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Scottish Education - Schools and University
Chapter XVI - Third Period (1696 - 1864). Stow and Training of Teachers


No history of Scottish education could be complete which did not make reference to the distinguished part played by David Stow in connection with the training of teachers. So early as the middle of the 16th century Mulcaster, Headmaster of the Merchant Taylors' School, London, was a zealous advocate for the systematic training of teachers, but he seems to have got no adequate support. About two centuries later the need of such institutions was felt in France and Germany. In both, and especially in the latter, their establishment spread rapidly, but it was not till the beginning of the 19th century, that British educationists followed suit in the persons of Bell and Lancaster, with their shortlived and hurriedly conceived monitorial systems. Neither had the elements of permanence, but in at least one way they did good educational service by directing public attention to what should have been discovered long before, viz. that in education, as in every branch of skilled labour, there are good and bad systems ; that the best results can only be obtained by the employment of good methods ; and that for this, as for every other profession, those who are to practise it should be skilfully trained. While it is true that the Acts of Parliament passed early in the 17th century secured not everywhere, but in many parts of Scotland, teachers of attainments sufficiently high to prepare their best pupils for direct entrance into the University, there was as yet no scientific training based on principles having for their aim not mere instruction, but mental, moral, and physical development. For this we had to wait more than a century and a half, when it was obtained through the untiring Christian zeal of David Stow. Keenly interested in mission work he devoted to it the whole of his leisure time for five years (1811-1816).

His first effort in education took the direction of starting Sabbath schools in one of the most degraded districts of Glasgow. He soon saw that this was not enough ; that well-taught day schools were urgently needed ; and that, to obtain them, he must have teachers who were more or less fully acquainted with the nature of the child, with good methods, and with the principles on which these methods were based. For some years Stow's thoughts on education were maturing and taking scientific shape. He did not start with a preconceived theory, but based his system on the observed results of experience. The kernel of his system was that to instruct was one thing, to educate another and much higher thing. It was not enough to store the memory with facts which the learner could use with mechanical accuracy within a limited range. Beyond this it was essential that knowledge should be acquired in such a way that the intellect was strengthened for making further advances in whatever direction taste, expediency, or necessity might suggest. To quote his own words, "The training of a child in its intellectual powers is not so much the affording instruction, as it is giving to the mind a habit of thinking, and of thinking correctly. The same may be said in regard to the moral affections; it is that of training the child to feel aright and also in regard to the bodily organs, that of training to the habits of acting aright [Stow's Training, p. 20, 1836 ed.]." Or again, "Intellectual Teaching may be stated as the storing of the memory and understanding with knowledge ; but habituating the mind to reflect upon and to digest the subjects presented is Training [Stow's Training, p. 26.]"

Bell and Lancaster aimed only at elementary education. Bell said, "It is not proposed that the children of the poor be educated in an expensive way, or even taught to write or cipher." Stow had higher aims than this, but he had the stereotyped methods of parish and burgh teachers to fight against, who, so far as system was concerned, were each man a law unto himself, and treated with ridicule the idea of training being necessary for the teaching of such elementary subjects as arithmetic, history and geography.

In 1826 he formed the Glasgow Infant School Society, and with the assistance of its members opened a school for children under six years of age, which was conducted with great success. Exhibitions of Mr Stow's methods were given to crowded meetings in Edinburgh and elsewhere. Public interest was thoroughly aroused in many of the leading towns in Scotland. Before long two large classrooms were secured in the Saltmarket for older pupils as well. The attendance soon rose to 200. The system steadily gained ground and during the next ten years 100 teachers received more or less training in the principles advocated by Mr Stow. The Glasgow Educational Society was reconstituted, took over the two model schools then established, and advertised for a Rector. We have evidence of the interest taken in the new movement from Carlyle's offering himself as a candidate for the Rectorship. He sends a letter to his brother John informing him of his candidature with "If I stir in any public matter, it must be this of national education." He did not get the appointment. It is difficult to say what sort of a Rector he would have made, but that he had sound views as to the importance of training can be gathered from his remarks about certain schoolmasters who "knew syntax enough, and of the human soul thus much, that it had a faculty called memory, and could be acted on through the muscular integument by appliances of birch-rods. Alas, so is it everywhere, so will it ever be; till the hodman is discharged, or reduced to hod-bearing, and an architect is hired, and on all hands fitly encouraged ; till communities and individuals discover, not without surprise, that fashioning the souls of a generation by knowledge can rank on a level with blowing their bodies to pieces by gunpowder [Sartor Resartus, p. 65, 1858 ed.]."

Success marked the career of these model schools which in 1836 were formally instituted as the Glasgow Dundas Vale Training College, the first institution of the kind in the United Kingdom. Battersea College and Borough Road Training College, London, followed in 1840 and 1842. It seems fair to claim for the Infant School started in 1826 the honour of being the first step in the training of Scottish teachers.

The Directors of the Glasgow Educational Society were anything but parochial in their aims. Both they and Mr Stow had resolved to awaken their fellow-countrymen to the educational wants of Scotland, and maintain a Normal Seminary on an undenominational basis for the education of teachers in the most improved modes of intellectual and moral training. The college was built at great expense and financial difficulties arose. Voluntary subscriptions were insufficient to meet the expenditure. An appeal was accordingly made to the Privy Council on Education, which was appointed in 1839, and had in its hands the administration of Grants. The appeal was answered in 1841 by an offer of 5000 to reduce the debt on the building, and 500 a year to meet current expenses, the General Assembly contributing the same annual amount, on condition that the site and buildings were conveyed to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, in trust for the maintenance of Model and Training Schools. This condition, by introducing a denominational element into what was meant by its founders to be a national institution and of universal application, was at first objected to. The Privy Council however refused to yield, and the offer was somewhat unwillingly accepted as the only alternative to the probable surrender of a scheme, which had been, with admirable devotion, ability, and success, so far carried out, and was so full of promise for the education of the country.

Meanwhile Stow's system had taken root elsewhere than in Glasgow. It is unnecessary to enter into details which in general character were the same as those already mentioned. Suffice it to say that so early as 1824 an Education Committee was appointed by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, under whose superintendence teachers received a short training on Stow's lines in a Sessional School in Edinburgh; that eleven years later a Training department was introduced into the Sessional School, which was now called the General Assembly's Normal Seminary in Edinburgh. Further, when this school became too small, the Privy Council, on being appealed to in 1841, made the same grants as to Glasgow - 5000 towards building and 500 annually for current expenses.

These negotiations were little more than completed when the ecclesiastical Disruption occurred in 1843. As the Training Colleges had been placed under the Superintendence of the Church of Scotland, the General Assembly thought they had no choice but to insist that all the teachers of schools under their management should be members of that Church. It turned out that Stow and almost all his colleagues had joined the Free Church, and notwithstanding their earnest request to be allowed to retain their posts in an institution open to students of all denominations for the establishment of which they had toiled so zealously, they were obliged to leave it. To Stow especially, who had, with a devotion almost unparalleled, given up thirty years of his life to a scheme which seemed triumphantly successful, the experience must have been extremely bitter.

Disappointed but not disheartened Stow and his Directors accompanied by the staff, students, and pupils who adhered to the Free Church, marched in procession in 1845 from Dundas Vale to temporary premises, where the work was carried on till a handsome college was erected in Cowcaddens at a cost of 10,000, the Privy Council contributing 3000. With this college Stow had a close connection till his death in 1864.

In Edinburgh the circumstances and action of those interested were in all essential points the same as in Glasgow. Temporary buildings were occupied by the Free Church till 1848 when Moray House, formerly the residence of the Earls of Moray, was secured and adapted to suit the requirements of a model school and Training College, the Privy Council contributing 3000 as in Glasgow.

There is room for difference of opinion as to the expediency of placing the Training Colleges under the superintendence of the Church of Scotland, . The connection between church and school had been, from the earliest times, so close that such a policy was natural and intelligible. The ecclesiastical condition of the country must be taken into account. It must be borne in mind that the Disruption was not yet upon us, and probably not anticipated. Had it already come, Stow's aim at the establishment of a national system on purely undenominational lines would probably have been realised; great waste of time, money and teaching power, and much ecclesiastical bitterness and unwholesome rivalry would have been avoided. On the other hand it is arguable, that in spite of these regrettable results, as springing from the Disruption, the spread of Training Colleges would not have been so rapid but for the stimulus supplied by ecclesiastical rivalry.

It is right to add that though strong sectarian feeling for a considerable time led students to attend the colleges connected with the Churches to which they belonged, the bitterness gradually disappeared, and the question of Church connection as between the two Presbyterian Churches scarcely, if at all, determined the selection of the college to be attended.

There was not as yet an Episcopal or a Roman Catholic Training College in Scotland, but in 1850 an Episcopal College was established in Edinburgh and is still very successfully maintained. After several changes in search of suitable buildings permanent and satisfactory premises were found in Dalry House to which a Practising School was added. Except in minor details there were scarcely any changes in the management of Training Colleges till the commencement of our fourth period, in which their development will be dealt with.

This is perhaps the most suitable place for adverting shortly to the introduction of the system of pupil-teachers in 1847 and to the training they received.

Originally they were examined by H. M. Inspector every year, till 1877, for five, and subsequently for four years.

At the end of the last year of apprenticeship collective examinations were held at all the Normal Schools for admission to training. Shortly after the Leaving Certificate Examinations were introduced in 1888, a change was made, examinations being held only at the end of the second and fourth years, and provision being made that those who had passed the Leaving Certificate Examination in certain subjects should be exempt from further examination. The curriculum was steadily and judiciously raised from very modest demands till in 1895 pupil-teachers of average ability reached the level of the Leaving Certificate. The next change came in 1906, when H.M. Inspectors ceased to hold special examinations for pupil-teachers, who were required to take the Intermediate Certificate Examination at the end of their second year, and a Leaving Certificate Examination or an examination equivalent to it approved by H. M. Inspector at the end of their fourth year. Along with the change in examination

in 1906 came a reduction in the teaching hours of pupil-teachers per week to 12, which virtually makes them half-timers. In June of the same year new and far-reaching regulations for the Preliminary Education, Training and Certification of teachers for various grades of schools were issued.

These are fully dealt with in an appendix by Dr Morgan. The doom of the pupil-teacher system was thus sealed. By these regulations the embryo teacher, who was henceforth to be known as a junior Student, was to devote nine-tenths of his time to his own education, and one-tenth or less than one-tenth to the education of others. In other words he was to be first and foremost a student and not, like the pupil-teacher, a rate-saving, juvenile school-assistant. Bursaries were liberally provided for Junior Students and highly equipped centres were established for their instruction. The new system rapidly grew in popularity. No fewer than 88 centres were formed in the year it came into operation.


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