Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

have shared largely in producing it. School education alters slowly and runs long in the same groove; a master can only teach what he has himself learned, and is naturally inclined to set the highest value on the studies to which his own life has been given. At the two oldest of the schools this tendency has been strengthened not only by ardent attachment to their peculiar traditions, but by the habit of receiving as Masters only men brought up within their own walls. The great schools, again, have always educated principally with a view to the Universities; the path of access to the learned professions lies through the Universities; the work done at school tells thoroughly and directly on the examinations for admission to the Universities and for University prizes and distinetions, whilst it has not, until recently, assisted a youth to obtain entrance into the public service, civil or military, at home or in India; the clever. est and most diligent boys, for whom the system of study has been chiefly molded, have gone to the Universities; and all the Masters have been University men.

The two classical languages, with a little ancient history and geography, held, until a short time ago, absolute and exclusive possession of the whole course of study. It now includes, at every school, arithmetic and mathematics as well as classics; at every school, except Eton, either French or German also-at Rugby and the Charter-house, both French and German, though at Rugby the natural sciences may be substituted. At Merchant Taylors' it includes Hebrew and drawing. Lectures on natural science are given at Winchester, and occasionally at Eton to those who wish to attend. There is also a lecturer on chemistry at the Charter-house, and periodical voluntary examinations in natural science at Harrow. Drawing may be learned as an extra at all the schools, and generally some instruction in music may be gained in the same way. ~ The means of classical instruction include the study of Latin and Greek

grammar, the daily construing and occasional translation into English of Latin and Greek writers, the repetition of passages, chiefly of Latin and Greek poetry, that have been learned by heart, and the practice of composition in verse and prose. Construing, repetition, and composition are the chief occupation of the higher forms. There is some reason to think that the grounding in grammar is not always so thorough and accurate as is desirable, or that sufficient care is not taken to keep up what is thus acquired as the boys advance in their work. Different grammars, both Latin and Greek, are used in the different schools. The range of authors construed is sufficiently various and extensive, unless Eton be an exception. The assiduous practice of repetition, and that of composition, original and translated, has long been among the characteristics of the great English schools, and a high value is still set upon them by English schoolmasters.

The average time assigned to arithmetic and mathematics is about three hours a week in school and the same amount devoted to preparatory work. At a majority of the schools, marks are given for mathematics, depending generally upon the relative time devoted to it, which determine more or less a boy's rise in the classical forms of the school. In every school, except Eton, two hours a week, exclusive of preparation, are also given to modern languages, inarks for which count in promotion only at Winchester, Harrow, and Rugby. There are distinct prizes at all the schools for proficiency in mathematics and in modern languages respectively. Classification in both these branches is, however, dependent upon that of the classical school, which is found a great hindrance to advancement. Indeed, both share the disadvantage of being subordinate to the principal study, which is that of the classics. The chief honors and distinctions of the schools are classical; their traditions are classical; the Head Master and the Tutors are men distinguished chiefly as classical scholars, and attached more or less ardently to classical learning; the path of promotion and the subjects on which the time and thoughts of the boys are employed are mainly classical; classics are also, to a great majority of the boys, intrinsically more attractive than mathematics, and to the oldest and most diligent more so than French and German. But mathematics at least have established a title to respect as an instrument of mental discipline; they are recognized and horrored at the Uni. versities, and it is easy to obtain mathematical masters of high ability who have had a University education. It is otherwise with the study of modern languages, which in each of these respects, but especially in the last, labors under peculiar and great difficulties; while it has had less time to establish itself and has to make head against a stronger current of tradition and habit. Hence the success with which these studies are pursued is, in different degrees, not answerable to the time spent in learning and the pains and ability employed in teaching them. There is an especial deficiency in arithmetic and in French. Yet it appears that, speaking generally, boys who succeed in classics succeed also in mathematics and in modern languages; showing that ordinarily any boy of good capacity may with advantage study each of these subjects, and may study them all together. One disadvantage peculiar to the study of modern languages is the difficulty of procuring thoroughly effective teachers. It is less easy for a foreigner than for an Englishman of equal ability or education, to maintain discipline, to'enforce attention, to secure influence, to understand his pupils thoroughly, and therefore to teach them well. Two of the teachers at the nine schools are Englishmen and two were educaied at the schools where they teach. At Marlborough both French and German are taught by Englishmen. At Wellington School one foreign master in each language is employed, under whom are placed the best modern scholars and the beginners, while those boys who chiefly require to be steadily worked in exercises and construing, are under English masters.

The importance of some attention to history and geography is recog. nized more or less at all the schools, but in general there is little system. atic teaching of either. In the lower forms it is common to give lessons in the outlines of history and geography, but all done beyond that is generally to set a boy a portion of history to get up by himself, to examine him in it, and to encourage the farther study by means of prize essays. Special examinations in history, when held, occur either at the end or beginning of the term, the portion being set in the latter case as a "holiday task.” At Harrow and Rugby every boy is made to traverse the whole outline of classical, Biblical, and English history in the course of his stay at school; partly by holiday tasks, partly by regular lessons at school. The proper degree and method of teaching history is a subject upon which English schoolmasters seem to have arrived at no very definite conclusions. At Marborough, Wellington, and to some extent at Rugby, the reading of modern history is combined with that of French.

Organization. Promotion. Prizes.-A great school possesses, from its very magnitude, considerable advantages as a place of instruction, besides those which it derives from the same source as a place of moral training. It is able to command the services of the most eminent masters; it is likely to contain a comparatively large number of able and ambitious boys; the honors and distinctions which it has to offer are more prized because the successful competitor wins them from a larger field, and in the presence of a larger public; it has facilities, which a small school can not have, for the convenient organization of classes in each ranch of study. It has, on the other hand, disadvantages of its own.

her of competitors, which braces and stimulates the energies of s, may discourage backward ones; it is more difficult for a vre easy for him to elude, the individual attention of • The forms themselves must be very

case it becomes a matter of chance h» latter he passes from one

many; and these cir'Wich each Master feels

her case, the 42 let dull'y are

bas

[graphic]

blic

an

which can not be expected from the successive class-masters through whose hands he passes. To a very considerable extent this is an effectual remedy, provided each tutor has not more pupils than he can really attend to, and his relation to them is not suffered to degenerate into a merely nominal one.

The following Table will show the relative numbers of masters and boys in the several schools at the end of 1861 :

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

The proper size of a division is limited by conditions. It should not contain boys in such different stages of progress that they can not advantageously be employed in the same work and heard together. It should be small enough to admit of all the boys who compose it being called up very frequently. By the first condition the number may vary from 15 to 60, according to the size of the school. The second condition is independent of the magnitude of the school. It has been urged in favor of large divisions that the number of hoys animates the teacher, and enables him in turn to infuse life into his class. But it is still more important that the expectation of being called up should be strong enough to act as a thoroughly efficient stimulus from the top to the bottom of the division; that the benefit of being called up should be shared by all the boys very frequently; and that the class-master should not be tempted, by the number before him and the limited time at his disposal, either to pass over the more backward, or to abate his standard of accuracy, or be less searching in his questions. Differences in the method of teaching may in some degree affect the question, but as a general rule and in the absence of special circumstances, the average number should not much, if at all, exceed thirty.

The time actually spent in the school preparation of lessons, in the case of the upper boys, is small. An Eton fifth form boy is in school, on a whole school-day, about three hours, or during the week, from fourteen to fifteen; an upper boy at Harrow is at school about four hours and a

• Of these 3 were Composition Masters. A Classical Master has since been added.

There is an Assistant Master of writing and arithmetic.
One of these also teaches mathematics.
One of these also teaches natural science,

half, or in the week, about twenty-two hours; at Rugby, about twenty hours. A certain amount of time is also spent with the private tutor. The regular holidays subtract wholly from work 14 or 15 weeks in the year. It is evident, unless a good deal of time is given out of school to steady genuine work in preparation and composition, the work done is deficient in quantity. The whole daily work of boys not particularly diligent nor particularly idle, a class which constitutes the majority at all schools, can not be considered, lazy and desultory as much of it is, as averaging more than from four to five hours. With a studious boy, who works for distinction yet takes his full share of play, the time may fairly be reckoned, at Eton and Harrow, at about six hours honestly spent, and more when he is preparing for some special prize or examination; at Rugby, at about seven.

To insure, if possible, something like careful preparation of lessons, different expedients have been resorted to. But it is generally true that when a boy has reached an age at which he may fairly be deemed capa. ble of reasonable steadiness and self-control, little stress can be laid on direct supervision as a means of making him learn his lessons; this can be done, if at all, by giving him full employment for his time, by insisting upon an accurate knowledge of his work and upon fair progress, by bringing the sense of duty, the desire of honor, and the fear of disgrace, effectively to bear upon his mind, and, in the last resort, by the dread of punishment.

The most important by far of the stimulants which a school is able to supply is furnished by the system of promotion. The systems actually in use are various. Seniority or length of standing, with or without a test examination-daily marks given for each lesson and exercise throughout the half year—and success in competitive examinations, yearly, halfyearly, or quarterly, are used, separately or in combination, at different schools. The first principle, with a test examination and a certain infusion of the competitive element, is adopted at Eton; the second at Win. chester; the second and third combined at Harrow and Rugby. It may generally be observed that promotion on the ground of seniority alone, without even a test examination, must always be indefensible; and that between a test examination and a competitive examination, whether at a school or a university, there are some obvious differences. The former stimulates only by the discredit of failure, the latter enlists as an additional motive the honor of success; the standard in the first is really set by the lower candidates examined, and in the other by the higher; a test standard has thus a constant tendency to decline to a low point. A school, therefore, whose system of promotion is in practice mainly noncompetitive, contents itself with a not very active stimulus for the sake of having one which can be extended over a very large surface, and runs the risk of having a somewhat low standard of scholarship. The advantages which may be purchased at this cost are not inconsiderable ones. As regards prizes, it is useful, no doubt, to have many for many kinds

« AnteriorContinua »