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I hope the growing interest in the subject of popular education will induce my countrymen to inform themselves accurately what on the Continent the primary school, at any rate, is, and what a different sense words bear according as they are applied to popular education here, or on the Continent. At present, when in canvassing the subject of English popular education the example of the Continent is adduced, the example is in general perfectly fallacious, because the terms which we employ are perfectly ambiguous, or our application of them perfectly inaccurate. It is constantly said,-no less a personage than the secretary to the National Society, Mr. Wilson, said it at the Society's last general meeting,—that ‘it appears that in 1858 the proportion of scholars to population was, in England and Wales, 1 to 7.7; in Holland, 1 to 8:11; in France, 1 to 9; and in Prussia, 1 to 6•27.' It is at once argued from thence, as Mr. Wilson argued, that 'our own country, therefore, is in advance of Holland and France, and not far behind Prussia. Mr. Pease, at the annual meeting of the British and Foreign School Society in May last, said : ‘Prussia supplied an education superior to that of any country in the world, and he was glad that ours fell but little short of it.' To the same effect Mr. Joseph Spencer, at the recent Congregationalist Meeting in Manchester, met the weighty and impressive speeches of Mr. Baines and Mr. Morley on our educational condition, by saying that he believed we did not stand behind any country except Prussia.' Still more recently, Lord John Manners has declared that our primary education is ahead of all the countries in the world except Prussia;' and this, he added, is shown by figures which no one doubts and everybody admits. No wonder, therefore, that anti-alarmists should, like Mr. Wilson, pronounce it highly satisfactory to find that, notwithstanding many confident assertions to the contrary, the state of education in England and Wales will bear favourable comparison with the state of education in the most
advanced of continental countries, even in Prussia, where attendance at school is compulsory.' No wonder that a sanguine man should even go a little beyond this, and, like Mr. Joseph Spencer, pronounce that the system of education in Prussia being surrounded with so many things which are objected to in England, he believed we might be considered on an equality with Prussia.'
But when these gentlemen congratulate themselves because it appears that the proportion of scholars to population is in England and Wales 1 to 7, while in Holland it is only 1 to 8, in France only 1 to 9, and even in Prussia not more than 1 to 6, there is a fallacy in their use both of the word appears and of the word scholars, which requires notice. In the first place, that in England and Wales the proportion of scholars to population is 1 to 7, appears in a very different way, and on very different evidence, from the way and the evidence by which the proportion of scholars to population in France or Prussia is established. For France or Prussia such statistics are got from a series of administrative authorities, with machinery and power to collect them. For England, the statistics come from the Education Commissioners of 1859. These Commissioners have themselves told us how they procured their information. They had no series of administrative authorities through whom to collect it; such a series does not exist in England; it could not, as we are often told, be tolerated by a high-spirited and intelligent people like ourselves. The Commissioners sent enquirers, with no power to enforce an answer to their questions, through about one-eighth of England ; and from the information thus obtained for about one-eighth of the country, they made a generalisation as to the remainder. The only information they could get of the same quality and trustworthiness as the information on which the continental returns are based, was for that minority of our schools which is in connection with the Committee of Council. It was not, of course, the Commissioners' fault that the returns, by which it appeared to them that the proportion of scholars to population was, for England and Wales, 1 to 7, were of this incomplete kind; they had no means of getting complete returns. But it is obvious how different a sort of appearing is this by which the English rate of scholars appears to be 1 in 7, from that by which the foreign rates appear to be 1 in 9 or 1 in 6. The English Commissioners guess their proportion; the foreign authorities know theirs. Therefore we ought not to say: 'It appears that in England 1 in 7 of the population is in school, in France 1 in 9, in Prussia 1 in 6;' but we should say: 'It is thought likely that in England 1 in 7 of the population is in school; it is ascertained that in France 1 in 9 is in school, in Prussia 1 in 6.' Perhaps this ought not wholly to extinguish the high satisfaction with which, as Mr. Spencer and Mr. Wilson say, the comparison of English education with that of continental countries is calculated to fill us; but at all events it must tend to somewhat abate it.
In the same way, a fallacy lurks under our use of the word scholars. England, says the secretary to the National Society, is in advance of Holland and France, and not far behind Prussia, because our proportion of scholars to population is not far behind Prussia's, and is in advance of that of Holland and France. I feel that I ought to apologise, in passing, to that admirably educated people, the Dutch, for even quoting what they must think such an impertinence as the assertion that England is in popular education ahead of Holland; but the impertinence comes, in truth, from those who utter it being the victims of an ambiguous use of words. They do not know what the continental nations mean by the word scholar. They do not know that the continental nations and we mean something wholly different by it. Prussia means by a scholar a child who has been subjected from his sixth year to his fifteenth to obligatory instruction, either in public schools under certificated teachers who have had a three years' training in a normal school, or in private schools under teachers who produce the same, or higher, guarantees of competency. France means by a scholar a child who is either in a public school under a certificated teacher, or in a private school under a certificated teacher. Both public and private schools must, in France, be under certificated teachers, and both are liable to State-inspection ; the public schools alone, however, to complete inspection, the private schools to partial inspection only. But then, of the children,—some four millions and a half in number,—who are counted as scholars of the primary schools in France, nearly three millions and a half are in public, completely inspected schools; there are no more than 922,000 in private, partially inspected schools. In England, on the other hand, out of some two millions and a quarter of children whom our Education Commissioners count as scholars, there are only 920,000 in schools with certificated teachers, or under any public inspection, complete or incomplete, whatever ; all the rest are in schools which give no tangible guarantees of any kind, which do not, therefore, in a foreigner's eyes, possess any real claim to style themselves schools, and their pupils scholars, at all. It is probable that some of these schools are schools coming up to the foreign standard of what a school is, and with scholars coming up to the foreign standard of what a scholar is. It is known that very many of them fall immeasurably below this standard. But how many come up to it, and how many fall below it, we have no certain means of knowing; no certain means, therefore, of ascertaining our proportion of scholars, in the continental sense of the word, to population. All that is certain is, that the proportion of 1 to 7 is not the true one, because it counts very many children as scholars who, on the Continent, would not be counted as such. It is true that Mr. John Flint, the registrar to the English Commissioners of 1859, says in a reinarkable letter to the Times, that in reckoning scholars he
regards quantity not quality, and that he has nothing to do with quality; and for English purposes this view of a scholar may perhaps serve very well; but it is obviously illusive when we are comparing school-returns with the foreigners, who do not regard quantity of scholars merely, but who regard quality also.
So far are the foreigners from accepting our estimate of what constitutes a scholar, or thinking, with the secretary of our National Society, that the state of education in England and Wales will bear favourable comparison with the state of education in the most advanced of continental countries, – so far, I say, are they from this, that a foreign Report on education, which I have now before me, goes on, after remarking that the number of our school children over ten years of age diminishes every year, to sum up our condition as follows :-L'Angleterre proprement dite est le pays d'Europe où l'instruction est le moins répandue.' The reporter does not consider that 1 in 7 of our population is a scholar, in the sense in which 1 in 9 of the population of Holland is a scholar, or he would not speak in this manner. Not finding any complete returns of our school population, and not being disposed, even if they found them, to accept Mr. John Flint's law of disregarding quality, foreigners seek elsewhere for data enabling them to compare our primary instruction with their own. They produce statistics showing that, in the Prussian army, the proportion of illiterate recruits is 2 per cent. ; in the
27 per cent. ; in the English army 57 per cent. Even allowing these statistics to be trustworthy, it must be admitted that, recruited as our army is, the comparative instruction of our recruits is not a fair test by which to try our popular education as pitted against that of France or Germany. It is a sounder test, perhaps, than the generalisation of the Education Commissioners of 1859, applied in conformity with Mr. John Flint's law; but it is not an accurate test. Probably, with the sort of civil administration