Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

The Educational Institute of Scotland
Its Origin, History, and Objects


It is not often that the brethren of the scholastic profession have attempted to force themselves on public notice. They are vulgarly said to be a pedantic race; they are, unquestionably, a quick, inoffensive race, and have hitherto drudged silently on in their laborious calling, the worst paid, and the most undervalued of public servants. But as certain animals, naturally meek and peaceful, are, when excited, more terrible in their wrath than such as are habitually fierce and irascible, so this retiring and passive body of men, when once roused to vindicate their claims upon society, may urge them with irresistible energy and perseverance. They have already made a bold beginning. Between 600 and 700 teachers, of various denominations, and from all parts of Scotland, assembled in the hail of the High School of Edinburgh, on Saturday the 18th of September, and formed themselves into an association, which they have denominated the "Educational Institute of Scotland." They were enthusiastic—they were unanimous—they were moderate in their aims, and temperate in their language; and when a number of men of education, intelligence, and respectability, thus combine, and thus conduct their proceedings, there is no object, provided it be laudable, rational, and practicable, which they may not hope to accomplish. We shall, therefore, be doing a service to the educator, to education, and to the community, by devoting a portion of our present number to a brief consideration of this movement among the teachers of Scotland.

It is now nearly twenty years since we heard one of those whom Dr. Schmitz calls “amateur pedagogues," declare, that teaching ought to be a fourth profession; and we have occasionally heard some of the more ambitious operatives of the brotherhood express a similar opinion. But, till very recently, no means were taken to convert this opinion into a fact. The first attempt was made by the teachers in the north of Ireland, who, in the year 1840, formed the “ Ulster Teachers’ Association and, in the summer of 1846, their example was followed by the unendowed teachers in England, who then instituted the “College of Preceptors." In imitation of their Irish and English brethren, some of the teachers of Glasgow and the neighbourhood, towards the close of 1846, commenced a similar association for Scotland, in organising which they invited the co-operation of their brethren in Edinburgh. After some deliberation, it was resolved that the movement should begin anew in Edinburgh; and, accordingly, in January last, a meeting was held in that city, at which resolutions were passed as the basis of the proposed association. These resolutions were circulated throughout the country, and were afterwards considered at a meeting of delegates, held in the High School on the 19th of June. They were then remitted to a committee, to be amplified and modelled into the constitution, which was adopted at the general meeting on the 18th of September last. As already stated, that meeting was attended by between 600 and 700 teachers, certainly the most numerous assemblage of the brethren which ever congregated in this, or, perhaps, in any other city. Dr. Schmitz, the Rector of the High School, was in the chair; and there were present nearly all his colleagues, and the greater number of the more eminent public and private teachers of Edinburgh, with representatives from Glasgow, Paisley, Greenock, St. Andrews, Perth, Dundee, and almost all the other burghs and towns in Scotland. There was also a large attendance from the country districts, many having come even from the most remote counties; and the delegates of the parochial schoolmasters, after having deliberated some time by themselves, joined the meeting in a body. Already upwards of 1,000 teachers have signified their adherence; and it is calculated that, before the next annual meeting in September, the Institute will number not lower than 2,000 members.

We should greatly misapprehend the causes of so extensive and rapid a movement as this, among a body formerly so silent and apparently indifferent, if we ascribed it entirely to the example set by the teachers in Ireland and England. The immediate impulse was, no doubt, given by the Ulster Association and the College of Preceptors; but, had there not existed a strong sympathy only waiting to be awakened, no merely extraneous influence could have been so suddenly effective. The great moving principle was slumbering in the body of Scottish teachers themselves, and it is to be found in their personal and professional condition.

Among teachers of all grades and denominations, there has long been a growing feeling of their degraded social position ; and it cannot be denied that there is only too much cause for this fooling. There are individuals among them, no doubt, who, by their talents and attainments, vindicate to themselves a respectable standing among their neighbours; and there are others whose office secures to them respect, because, humble though it may be reckoned, it is still one of the highest in a poor or secluded locality. But there can be as little doubt that, as a class, teachers occupy a position for below that of any other body of educated and professional men in Scotland. The time has not long gone by when, in the larger towns, there were social circles, not above the middle rank, to which they were not admissible at all; and, even in the smaller towns and landward districts, the surgeon, the lawyer, and sometimes the exciseman, would affect to patronise the schoolmaster. This arose partly from the poverty of the teacher, but its chief cause was, as stated by Dr. Schmitz in his address to the meeting held in the High School, the low estimate which was formed of his calling and influence. “Your money is easily won," would bo grumbled forth by a surly boor, as he reluctantly paid eighteenpenoe or two shillings for a quarter's instruction to his boy or girl; and if the small farmer or village tradesman had a son who was fit for nothing else, ho was good enough to be a schoolmaster. Nor was this erroneous mode of judging of the teacher's office and qualifications confined to the ignorant. The heritor and the clergyman acted upon the same principle when they appointed to a school one who had no other claim than that ho was the son of a dependant, or had been recommended by a friend whom they wished to oblige.

Of late years matters have greatly improved, and they continue to improve. A more complete education, and a course of training in the art of teaching, are beginning to be reckoned necessary; and it is now generally admitted that labour of so much value to society should be more liberally remunerated. Teachers are treated with greater respect, and more care is taken to appoint men who are deserving of respect. But still much of their personal and professional degradation remains. They are still kept aloof by a large portion of the community; they arc not hold as equal to other professional men; and parents, who do not hesitate to entrust them with the most important of all functions, the training of the intellectual powers and moral habits of their children, look down upon them, as if they were, both intellectually and morally, inferior to themselves and to the children whom they train. Even on subjects connected with their own avocations they are not considered worthy of being consulted. If, on some educational question, evidence is to be given before a committee of Parliament, lectures are to be delivered to a philosophical institution, or a public demonstration is to be made, lawyers, professors, clergymen, booksellers, any theorist who has written a letter or published a pamphlet on education, but who could no more conduct a class of fifty boys than he could command the channel fleet, are summoned to London, requested to give a short course, or invited to the platform; but no person seems to think that the opinion of practical teachers is worth having. Even as inspectors of schools, where one would suppose practical knowledge to be indispensable, they do not appear to be considered the most eligible. Nor is this overlooking of the services of actual educationists confined to such appointments as may be so far under the control of political influence, or restricted by acts of Parliament, or by immemorial practice. We find the same thing prevailing where there can be, or at least ought to be, no such influence or restriction. In a very extensive educational scheme, framed for Scotland within the last two years, we find no provision made for practical educational questions being left to the decision of practical men. The secretary, it is true, was once a teacher, and to his intelligence and experience we are to ascribe all that is excellent in the scheme; and teachers are said to draw up and judge the examination papers; but, nominally and ostensibly, the entire direction and execution of the scheme rests with a committee and with church courts, which do not necessarily contain a single individual professionally conversant either with the art or the science of education. What would be thought of any other scheme, from the law and medical departments of which all lawyers and physicians were excluded?

Now whence does all this proceed? Whence does it arise, that, while an increasing importance is attached to education, the educator is still so little esteemed, and so poorly paid? that, on subjects with which he only is familiar, his opinion is never asked? and that, on the recent or proposed educational plans and changes, not one of the many eminent teachers whom Scotland contains has ever been consulted? We believe we have already answered these questions. It proceeds entirely from the low estimate which is formed of the teacher's profession and influence. Education is a subject on which every one thinks that he is qualified to give an opinion; and teaching is an art which, it is thought, any one may practise. Hence those whose occupation it "to study the subject, and to practise the art, are not considered more competent to deliberate on educational questions, or to execute educational plans, than those who, in the words of Dr. Schmitz, “have never visited a schoolroom except in their own boyhood, and who know as little about educating and training a young mind, as a person knows about anatomy who has never been in a dissecting-room." It is not so in those continental states where the greatest and most successful efforts hare boon made for the education of the people. There the affairs of education are conducted by men engaged in education. But what teacher in Scotland, who he studied his profession theoretically, and is daily engaged in it practically, (and there are hundreds of such throughout the country,) does not feel that, to use the language of Mr. Gunn at the recent meeting, ha is “completely misunderstood and under-rated by his fellow-citizens?" Can we wonder that those who have originated and organised this association should think it high time to bestir themselves, for the purpose of vindicating the dignity of their profession and their own capability of promoting its best interests?

But if it were merely the dignity of their profession that was concerned, the teachers of Scotland would not have so much of our sympathy. We believe that the cause of education is bound up in that of the educator. As the latter is degraded, the former is paralysed; as the one is elevated, the other is advanced. Fifty yean ago, the teacher and his office were less esteemed than they are now, much too low as that estimation still. The office was then considered an unworthy one, unworthy men were put into it, or, at least, were not excluded from it; and its duties were often as unworthily performed. As the condition of the teacher improved, better men entered the profession, and the work was more efficiently done. So will it continuo to be. The more honoured and the better remunerated the professors are, the more honourable and desirable will the profession become, and the more ably and successfully will the business of education be conducted.

Such are our views on this important question, and such we believe to be the views of the originators of the Educational Institute. The objects of the Institute, accordingly, as stated in the preamble of its constitution, are to increase the efficiency of teachers, to improve their condition, and to raise the standard of education. The means by which the teachers of Scotland seek to accomplish these objects are, professional union among themselves, and incorporation by Royal Charter. In other words, they aim, first, at self-improvement, which they can accomplish without external aid; secondly, at self-government, which they wish to have legalised by a charter from the Crown, constituting them a separate profession; and, thirdly, at the elevation of the whole matter and manner of education throughout the country.

It will scarcely be denied that these objects are laudable} or that, in placing self-improvement first, the Scottish teachers are noting at once modestly and prudently. Neither will it be denied that the self-improvement of the body is the best way to qualify itself for, and to show that it is capable of, self-government. That the elevation of the standard of education will follow is, we think, equally undeniable.

The way by which the teachers of Scotland propose to improve their body is by forming themselves into an association, of which all who signify their adherence before the close of the year 1847, and pay the entrance fee and first annual contribution, shall be reckoned members. The objects of the Institute being entirely professional, the privilege of membership is open to teachers of all denominations of Christians. On his admission, each member who joins the Institute before the close of the current year becomes entitled to a certificate of membership; but if he wishes for more than this, he may, according to the evidence of his attainments and experience, be ranked as a Junior Licentiate, Senior Licentiate, or Fellow. Admission on application, and classification by documentary evidence, are only a temporary arrangement, necessary to get the Institute established and organised. After the lapse of 1847, members are to be admitted only after examination by a Board appointed for the purpose, who shall rank the successful candidates for admission according to their qualifications. All members who have been thus admitted will receive diplomas which shall be definite; that is, shall specify the branches in which the members have been examined, and shall state the proficiency manifested by each. The diploma will thus be not only an evidence of the standing which the possessor of it holds in the profession, but a certificate of the proper department in teaching which he is qualified to fill. The examinations are to take place twice a-year in the four university seats, and in the towns of Dumfries, Forth, and Inverness. They will be conducted by means of printed papers, to which the candidates will return written answers.

For the more effectual carrying on of the business of the Institute, Scotland is to be divided into districts; each district is to have its Local Committee, which is to meet as often as business requires; and a general meeting of all the members is to be held in Edinburgh once a-year. The general business of the Institute, and in certain specified matters the proceedings of the Local Committees, are to be under the direction and review of a General Committee of Management, whose transactions must all be reported to the annual meeting. Regulations for the election of office-bearers, and for conducting the other affairs of the Institute, are given in the constitution, which has boon printed; but we do not think it necessary to enter into any farther detail.

From this brief summary of the objects and arrangements of the Educational Institute, it will be obvious that it can, at least, do no harm. This is a very poor recommendation; but still it will be a recommendation to those who may have apprehended that there was an intention, on the part of the teachers, of invading their privileges. To the same parties, and perhaps to others, it will be a farther recommendation, that the Institute does not interfere with the other educational arrangements of the country. It does not counteract their present operation; neither does it stand in the way of their improvement. The election of parochial teachers by heritors, and of burgh teachers by town councils; the examination and superintendence of parochial and burgh schools by presbyteries; the competition of Free Church teachers for bursaries and larger salaries; the supplementing of emoluments, and the training of pupil teachers, by the Government scheme, will all remain untouched. With all that is good in these arrangements, the Institute will co-operate; much that is defective in them, it will supply. To illustrate this, let us suppose it in full operation; let us farther suppose, (what we trust will ultimately be the case,) that electors to schools will choose no teachers who are not members of the Institute. A burgh or a parochial school becomes vacant, the electors cannot, or will not, choose a teacher who is not a member of the Established Church; but from the members of the Institute who belong to the Established Church, they can make their selection of one whom they are sure of being qualified. Before he can be admitted to his office, he must be examined by the Presbytery. To this the teacher will not object; because it is presumed that he has already undergone at least as stringent an examination by the Board of the Institute. Neither will the Institute be disposed to object, even if it had the power of doing so; because this second examination by another body will be a test of the efflcacy of its own, and will thus be a check on any laxity on the part of its examining board. A similar effect will follow with respect to candidates for either bursaries or schools in connexion with the Free Church. A member of the Institute will have no difficulty or unwillingness in presenting himself for examination by the Education Committee of the Free Church, because he has already passed an equally formidable ordeal; and, on the other hand, a Free Church teacher who has passed the examination of the Education Committee will be the more ready to present himself before the Board of the Institute; the two examining bodies thus serving as a mutual check upon each other. On the Government scheme the Institute will operate even more beneficially. Members of the Institute need not fear any examination to which they will be subjected by Government inspectors; and the examination by the latter will be all the more efficient, if there is a probability of its being afterwards tested by the Board of the Institute; while pupil teachers, who have served their apprenticeship, and passed their examinations, without being after all qualified for the efficient management of schools, will be arrested in their progress towards a profession of which they are not fit to become members. The time may come when the fact of his having passed the examining Board of the Educational Institute will be reckoned a sufficient recommendation to any teacher; but, in the meanwhile, the agency of the Institute may, in the way we have explained, co-operate most beneficially with that of all other electing and superintending bodies, and especially of those we have mentioned; and, therefore, we trust, that from them the Institute will receive all countenance and support.

But a large proportion of the teachers of Scotland do not come under the control of any electing or superintending body. In the last Education Returns the number of parochial teachers was stated to be 1170, and of teachers not parochial 4409; and .the number of Free Church teachers was, in May last, estimated at 660. It cannot be calculated how many unendowed teachers will avail themselves of Government aid, and consequently be placed under Government inspection; but we think we may warrantably conclude that, even after the Free Church and the Government schemes are in full operation, there will still be upwards of two thousand teachers whose qualifications are subject to no other test than the opinion of their employers. All these, or the greater number of them, will find it to be for their interest to join the Institute; for as soon as membership becomes a recommendation, (which, we have no doubt, it will soon be,) parents and others will not be disposed to employ any teacher who does not possess that states. After the lapse of the current year, admission to membership will always imply a certain standard of qualification; and thus, if the Institute receives the encouragement which it deserves, the ultimate results of its establishment will be, that, even in the humblest school, there will not be an ill-qualified teacher in Scotland, and that, in schools of every description, the standard of qualification will be uniform.

Upon those teachers who acquire the status of membership by simply signifying their adherence before the first of January next, and who thus undergo no examination, the Institute may also be expected to exercise an improving influence. The circulation of the examination papers will keep constantly before them the qualifications which every teacher ought to possess; while their frequent meetings in local committees, and their annual meetings in Edinburgh, will impart to the whole body an animation which cannot fail to be beneficial. Other subjects also, besides the more business transactions of the Institute, may afterwards occupy their attention. We have heard an Educational Journal spoken of as a probable result of this combination among practical educators, and in a note appended to the “Constitution" mention is made of lectures on the theory and practice of teaching, and the institution of libraries. Another salutary result of the establishment of the Institute remains yet to be noticed. A numerous body of men of all Christian denominations, harmoniously co-operating for the objects already specified, may do much to counteract that spirit of sectarianism, which, in the opinion of many, is rather fostered than discouraged by recent educational operations and enactments.

Let it not be forgotten, however, that all those benefits can be produced only by the efficient working of the Institute. Examinations must be stringently conducted, diplomas charily conferred, and unworthy members excluded. Unanimity must also continue to pervade the body, and to characterise its proceedings; all party spirit must be avoided; and the grand objects of the combination must be earnestly and perseveringly pursued. If the Institute proceed in this manner, there can be no doubt regarding its final success. We can fancy no objections to its obtaining a Royal Charter; and what we look upon as of far greater consequence, it will secure the confidence of the public. Another addition will thus be made to the educational honours of Scotland. It was the first country which could boast of a national system of schools; the Scottish nation was long the best educated in Europe; and in Scotland will have been formed the first really national association of teachers, and teaching will have been first raised to its proper dignity of being a distinct learned profession.


Return to our Education Page