Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

buildings were handed over to the School Boards when the remnant of ecclesiastical jealousy well nigh vanished, and popular and national control became an accomplished fact, in 1872.

Though thus far in advance of England on the subject of the management of primary education, Scotland is yet deeply sensible that her position is very far indeed from having reached those simple and those great ideals with which she has been long familiar. In other words, the Scotchman—that shrewd citizen, that practicab person with metaphysical leanings-has an immediate and a splendid use for the coming grant of money. He goes back, as I have said, to his cherished ideals, and finding that they have been in practice realised for the nation's benefit in primary education, he takes occasion to say that he will now complete the great national task, and free the entire system from the primary school up through the secondary and the technical college to the universities.

So far as the secondary schools and secondary subjects are concerned, no inconsiderable progress in the direction of freedom from fees has already been made. School Boards have been intelligent and enterprising, the Department sympathetic and helpful. This on the one hand; while on the other Parliament has not been stingy, and there is in fact from what are known as the Residue and Equivalent Grants paid to Scotland apportioned sums which reach a figure of over 100,000l. per annum. No portion of these latter sums, however, is dedicated directly to the payment of fees, and the result is twofold. The obstacles of poverty and distance-specially strong, specially great in a country like Scotland-remain ; and so long as no national attempt is made to remove those barriers, secondary schools and secondary departments will be in advance of the demand, and to that extent will fail. Not that the demand, in the sense of longing and ambition, is not there; but the sacrifice of the time and labour of the child is great to begin with, and when to that is added the burden of school fees and of maintenance at a distance from their homes, it is too great to be borne. The educational career of children of even the most approved fitness is brought to a close; the entire nation is the loser; Knox's ideal, the national ideal, has not been realised; what should have been the opportunity for all has been narrowed to the perilous chance of the few who, by force or by audacity of character, and often through want and trial and suffering, can · break their birth's invidious bar.' But Scotchmen are daring enough to think that 'invidious bars' and 'evil stars ’ should have no place in the policy of the Commonwealth.

While it is no doubt true as matters stand that free secondary and technical education has not yet been reached in Scotland on a national scale, still three points have already been made—all points of advance towards realising the ideal. In the first place, the light of the ancient Burgh schools, as centres of secondary instruction, was never wholly extinguished. In the next place, not only has the liberality of Scotchmen been in large measure devoted directly to this great purpose, but Parliament has sanctioned a free and fairly masterful diversion of the bounties of the dead hand to the same object. I refer to the operations of the Educational Endowments Commissioners under the Act of 1882. And lastly, I point to the action of the County and Burgh authorities all over the country, in administering recent grants from the Exchequer. This action has displayed much enlightenment, and under it there has been made in several cases a courageous attempt within definite territorial limits to construct a plan which, not alone by payment of fees, but by well-timed encouragements both to school and scholars, and even by distance bursaries, has brought the benefits of secondary instruction within the reach of every home in the district so watched over. To use only for once the hackneyed metaphor of the bridge between the primary schools and the universities—the plan of the bridge has long been ready, but the work which should have gone on from its foundation to its very keystone as a unit and a national work has been left to partial effort or occasional adventure. Here and there the pillars of the foundations have been laid and reared, and now and again a venturous plank has been thrown across the stream ; but at last our opportunity has arisen to strengthen, solidify, and complete the structure, and it has arisen not a moment too soon, for, if either the saving of intellectual waste or the maintenance of commercial supremacy be our aim, the nation's progress lies that way.

This, then, is the use to which in Scotland we desire to put the expected golden shower. Details I have not dealt with, this is not the place for them ; but this I will venture to affirm, that if the fiat of Her Majesty's Government went forth in its favour, the scheme, with, or even without, the aid of an Executive Commission, could be equipped, systematised, popular, and at work, within three months' time.

Never was such an opportunity for a Scottish Minister. Everything lies to his hand. And the omens are favourable ; for Lord Balfour of Burleigh's experience as head of the Educational Endowment Commission is invaluable, and his services in that capacity will be always gratefully remembered by his country.

The late Sir John Seeley, speaking somewhere of the possible decadence of Britain as a great military and naval power, remarked that if we could not be the world's Rome, we might at least be its Athens. I am not so sure of that: we have taught our dependencies to teach themselves; and culture, like the mind, is its own place. But a humble duty confronts us, viz. to keep our people intellectually, morally, artistically, and technically trained, so that no talent of this nation shall · fust in us unused.'

While Lord Rosebery talks with gravity, and Mr. Chamberlain

with comparative lightness of heart, of the dangers of foreign competition, both eloquently allow the vital importance of a higher and more thorough system of technical instruction, to enable the British artisan to prove himself the best workman for, and so to command, the markets of the world. Scotland rivals Switzerland in the clearness of its view of national duty on this head, much as it may lag behind Switzerland in the practical effect which has been given to its conceptions. To use even Knox's words, before any persons are sent to handicrafts, or other profitable exercises, a just educational scheme may well allow to the youth of the realm both time and favourable opportunity for that studie in which thei intend cheaflie to travell for the proffit of the Commoun-wealth.'

And here is the contrast. England is still on the old rack of the problem of elementary school management by Church or Board. The use which England proposes to make of a fresh grant of half a million of pounds sterling per annum is to contribute it to this problem, whether to its solution or to its acuteness remains to be seen. Whereas Scotland, having settled and buried these disputes, and surveying the needs of its people, if they are to be a trained and skilled democracy, declares the use of her share, namely 68,0001. a year, to be the strengthening, the unifying, and the freeing, of secondary, technical, and university instruction, and this under opportunities which will penetrate all ranks of society, and reach to the remotest home.

The very fact that it should be thought feasible to suggest that a scheme of the above kind should not stop short of, but should embrace, the universities, may be sufficiently surprising to the English mind. But the surprise is abated when it is considered how very different the four Scotch Universities are in their plan and purpose, and, in particular, in their relation to the body of the people as a whole, from the ancient institutions of Oxford and of Cambridge. These stand in a serene air, removed from the hum and conflict of daily life, the orthodox resort of the nobility and gentry; those in the midst of a nation's everyday needs, in a humble though a vigorous air, with no Rugbys or Marlboroughs or Harrows as their natural feeders, but in direct contact with the ordinary parish and secondary schools. And so the proposal to make education in Scotch Universities free is the plain corollary of a record which covers the primary and of proposals which cover the secondary schools. The students of Scotch. Universities attend their classes and live where they will; they are not forced to incur the expense or affect the style of residence suited to the sons of the wealthy. No inconsiderable proportion of Scotch students are the sons of poor men; and no inconsiderable proportion of their annual charge is their class fees. For many of them, fired with the zeal for culture, occupy the humblest of lodgings in our university towns; and almost literally is it true that they cultivate learning on a little oatmeal-emerging by-and-by, however, to become shrewd and determined captains of industry and leaders of men, and appearing here, there, and everywhere as undaunted citizens of the world. The abolition of class fees, removing at once a burden and a barrier, would unquestionably open the door to more men of this class; and men of this class are a national product not to be despised. This abolition, it is reckoned, could be effected by a charge upon the Treasury which would cover the case of every student whose education was the product of the graded system I have ventured to sketch, a charge of between 15,000l. and 20,0001. per annum.

It may be thought preferable to take but one step at a time, and to deal with secondary and technical colleges alone, leaving universities for after treatment; but as surely as we have obtained free education at the beginning, and are now, we trust, to obtain it at the middle, so surely will the scheme be rounded and completed by our obtaining it at the close of the educational career.

One remaining question, not unimportant, presents itself, namely, what would be the effect of these proposals upon the teaching profession ? And again it is necessary to point the contrast. Under a system of School Boards universal and popularly elected, religious tests are unknown. Religious denominations are in Scotland as plentiful as blackberries, and teachers, I suppose, belong to all of them. The man who looks down upon his fellow citizen as a dissenter is a rare creature. He has to do his murmuring in private; were he to speak his sentiments aloud, he would simply ticket himself a Dogberry. Thus the teaching profession is a fair and open field, and no church would dare to claim any Scottish teacher as its attaché or its hack. The traditions that cluster round the office of the old parish schoolmaster are mostly those of respectable social standing, affectionate public regard, and no little culture. Dotheboys Hall reads to us like a cruel foreign romance; I do not think there ever was a Scottish Squeers.

These traditions have been fortified and the status of the profession immensely raised since the introduction of School Boards. The schoolmasters themselves take the liveliest interest in the secondary branches and the special subjects, honours in which to their scholars mark the teacher a professional success. And it is hardly doubtful that the better equipment and the grading of education to its topmost national bound will still further strengthen the teacher's position ; they will mark him, as he ought to be marked, as a man worthy of unfeigned esteem and of ample reward, a memberof a dignified national professoriate, the lines of advancement in which, starting from the fair and open field, will lead him also, according to his ability and culture, to point after point of preferment and of honour.

THO. SHAW.

ENGLISH ENTERPRISE IN PERSIA

can

In Persia, more perhaps than in any other Eastern country, events move slowly, and, though changes are as frequent there as elsewhere, it is not till the measure of time has been well filled that we realise how the old order has indeed changed and made place for the new.

The circumstances attending the assassination of the late Nasr-edDin Shah of Persia have been already so fully described elsewhere as to need no recapitulation, but it is improbable that people in England, travellers though they may be, and as familiar perhaps many of them as the writer himself with the scenes and varieties of Persian life, realise to what extent or with what intensity the death of the late Shah and the passing of the reins of government into the hands of his eldest son Muzaffer-ed-Din have affected Persia and its people. • The King is dead— long live the King !' such was the cry as far back as May last which rang through the length and breadth of the land, and, while telegraph and mounted messenger were at work conveying across desert tracts and ill-kept roads the perhaps not too welcome news of this announcement to his successor, then Veli-ahd or heir apparent, in the solitude of his palace near Tabriz, some three hundred miles to the west of Tehran, the capital was convulsed with feelings of anxiety and doubt as to what might be the outcome of the morrow, and, while some hesitated and some drew back, the very suddenness of the event, coupled with the sagacity of Western counsels and the loyal co-operation of the Imperial Bank of Persia, enabled those in power to safeguard the rights of the absent monarch and to maintain order and good government pending his somewhat leisurely progress from Tabriz to Tehran. And so, unmoved, as became the stolidity of an Eastern potentate, by the storm of passing events and unshaken by the unexpectedness of his advent to power, Muzaffer-edDin passed in solemn progress to his capital and occupied unchallenged the throne of his ancestors. And now, as was only to be expected in the East, the wheel of fortune has again turned and the hand which guided the successor to the throne and stayed the would-be organisers of riot and disorder, has lost its cunning, and Mirza Ali Asgar Khan, Sadr-azam or Grand Vizier, the most powerful and perhaps the most enlightened man throughout the wide extent of Persia, has tendered

« PredošláPokračovať »