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Report by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools, the Rev. Alex
ANDER THURTELL, M. A., and the Rev. Murrhead MITCHELL, M.A., on the Training Institution supported by the York and
Ripon Diocesan Board of Education at York. Sir,
September 10, 1847. Having been honoured by the direction of their Lordships of the Committee of Council on Education to examine into the qualifications and fitness to teach in schools for the working classes of the masters who have been trained, and the students at present in training, at the Diocesan Training College at York we proceeded together to the duty.
The Reverend the Principal informed us that 25 masters of schools had come up for the purpose of examination, and that he should submit to our notice 11 students who have resided in the establishment in training for different periods of time. He also informed us that he should present for examination in the art of teaching only such students as had made some progress in that branch of knowledge.
The classes of the Middle School attached to the Institution afforded us the means of testing their powers. These seemed to be intelligent, well-taught lads, and perhaps one of the defects we observed in the method of teaching adopted by the masters and students, may be referred to the facts that they were not teaching boys of mere elementary schools, but in a much more forward state than is usual in schools for the working classes, though perhaps not more so than those of the village school at Battersea, or other schools attached to normal establishments.
Each teacher gave a lesson for the most part on his own subject, and taken from Scripture, branching out afterwards, at our request, into general topics, mostly geography and grammar, sometimes history, and, in a few instances, arithmetic.
Some of the teachers made extempore sort of preface to the subject; but the greater part read a passage to the class, gave slight explanations, and occupied themselves rather in drawing out the knowledge of their pupils by a series of questions than in exhibiting their own power of imparting information.
The passage was at our suggestion read by the teacher in order to save time, and to afford us an opportunity of discovering any imperfections of pronunciation.
In most instances, we explained to the teachers that it was our object to learn how they would impart information and instruct rather than examine a class, but failed in persuading them to adopt this course to any extent. We are inclined to think they followed their own method rather than ours from the cause above alluded to, viz. the known requirements of the classes examined, since we observed the teaching of those who were appointed to the lower classes to be much more satisfactory in this respect.
While we have great pleasure in bearing testimony to the excellent manner in which some of the teachers conducted the examination, and maintained the order and attention of their classes, it is gratifying to be able to state that in no case have we to express decided disapprobation. All seemed to take pains, and it was satisfactory to observe that their success appeared chiefly to depend on the more lengthened opportunities of instruction they had derived from longer residence in the Institution; the distinction between those who had been three years, and those who had passed only one in the College, being most marked.
Instruction by mouth of the master, we conceive may be divided into oral and catechetical; in oral instruction, as applicable to teaching in schools, the master conveys knowledge in a sort of lecture. He does not propose to the child simply to understand the subject by its own exertions as it best can, but breaks down difficulties, illustrates with collateral information, points out the mistakes likely to be made, rectifies any error which from its own individual habit of thought or from circumstances connected with its position the child may be likely to fall into, and thus endeavours to make a strong impression on the mind of the child, and convey a complete idea of the subject propounded.
The catechetical mode is not of such a high order, nor does it require such enlarged powers in the teacher. It consists in permitting the child to acquire for itself from books, almost without the assistance of the master, whatever knowledge of the subject in hand that he can, and the master's duty is simply to draw it out of the child afterwards by judicious questioning.
A really efficient teacher will know how to adopt both these methods with success. He will commence his lesson with oral teaching, and accompany and conclude it with catechetical. Too frequently oral teaching degenerates into mere preaching, and shoots far above the heads of the children addressed; while catechetical teaching is often the driest and most unprofitable exercise that can occupy a schoolboy's attention.
We are of opinion that attention is too exclusively paid in this establishment to the catechetical form of instruction, whilst not much attempt is made at oral teaching, and to this fact we attribute a general deficiency of illustrative power, and of exposition, and a certain want of fluency in language; but, on the other hand, much of the evil of inflated style and vulgar exaggeration of insignificant details is avoided.
Perhaps, therefore, for men of ordinary acquirements, and with no great fund of reading or copiousness of idea, the error arising from the sole employment of the catechetical method (so successfully practised in this establishment) is one on the safe side. But we would express a hope, that, when the students shall pass a longer period at the College, more attention will be directed to the oral style of teaching, as most important both for displaying and cultivating the intelligence of the master and securing the instruction of the pupil.
In the paper work of the examination upon the art of teaching, the difference between those who had enjoyed lengthened training, and those training for shorter periods, is most manifest. The writings of those who have had but one year are almost universally deficient in order, arrangement, method, and power of illustration ; while the compositions of those having had the advantage of three years' training are mostly very commendable, and sometimes of a very superior order.
The boys examined were under good management, and we had consequently little opportunity of observing the powers of the teachers to maintain discipline; but we took notice, that order was generally well preserved, and the attention of the boys to the teachers merited our best commendation.
Ít is pleasing to be able to add, that the knowledge conveyed by the teachers, if not so extensive or complete as we might have desired, was at least sound and accurate, and for the most part useful; and that with many substantial qualities the teachers were in general exceedingly modest and unpretending, and though there was often great carnestness of manner, it was unaccompanied by any offensive or disagreeable peculiarities. We were also surprised at a comparative freedom from provincialisms in their pronunciation and language.
There was in their answers to questions on the art of teaching great variety of view, as it was natural to expect; but in general they appeared to have thought carefully on the most important points of school teaching, to have fornied independent views, and to have formed them with great correctness. They did not, however, display any extended information on the subject ; and frequently methods were recommended which belong rather to the past than the present state of the art.
In our opinion much advantage would result to the Institution by the adoption of a course of instruction expressly relating to this most important branch of a teacher's duties. From what we learned also respecting the practice afforded to the students by teaching in the Middle and Normal schools, it would seem desirable that much superintendence and positive instruction upon this subject should be systematically afforded.
For the want of this bad habits are often contracted, and a steady, continuous improvement cannot be secured. The Institution, however, has hitherto had so many difficulties to contend with, that in this and many other respects it has not been able to effect all that its supporters and managers feel to be requisite. We believe, with attention to the points above mentioned, the students of this Institution would make complete teachers, and we are willing to hope that even in their present state they will be found valuable instructors in the village schools to which their duties will be mostly confined.
We have, &c.,
(Signed) A. THURTELL. The Secretary of the
M. MitcheLL. Committee of Council on Education.
STATE OF POPULAR EDUCATION IN FOREIGN PARTS,
Privy Council Office, Downing Street, June 30, 1848. The Committee of Council on Education, having esteemed it desirable to ascertain the modes of conducting popular instruction in foreign countries, applied for information in September last, through the aid of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, from the governments of the principal states of Europe and America. Answers were not received from all, perhaps on account of the political excitement that prevailed in many countries; and the communications that were received were in each case confined to the transmission of the usual tables prepared for publication. From these the statements contained in the following pages have been extracted. *
At present there appears to be no country in Europe in which public instruction is not directed or managed by a department of the government. The schools are universally subjected to inspection, and their state is annually reported upon. In all of them the books used are controlled by the Boards of Education, through whose agency, and at whose recommendation, the aid deemed expedient to be afforded by Government is distributed. The cost of public instruction is in some countries defrayed by incomes from endowments; and in the north of Italy these, united with the communal contributions, suffice to allow primary instruction to be gratuitously given. In the countries of Central Europe schoolmoney levied on families, whether the children attend the parochial school or are otherwise instructed, is raised by the school authorities, but at a moderate rate; and in those countries the law compels parents to send their children to school, or at least to the periodical examinations. Supplementary aid from Government is universal, both to schools and colleges. The admission to colleges, universities, and offices under government, is made dependent upon school certificates, in addition to those of baptism and confirmation amongst Christians.
In the United States the plan of raising a regular school rate, irrespective of the attendance of children at the parish schools, was first adopted in Pennsylvania, where the Germanic population is largest. The same system is now in force in different parts of the Union, and the local governments are endeavouring to establish the inspection of schools, which is found to be essential to a good system of popular education. A difficulty in the United States seems to lie in the want of a special Board, invested with the power of superintending a large portion of the population, the absence of which occasions the burthen to fall more heavily than is convenient upon those public-spirited citizens who undertake the duty in their respective localities.
By T. C. Banfield, Esq., of the Privy Council Office.