Page images
[ocr errors]





1889-90 1890-91 1891-92 1892-93 1893-94 1894-95 1895-96


[ocr errors]

He must either have obtained three sessional certificates in the group including natural, physical, and mathematical science and one in the group including history, political economy, mental science, literature, and art, or three in the latter group and one in the former. A youth who had qualified himself for this certificate, as many of the Extension students have done, would, I submit, have little to fear from a comparison with the average passman at Oxford and Cambridge. Thus has the Society striven to subordinate what may be called the popular to the educational element in their scheme, with what success the following tables show :

1893–94 Proportion of students 10:1 per cent.
1894-95< attending the lectures $11.9
1895–96 (who gained certificates ) 14:4

12 sessional certificates awarded.

343 It may also be added, and this is not less significant, that out of a total of 148 courses of lectures given during the past session only thirty-six were isolated or single courses, the remainder were arranged as the sessional certificate requires.

A very striking illustration, not merely of the energy and capacity of the students reached by the Extension, but of the possibilities which it may develop in the future, is afforded by the history of its Greek classes. Some three or four years ago, one of the lecturers, who was delivering a popular course on Greek literature, suggested the formation of a class for the study of the Greek language. A University man among the audience offered to conduct it gratuitously if such a class were formed. It was formed immediately, ten or twelve of the students joining it. They met three times a week, an hour and a half, for about a year. At the end of that time they offered themselves for examination in the first book of Xenophon's Anabasis, Greek accidence generally, and unprepared translation, of course, of a very simple kind. They were examined by a distinguished scholar who had just been examining at Oxford for Responsions. He took as his standard the standard required in that examination. “I must,' he writes in his report, 'confess I have been astonished at the wonderful progress these candidates have made in the short time they have worked at Greek. Seven of the ten would, without question, have passed Responsions, and the performance of the eighth is exceedingly good. I was struck with the obvious interest taken in the work generally. I congratulate heartily the pupils of both centres and their teachers on the results of the examination.'


There are

now eight classes in London for the study of the Greek language arranged for a three years' course, examined each year by a University examiner, the standard in that of the elementary classes being that of Responsions, and in that of the advanced classes the standard of Pass Moderations. In addition to this, courses of lectures on the Homeric poems, the Greek dramatists, and Aristotle's Ethical Philosophy have been delivered. The students attending the Extension lectures are, it may be added, drawn indiscriminately from all classes, but a large proportion of them are pupil-teachers, teachers in ordinary schools, and young men engaged in the various avocations of professional and mercantile life.

But what has been and is being accomplished is little indeed, compared with what might be accomplished. It would be no exaggeration to say that if the impediments which now cramp and fetter the Society's work were removed its usefulness and importance would be centupled. As almost all the lectures are at present selfsupporting, it is frequently necessary to subordinate the interests of those who come to be instructed to the requirements of those who come for recreation. Serious students are necessarily always in a minority, and thus those who ought first to be considered go to the

They may be anxious to have a course on Literature: they are forced into a course on Science. They may be anxious to read for the sessional certificate, but are prevented from doing so by isolated courses of lectures being preferred to courses in educational sequence—a common experience. Again, in poor neighbourhoods and in local institutes where so much good work might be done, want of funds and the difficulty of securing an audience sufficiently large to defray or mitigate expenses, is an effectual obstacle to the introduction of the lectures. One of the commonest experiences of a lecturer is to find that centres where the working students have been most intelligent and enthusiastically responsive, and where the examination results have been most satisfactory, have collapsed simply from want of funds. There can indeed be no doubt at all that, though the Extension scheme has achieved so much in the way of systematic educational work in London, it has effected much more as a missionary and pioneering movement, but that in corsequence of the difficulties to which I have referred hundreds certainly, and perhaps a much larger number, who might have gone on to more serious work, have been prevented from doing so.

I come now to what might seem to be the most appropriate centres for a popular University, where students between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five are most numerous, and, what is more, most concentrated. In an interesting address delivered some two years ago by Mr. John Morley at the same institution at which Mr. Balfour was speaker, he expressed his cordial approbation of an experiment which the governing body of that Polytechnic had

decided to make. This was to introduce courses of University Extension Lectures into the Polytechnic for the encouragement of the study of literature and history, the first attempt which has been made to liberalise, if it may be so expressed, the present purely banausic character of the instruction given in these institutes. The same experiment has been tried at the Regent Street Polytechnic, the South-west London Polytechnic, the Goldsmiths' Institute at New Cross, the Birkbeck Institution, and the City of London College. A more important step in popular education has, I venture to think, never been taken. It may be conceded at once that the claims of scientific and technical education are and always must be paramount, that its interests should be jealously guarded, that its regulation, its development, its maintenance in the highest degree of efficiency should be our first care, and that nothing should be allowed to interfere with it. Nor is it surprising that those who hold the public purse-strings should have turned a deaf ear to applicants who would divert into other channels what might add a new wing or even a new workshop to a technical institute, and that they should have refused to apply to lectures on Shakespeare and Dante what might be applied to instruction in niello work and lithography. But it is surely time to consider whether all this has not been carried rather too far, whether the enactments of the Technical Education Act and the regulations of the Science and Art Department might not, with advantage to the class in whose interests they were designed, be modified or supplemented. Their immediate effect has been absolutely to exclude all liberal studies from preparation for industrial life-in other words, from what constitutes the education of hundreds of thousands of adults; their ultimate effect has been to induce or confirm that “Philistinism' which is so unhappily characteristic of the lower and lower-middle classes, and which accounts for the indifference with which Polytechnic students, as a body, have always regarded the humanities. That the liberal movement which has thus been initiated in these institutions will not make much progress at first we may regard as certain, for it has three great impediments in its way. It encourages studies which having at present no official recognition lead neither to rewards nor distinction, and which are not in harmony with the studies that are compulsory on Polytechnic students; secondly, the students have to pay heavily, far more heavily than they can afford, for the lectures ; and thirdly, as there are no sufficient funds for making good the deficit, at present certain, on each course, the courses can only be carried on at a loss to the institutions themselves. Had it not been indeed for the generous assistance given by the Trustees of the City Parochial Charities, the experiment so much approved of by Mr. John Morley, and which Mr. Balfour so plainly desiderates, would have been impossible. Some of these difficulties might be met, or at least modified, in several ways. Much must depend on the sympathy and support of the governing bodies of these institutions, and the sympathy and support of the governing bodies must obviously depend on the possibility of inducing a fair percentage of the students to attend. In almost all these institutions there are literary societies, and every effort should be made to connect these societies with the lectures. Something might be done by the institution of prizes on the result of the sessional examinations, by the City Parochial Charities, the Gilchrist Trustees, or other bodies who are in favour of the movement. More might be done if the Trustees of the City Parochial Charities could be induced to increase the grant which they have already made in favour of the esperiment. An appeal to the Science and Art Department would probably be vain, but one of the recent regulations shows that its legislators are not unaware of the desirableness of tempering technical and scientific instruction with an infusion of liberal study. In their circular for organised science schools they prescribe ten hours a week for literature and history. If they would make their grants to the Polytechnics depend on the same condition and accept the lectures and classes, now introduced, as equivalent to what they require, a great step would be taken in the desired direction. Another body from whom grants might be expected is the body to which technical and scientific education mainly looks for its grants, the Technical Education Board of the London County Council. But the purse-strings of the Board are at present tied by the provisions of the Technical Instruction Acts; and though the Board has, by a most liberal interpretation of the clauses of the Acts, extended their application to almost all subjects which are included in secondary education, it cannot strain them so far as to include literature. These, then, are the difficulties in the way of extending and developing this movement in the Polytechnics, and an experiment the success of which would initiate a new era in popular education may not improbably fail, not from any lack of sympathy on the part of the legislators of the Polytechnics or from any difference of opinion as to the desirableness and importance of its success, but simply from the defective organisation of our secondary educational system. That system provides amply and perfectly for what is officially defined, but, having no elasticity and a tendency to become immovably stereotyped, it not only regards what is officially undefined as non-existent, but it is very slow to adapt itself to new conditions.

But new conditions are, I contend, awaiting new provisions. As we have defined and formulated all those departments of education which have official recognition and endowed support, so, I venture to submit, an entirely new department awaits definition, regulation, and the same privileges of status and support. Nothing surely can be of more concern to a State than the education of its citizens, not simply as it relates to what equips them for the practical duties of life and the means of livelihood, but as it relates to temper, tone, and character. It is the very alphabet of true social and political wisdom to secure that in education the supply should be proportioned and adapted to the need. And needs which a quarter of a century ago had not defined themselves are now exigent; opportunities we have such as it would be almost criminal to neglect. Is it not a reproach and shame to us, that a society which is engaged in such work as the Extension is, which has accomplished so much, which is striving and struggling to accomplish more, should have been constantly on the verge of bankruptcy and should now be dependent on casual charity? But this will always be the fate of any educational agency which stands outside the system of officially recognised educational activity. Impediments of every kind must be in its way. It has no status and is consequently submitted to the contempt and disparagement of those institutions which have status. Carrying no authority and commanding no respect, it will find a deaf ear turned to all its requests, however reasonable, for co-operation, or for the removal or modification of hampering restrictions on its work. It has neither dignity nor stability, for it subsists on mendicancy, and the alms which support it are purely precarious.

I would therefore suggest that what is now represented by the London University Extension Scheme and such other agencies as are engaged in the same work should be recognised officially as a distinct department of education, the department of Higher Popular Education, be assisted with grants, and be submitted to regular control and inspection, and that the Extension classes and lectures should become a regular part of a Polytechnic curriculum. At this point it would be premature to discuss details or even to offer a suggestion as to the quarter to which it should look for its administration. Its status would be secured by its recognition as an official department of the public service. The regulation of its studies and curriculum might be controlled by a Board, the members of which would be a sufficient guarantee not only that the best teaching possible and the highest standard of teaching would be secured, but that the studies prescribed as well as the methods and treatment would conduce to the purposed object-the liberal education of the citizen. Why should not the Board be an expansion of the Council which at present directs the work of the Extension ? If, in addition to such educational experts as the Bishop of Bristol and Sir Philip Magnus and such representatives of science as Professor Stuart and Professor Vines, it could co-opt councillors like Mr. John Morley, Professor Jebb, and Mr. Frederic Harrison, there would be small danger of any pettifogging scholastic ideals wrecking this scheme as they once wrecked Macaulay's noble scheme for the Indian Civil Service competitive examination. I would lay the greatest stress on the importance

« PreviousContinue »