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ANNALS OF EDUCATION.
IMPROVEMENTS IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION.
We have recently become much interested in the evidence presented to the British House of Commons, on the examination of various members of the Irish Board of Education, before a select Committee for the purpose, to whose proceedings we have alluded in our February number. We do not, of course, suppose that measures adopted for the promotion of Elementary Education in Ireland, will be adapted to the promotion of the same object in the United States ; but we believe it impossible for any friend of education to become acquainted with the proceedings of the Board alluded to, without gaining much information which would be valuable in any age or country. We have classed some of the more interesting topics of examination under their respective heads. Mr Carlile was the member of the Board, who gave the greatest part of the replies in regard to the Preparation of Schoolmasters, and Mr Blake in regard to School Inspectors, Normal Schools, and Methods of Instruction.
1.-METHODS OF INSTRICTION IN ELEMENTARY Schools.
What is the course of instruction pursued in the several schools under the Board?
It is generally elementary.
It is. I have here a paper, which I beg to put in, which will show what the general instruction is; and I will also deliver in a copy of a class roll of one of the national schocls.
Are those rules placed in every school ?
Preparation of Schoolmasters.
Would any departure from those rules be liable to censure ? Certainly.
In your scheme of education, it appears that there is nothing but reading, writing and arithmetic embraced ; do you think it would be desirable that it should be confined to so narrow a range of acquisition ?
I think that the reading, the writing and the arithmetic, may be all so taught as to work improvement in the mind at the time that they are taught; that in teaching an art, it should be made the means of conveying instruction and information to the pupil.
Then under the head of reading, you would embrace history and geography, and all the other branches of English literature; and under the head of arithmetic, you would embrace a portion of mathematics?
Are there any defined limits which you would lay down in your idea of elementary education ?
None, beyond what the phrase itself conveys.
Would you have two kinds of elementary education, a higher and a lower; or would you distinguish between the education required by persons inhabiting towns, and that required for the inhabitants of rural districts ?
I do not think that there should be any fixed difference between town schools and rural schools, except as to one portion of instruction, which I should think particularly desirable in rural schools ; that is, agricultural instruction.
How far would you carry agricultural instruction ? Would you limit it to agricultural operations, or carry it to agricultural chemistry ?
I doubt whether, in general, you could go very far.
Has it been in the contemplation of the Board to found any agricultural school ?
The powers of the Board at present, would not enable them to do so; but I am sure the Board would be very glad to be enabled to found agricultural schools.
2.-PREPARATION OF SCHOOLMASTERS. Have you been in the habit of meeting frequently since the period of your first constitution ?
Our regular meet'ngs are once a week; these have occasionally been omitted, and sometimes we have had additional meetings.
Have you found that any obstacles have been interposed to the practical efficiency of the Board by the circumstance, that the members of it are of different religious persuasions ?
Their Admission to the Schools.
Not in the least ; we have never had a division on any subject.
Is it a part of the business of the Board to provide or approve of masters for the schools in the country ?
We only approve of them in the mean time, as we have not been able to do any thing towards providing them ; but we require certificates of their fitness, and it is in contemplation, according to the letter which has been addressed to us, when we are able to do so, to examine them, that we may be able to form a more perfect opinion of their qualifications from our own knowledge of them. There have been also two classes brought up from the country, of about twenty each, to receive instruction, who have been under teaching about three months.
Have they been under teaching at your own school in Dublin?
Does it appear to you that it would be advisable, if possible, to train masters for a considerably longer period than three months ?
I should think it quite indispensable to the well-being of the system to do so. In Ireland, the schoolmasters for the poor are of a very inferior description indeed; particularly with regard to general intelligence.
Have you formed any estimate, either by yourself, or in conjunction with other members of the Board, of what time it would be desirable to keep schoolmasters under training?
We agreed to a recommendation upon that subject, which was submitted to the Government, in which the Board were unanimous. It is as follows. •All students entering these academies for the purpose of becoming teachers under the national system, are to be examined on an entrance course. They should be required to study in the academy at least two full years ; during which time they should receive instruction, not merely in the different branches of knowledge specified, but be practised in teaching in the model school.
Does the Board mention the age at which the persons intended for schoolmasters should enter?
T'heir recommendation is, that the entrance examination should not be received till the student is at least eighteen years of age.
Does it appear to you, speaking generally without reference to the peculiar circumstances of Ireland, that it would be a great benefit to England or any other country in Europe, to have a set of schoolmasters well trained, and who could be sufficiently guaranteed to the country as good schoolmasters ?
Methods of Training them.
I should conceive very highly so, for any country whatever.
Are you of opinion that it is necessary, in order to ascertain whether they will fulfil the purpose for which are they intended, that they should have some practice in teaching at a considerable school before they go out ?
Yes, that is the opinion of the Board. They have recommended that measure, namely, to have model schools connected with the academies, for training masters, where they can be instructed in the art of teaching. When I spoke of training, I included education generally. The Kildare-place Society did not educate, but merely trained the teachers to conduct schools. But what we conceive to be peculiarly important is, that they should be educated as well as trained.
When you say that they should be educated, you mean that a considerable portion of knowledge should be imparted to them before they set out as schoolmasters ?
Yes ; the improvements that have been introduced latterly into education, particularly in Scotland, require a considerable degree of education to enable the schoolmasters to carry them into practice. Every subject brought forward in the reading lessons, must be explained, and the master is expected to be able to answer the questions that the children may put to hiin; and this he cannot do without considerable information.
Are you of opinion that by the Scottish method you have mentioned, a great improvement has been made on the old system of instruction, principally by teaching the boys to exercise their own minds?
I think a very great improvement indeed.
Has that system been adopted in your own model-school in Dublin ?
It has, as far as we have been able hitherto to adopt it. We had no books at first, adapted to that system of teaching ; we have been gradually accumulating books, the chief object of which is to convey information on various subjects, while the children are learning to read; and we have in our model-school pursued that system of instruction.
Can you describe to the Committee the process which was gone through with respect to those whom you have trained as schoolmasters ?
The head master went through our reading books with them, explaining the different subjects which occurred in these books. They were also exercised in reading, English grammar, arithmetic, book-keeping, and mathematical sciences; they were from time to time, taken into the school to learn the mode of teaching recommended by the Board, and were also exercised, from time to time, in teaching classes themselves.
Duties of S:hool Inspectors.
Supposing that were adopted in Ireland, which has been already in use in America - periodical conferences of teachers in the capital - would not that be a great auxiliary to the proceedings of the Board, in the information which they necessarily would furnish, of the state of education, and the progress of particular methods in various parts of Ireland ?
I think it would.
Do you think that course, combined with training schools, would give all the information which they could possibly require ?
I think it would.
Would you trust the management, in any manner, to an incorporated body of teachers ?
What are the inconveniences you see resulting from entrusting them with such power ?
My notion is, that those who are to control education in Ireland, should be persons possessing qualifications of a nature quite different from those that one could expect to be possessed by teachers in general. You have not merely to consider the question of teaching, but you have to consider many questions of great public importance : you have to pay a great deal of regard to public feeling; you must be prepared to yield your own opinions or your own prejudices upon many points, and to consider not only what is right in the abstract, but what is right in the particular state of the country, and what is likely to prove acceptable to the country. Now persons bred up to a particular profession, frequently, from particular views and habits, endeavor to make all principles and considerations bend to them.
3.-Duties of School INSPECTORS. In examining the Inspectors, have you any set series of questions in your examinations, or is it left entirely to the option of the Commissioners who happen to be present?
It is left entirely to the discretion of the members of the Board who happen to be present, and who certainly work the candidate pretty fully.
Is a certain number of members required to constitute a Board for the purpose of examining candidates for the offices of the Board ?
Three members are sufficient to constitute a Board, and a Board so constituted may transact any business; but whenever an inspector has been appointed, I am pretty sure that five members at least have attended. How are the Inspectors paid ?