statesmen who guide the policy of the nation, than the fact that these two systems have continued to exist and to develop side by side,a result which goes far to explain the absence in this country of that acute phase of the religious difficulty, which has caused so much political disturbance in other countries, where the one system or the other has been wholly suppressed.
To the Act of 1870 the industrial progress of the Nation during the last thirty years is largely due. Except on the foundations of elementary education no system of technical instruction can possibly be reared. The first generation of scholars had scarcely left the newly organised Board schools before it was discovered that the science classes of South Kensington failed to give that specialised teaching which our young artisans required. Something more, and something other than the instruction so provided was needed. And not only among the artisan population, but to an equal if not to a greater extent among those who were to become the leaders of industrial works, the want of a new kind of education was beginning to be felt. During the early years of the last quarter of our century a further advance was made in scientific discovery. The possibilities of Electricity began to be realised, and the influence of well-directed chemical research in the building up of new industries abroad was recognised by some of the most far-seeing of our scientific men. The agitation that precedes a renascence had begun. There was a feeling of uneasiness as to the value of the education given in our Board schools, in our secondary schools and Universities, and doubts were expressed as to whether it was as well adapted as it might be to the changed and changing needs of industrial life. Huxley and Arnold, both Government officers, realised the urgent necessity of a change and an advance, and each in his own
way cried aloud and spared not. The examination system as then conducted was not conducive to sound education. Whilst pleading for scientific instruction Huxley saw that much of what was called science teaching was practically useless. “If scientific education is to be dealt with as mere book work, it will be better not to attempt it." "If scientific training is to yield its most eminent results it must I repeat be made practical." "I want to see instruction in Elementary Science and in Art more thoroughly incorporated in the educational system." "At present it is being administered by driblets, as if it were a patent medicine, ‘a few drops to be taken occasionally in a tea-spoon'." These are a few of the wailings of Huxley scattered through his numerous speeches and addresses. In one of his Essays he says: "I am strongly inclined to agree with some learned schoolmasters who say that in their experience the teaching of Science is all waste of time. As they teach it I have no doubt it is, but to teach it otherwise requires an amount of personal labour and a development of means and appliances which must strike horror and dismay into a man accustomed to mere book work'." Since these words were written the teaching has improved, but further changes are still needed to make the Science of our secondary schools a fuller preparation for professional and industrial life. Arnold's criticism of our methods was equally to the point. No one realised more fully than he the radical defects of our educational system. "The idea of Science," he tells us, "and scientific knowledge is wanting to our whole instruction alike," and Arnold used the term Science in its wider and more correct sense, not as mere information about the laws and facts of Nature. Huxley and Arnold approached the problem from different points of view, but in each was found that energising spirit of unrest to which we largely owe the educational advances of the last twenty years.
1 Science and Education. Essays by T. H. Huxley. Macmillan, 1893.