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granted without examination upon reports from the head of departments.
In the three periods embraced by the present and two former Reports, the proportion of rejections to the number of persons examined (omitting, for the sake of a fair comparison, all competitive examinations and cases of certificates granted upon reports from departments) has been— 1855
31.5 per cent. 1856
28.9 If we combine this diminution of rejections with the fact, that the number of cases in which we have certified the marked proficiency of candidates in the prescribed subjects, and also the number of cases in which we have granted certificates of proficiency to candidates in subjects beyond those which are prescribed, exhibit some increase in the year 1857, as compared with the year 1856, (notwithstanding the diminution in the number of candidates,) we are led to the conclusion that the candidates who have been examined in the year 1857 without competition have shown somewhat greater ability and acquirements thạn the like candidates
of the previous period. We believe that we have preserved sufficient uniformity in the standard of competency and in the nature and conduct of our non-competitive examinations to enable us to rely on this conclusion.
There is, nevertheless, still great room for improvement in the attainments of the candidates, especially as regards Orthography, the examinations in which have elicited errors similar in kind and in frequency to those which were set forth in detail in our former Reports.
As regards the examinations in English Composition, in the framing a Précis, History and Geography, f the performances of the greater proportion of the candidates are generally below mediocrity. With respect, however, to History and Geography, although the exhibition of great ignorance in either of these subjects combined with
• See note on previous page.
† This observation is not intended to apply to those examinations in History and Geography which are prescribed for candidates for situations under the Foreign Office, and which are limited to specific text-books, and a definite period of history or a particular foreign country.
deficiencies in other parts of the examination has occasionally prevented us from granting a certificate, we have not during the last year refused a certificate to any candidate on the ground of failure in Geography alone or in History alone, unless where the candidate altogether declined the subject. We deem it necessary to make this statement, because it has been erroneously reported that there have been instances in which a certificate has been refused to a candidate solely because of his failure to answer some particular question in Geography or History. No such instance has occurred. In point of fact, of the
, 490 to whom certificates have been refused during the year 1857, there are only twelve as to whom deficiencies in spelling or arithmetic have not formed one of the grounds of such refusal.
The Tables in the Appendix to this Report will show that we have not been unmindful of those portions of our duty which relate to the health and character of candidates.
We have been under the necessity of refusing our certificate in 21 cases on the ground of deficiency in health, and in 14 cases on the score of character.
In one of the latter cases the candidate was detected in conducting himself unfairly in the examination; in another, the candidate made an alteration in his baptismal certificate. On the detection of this fraud in the office of this Commission, a suggestion was made to the proper authorities that he should be prosecuted. This was accordingly done, and the offender having pleaded guilty was sentenced to a short imprisonment.
Competitive Examinations. The competitive examinations of candidates for junior situations which have taken place during the past year have much exceeded in number those of the year 1856. In 1856 there were 30 such competitive examinations, in 1857 there were 68, and 22 in the present year, up to the date of this Report; the entire number from the commencement of our Commission up to the present time being 127. These competitions, however, have not been open to all persons desirous of coming forward and fulfilling the requisiteconditions of age, health, and character, but have been limited to persons nominated by the authorities who have the duty of appointing to the vacant situations.
For full details of the results of these examinations we refer to the Tables in the Appendix to this Report, to which we have already adverted; but we think that it may be convenient to set forth in this portion of the body of our Report a succinct summary of these examinations and their results.
That is, first in a competition but rejected for failure in one or more of the pre. scribed subjects.
+ That is, not first in the competition, but having shown sufficient proficiency in each of the prescribed subjects to have entitled them to certificates, if they had been nominated without competition.
In addition to the departments here enumerated, that of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will, on a future occasion, be inserted, inasmuch as his Lordship has signified to us his intention of appointing the clerks in that department by means of competitive examinations of three candidates. Two such examinations have already been held since the commencement of the present year. .
The Postmaster General also has intimated that in future he will nominate more than one candidate for each clerkship in the Metropolitan Offices, with a view to the
a examination being competitive ; and a competition of ten candidates for five clerkships has accordingly been announced.
The first question which suggests itself with respect to the facts stated in the above Table, is whether the successful candidates in these competitions are superior to the candidates who have received certificates without competition.
We have instituted comparisons between the two classes of candidates, and we have ascertained that the best of the successful competitors have displayed higher attainments than the best of the candidates who have received certificates without competition.
It is right, however, that we should state that part of this apparent superiority may perhaps be due to the increased stimulus operating on the competing candidate during the actual examination, which compels him to put forth all his strength in order to win the race. On the other hand the defects of competitors are probably scrutinized with greater severity than those of ordinary candi. dates, and their performances consequently may have been marked on a somewhat lower scale.
The next point to which we desire to call attention has reference to the number of persons thus examined, namely, 58, who although unsuccessful in the competitions showed sufficient merit to have justified us in granting certificates to them, had they been examined without competition.
It may be generally stated, that these individuals have only been excluded from the Service, because others have presented themselves who surpass them in qualifications and attainments, and the public is thus a gainer to the extent of this difference.
With reference to the number of candidates comprised in each competition, as set forth in the Appendix, Table M., it should be stated that out of 68 competitions there have been three cases in which only one candidate has been examined; one case in which two candidates only have been examined for two situations; ten cases in which only two candidates have been examined for one situation; and thirty-nine cases for which three candidates only have been examined for one situation. The cases firstly and secondly above mentioned are not,
in fact, competitive examinations, and those in which only two are examined for one situation realize in a very inadequate degree the objects to be attained by this mode of selection.
With regard to the cases in which three candidates have been examined for one situation, we must notice an unsatisfactory result which is likely to arise, and which in fact has arisen, from the number of candidates who are to compete together being so frequently limited to three.
In such cases it may and does happen from time to time that one or two of the competing candidates fail to reach the positive minimum which would entitle them to a certi. ficate, so that the actual competition is either reduced to two or virtually ends in a simple pass examination. Thus out of 22 competitions for situations in the Customs, there were 10 cases in which only two, and eight in which only one of the candidates examined was capable of passing. In the Inland Revenue, also, in 16 competitions there were two in which two, and ten in which only one of the candidates examined could have passed, while in others three capable candidates competed for two situations, and four for three situations.
It is evident, moreover, that the chance of obtaining the best men must be greater in one large competition than in several small ones, even if the same average number of competitors and prizes be maintained. Thus, if 60 men are to compete for 20 situations, the 20 successful competitors in one contest of the whole number would be almost certainly superior to the 20 victors in 20 competitions of three to each, because the second or even third man in one of the small competitions would occasionally be found to be superior to the first man in another.
This view of the subject is substantiated by the facts of the examinations held since the introduction of the system.
Thus, if the candidates in all the small competitions in each department had been brought together in one large competition, the following changes, amongst others, would have occurred.
In the Customs department, out of the sixteen persons who were successful in competitions for clerkships and gaugerships, four (who obtained respectively 565, 564, 561, and 561 marks) would have been displaced by four unsuccessful candidates, who obtained 691, 651, 621, and 606 marks respectively.