THE EDUCATION OF GIRLS.
To THE EDITOR Or THR " srzeriroz.•rj SIR,—Your remarks on girls' modern education and the way in which proper exercise is overlooked, is a most cheering phenomenon to those who are at once zealous in the cause of the higher education of women, and conscious of the shortcomings of the movement as at present oonducted. The two greatest mistakes of the movement—the ignoring of the need of physical education, and the unnecessary fret and irritation of nerves
caused by the large number of subjects taken up by candidates for honours at the local examinations—seem to me naturally to follow from the fact that the Girls' Public Day-School Company, which has done the lion's share of the work, and got the organisa- tion into its hands, is a system of day-schools where the mistresses do not see the bad results of their regulations upon children out of school-hours. It appears to me that boarding- house mistresses and parents have a great deal to say upon this subject which has no chance of reaching the ears of the authorities, while the day-school mistresses naturally have every opportunity to represent their own views.
With regard to the first, provision should be made at girls' schools, as at boys' schools, for outdoor games, and mistresses should be chosen part of whose school-work it would be to organise and superintend such games. The long walks into the country, the expeditions for primroses or blackberries, for which home girls were able now and then to take an unexpected holiday, are impossible to those who have the severe routine of work neces- sary to those to whom work is business ; and a playground as such, except sometimes with provision for tennis in summer, is not to be found in the town garden of the suburban villa. It is really necessary that such games as hockey in winter, and rounders in summer, which can be played on a smaller ground than is needful for cricket, should be organised by the school authorities, and not only permitted, but encouraged by every means in their power. The social difficulty between girls of different classes would be bridged as easily as is the case in lessons, if the initiative were taken by the school, and not by a set of individual girls.
But a still more pressing need is the one to which you allude in your remark upon the number of optional subjects taken by the candidates for the Junior and Senior Locals. It is not enough to say, as most of the authorities do when the abuse is mentioned, that no one obliges the girls to take them up. In the first place, any girl who is qualifying herself for the situation of a high-school teacher is practically forced to do so, since not only do honours in the Senior count towards a Higher certificate, but they are indispensable for a candidate for a student-teachership or junior mistress-ship ; and in the second, there is persuasion from mistresses responded to by enthusiasm from pupils, which makes it very difficult for parents to resist their combined entreaties. What would do more good than anything else, would be to insist that the Junior should be merely a pass examination in a specified number of various given subjects (distinction might be accorded to excellence, but should not be made to depend, as honours do, on the number of subjects taken) ; and though the number of subjects might be enlarged for the Senior, it should be a rule that those who go in for more than a pass should take the examination in two years, passing their preliminary subjects in the first. At present they must all be taken in the same year ; and I can only say that I wish those who make the regulations could observe the fever of nerves and fret of worry which comes upon eager girls simply from having to keep up so many different subjects to examination-point. Overwork is often credited to girls' education, when what is really wrong is over-worry.
A limited number of subjects, carefully and intelligently prepared, make an examination pure enjoyment to a girl; a large number, all on hand for examination at once, are simply a torment. I feel sure that, sooner or later, the Cam- bridge authorities will have to consider that whatever may be the case with grown women, growing girls must not be con- demned to this amount of nervous worry ; that if it is absolutely needful to keep up the present regulations for boys, they must be relaxed for girls; and I feel sure, also, that if they consulted the mothers and boarding-house mistresses of girls undergoing their examinations, they would come to a different conclusion from that arrived at by consulting only the head-mistresses of day-schools, who, with the best intentions, cannot possibly observe the girls out of school-hours.—I am, Sir, &c.,
A BOARDING-HOUSE MISTRESS.