22 JULY 1927, Page 4

The Imperial Education Conference i s it because we are sated

with discussions of political and commercial questions of the Empire that so little attention has been paid to the Imperial Education Conference that met nearly a month ago ? Now after a series of meetings in London the members have dis- appeared from the eyes of London, but we hope that the eyes and ears of the provinces are open in those parts of the country which they are visiting. The Prince of Wales, on behalf of the King, and the President of the Board of Education welcomed at the opening meeting besides the delegates representing Great Britain visitors drawn from the Dominions, *Colonies and Indian Empire, teachers or administrators from every quarter of the globe concerned in the education of children or adults of different colour and language and of every stage of civilization and culture. - is it because we are sated with discussions of political and commercial questions of the Empire that so little attention has been paid to the Imperial Education Conference that met nearly a month ago ? Now after a series of meetings in London the members have dis- appeared from the eyes of London, but we hope that the eyes and ears of the provinces are open in those parts of the country which they are visiting. The Prince of Wales, on behalf of the King, and the President of the Board of Education welcomed at the opening meeting besides the delegates representing Great Britain visitors drawn from the Dominions, *Colonies and Indian Empire, teachers or administrators from every quarter of the globe concerned in the education of children or adults of different colour and language and of every stage of civilization and culture. - These meetings had an almost stupefying range of subjects and diversity of treatment. One hopes that somebody got some good that he sought out of each discussion, but the greatest value of the Conference will only be seen when the members have had time for reflection, have put their own peculiar subject and others in perspective. Then they may make each his own contribution, small or large, towards the purpose which Lord Eustace Percy put forward, " to focus and fuse all our traditions and needs," so that the Empire may " succeed in developing a balanced system of education superior to anything which has yet been developed in any country in the world." For the layman it is even more difficult to be sure that he gets a true impression. A comparison, for instance, between adult schOols in the industrial North of England and adult schools among the illiterates of India sets him Wondering whether the two are comparable at all. But in the papers read there was plenty for the hearers to learn, Imperial • or anthropological lessons ; political leSsOns, too, in such discussions as that upon the parts to be played by central • or local governments, or by voluntary effort. The mention of voluntary—effort reminds us 'of great differences existing in 'different parts of the Empire. There are countries wherejust as State railways preceded road-making in a manner directly ,contrary to the process in old countries, so State education has not developed from mere aid given to long- established voluntary effort. Here the Church kept the lamp of learning alight through the Dark Ages; at the Reformation the State diverted many educational endowments to the Grammar Schools, and the commercial and industrial worlds have contributed to establish education in a degree second only to what is seen in the United States. The danger of complete control by the State is that education tends to• become stereotyped. Officials decide what is in their opinion the best and impose it as universally as possible. That is natural, but anyone who studies the widely different forms and methods in operation in Great Britain owing to the freedom that still persists in our Universities, public and private schools, realizes that the benefits of- diversity are incalculable. That is a lesson which we hope will spread through the Empire after the Conferende.

Many people of no very wide, knowledge or deep wisdom are inclined to judge our fellow-subjects in the Dominions as materialists; lacking culture and interest in religion or the humanities, only leavening their materialism with sport; If this were a true judgment, which we do not admit, it would be small blame to peoples who have had to • fight with- nature and every kind of difficulty during the three generations in which they have built up great nations. - If Lord Eustace Perot' were not a thoroughgoing intellectual here we shOuld have fears for the future of the " post-primary " education which commands his enthnsiasni, lest it should receive too technical a " bias." (May we here protest against the hideous epithet " post-primary " Which has crept into our educational jargon ? We know the distinction from " secondary " and would not expeet Lord Eustaee to accept " Seseuncial," but can he find no better word •?) At home we need to hold to what is good in our traditioni; for they are none too strong, but in the new countries the temptation to hasten to " practical " ends is greater. They have less tradition and they have a fiercer struggle to make their necessary adVance on material way4. We may all ponder on a chance remark of a Nova Scotian at the Conference who pointed out that in Denmark, the country held up as a model in agricultural develop- ment and scarcely less for its system of rural schools, there is " no attempt to teach agriculture in the elementary school." We are in favour of interesting our own country children in gardening and in the soil which we hope they will not' desert in later life, and our town children, where possible, in the great mysteries of Mother Earth. But the point is that in Denmailk the children who will almost certainly become agricul- turists are not the victims of early specialization. They are given an education that will fit them to learn and practise agriculture or anything else the better later on.

TO say that the elementary Scheel can aim at doing no more than preparing a child to learn is no theory of despair. There is scarcely any More difficult Or nobler task that a man or woman can seek to perform. Those who succeed- best in it are those who regard it as the unlocking of a door into a new and unlimited world for one after another human mind, the organ of greater potentialities than any other creation in the universe: And it is inseparable from the development of character, which is a greater force even than intellect. As the teacher assumes (as we see signs in our day) more and more of the function of training the children's characters, a function forinerly left to the parents who might or might not be fit to exercise it, so his or her responsibilities grow until they would crush the mere materialist. These teachers and administrators through- out the Empire need inspiration and hope. Unless there is a spiritual basis, their intellectual efforts will be barren. The most obvious and rudimentary object lesson is in the missionary schools among the least developed races. Their value is now generally acclaimed by the Civil Governments that watch their work. We regret that there was not more discussion of religious education at the Conference, for we have much to learn in that sphere. In England we nearly all admit that education is incomplete without religion and that if it is desirable that a child should have any religion, then it needs. instruction in that as much as in any other subject. Yet we have let religious education suffer. Let those who come:and see the result take warning. : Such • a Conference can–do-immense good. In no sphere does the personal Spirit• tell so Profoundly as in the teacher's I work. To see and hear fresh- things, in themselves new or old, is the. finest_ stimulus to_thespirit, and that is what we hope every member of the Conference is finding. If he does find it -he will pass-on some 'benefit, some help, some gift that will spread through the youth which will be the -Empire of to-morrow:

, . . .