16 FEBRUARY 1940, Page 10


By SIR CYRIL NORWOOD BEFORE entering in broad outline on the details of the organisation which by unifying our educational system may go far to bring the whole nation to unity of spirit, it is necessary at the outset to fix the age up to which formal education shall continue. I put this at eighteen because that age for most marks the end of adolescent boyhood. It is an age-limit which can hardly be disputed: it is the age up to which the vast majority of those who can afford it educate their own children, and keep them at school.

There is a further reason for fixing on this age which is of considerable importance. Whether compulsory military service will continue after the war is a question upon which opinions will certainly differ, and which cannot be argued here. I must, however, register my own point of view by saying that, if we are wise, we shall retain it, since there will be no permanent settlement of Europe, however justly and generously it may be planned, unless there is power to main- tain it. Later, as peace becomes more certainly assured, military service can pass into national service. But now that through the exigencies of war the principle of service has been accepted by the nation, it is a gain too valuable to lose ; it is a right and valuable thing that all alike, irrespec- tive of class, should give service for six months of their lives as the price of their nurture. That militia service should begin at twenty is a mistake, an inevitable misfortune due to war. That age interrupts the University courses, and breaks into all professional training : for the unskilled workers it comes at a time when they have entered upon their life's work, and in not a few cases have already married. But at eighteen there could be a break for all, a transition from adolescence to manhood in equality of service, for some between their earlier and their final training, for others after the completion of their education, and before they enter upon the work which will occupy their mature life. The age of eighteen is the age up to which any scheme of truly national education must work.

Given this age, then as the terminus ad quem up to which we have to plan, the first or elementary stage will be com- pleted by all at or just before the age of twelve. It can be carried out either in the public elementary or in the pre- paratory school. But preparatory schools, if they are to continue, must fall into line with the national system, must therefore accept a leaving age of twelve, and liability to inspection as a guarantee of efficiency. This change will carry with it for them a corresponding simplification of the curriculum, and an alteration of emphasis between its parts which is much to be desired. Competitive scholarship examinations for young boys in the form in which we have known them should be abolished : they have always done more harm than good.

There should follow for all a six-year course, either the full secondary course leading up to the university, or for the great majority a four-year course followed by two years of part-time continued education. In plotting this out it would be wise to follow the lines laid down after so much enquiry and deliberation by the Spens Report. The secondary schools would be maintained in full efficiency, and there would be time, beginning with pupils at the age of 12, to carry the main subjects, Latin and Greek, French and German, Mathematics and Science, from their first elements up to the highest school standards. But those who do not show signs of profiting by advanced academic work should be discarded at i6, and transferred to part-time instruction. Parallel with this would come into existence the new Technical High Schools, equally carrying their pupils on to the most advanced standards, or discarding them after the completion of the four-years' course. There would be many secondary schools in addition, which would not attempt to carry the pupils beyond the sixteenth year, and would solve their special problems in their own way without attempting to rival unduly either the secondary school or the technical high schooL Part-time continued education, devised as a result of the experiences of the last war, and so unwisely dropped, would come into force for the mass of the young. It should involve not so much the continuance of ordinary school studies, as full medical supervision, and a carefully planned and pro- gressive physical education, together with all the aesthetic subjects grouped under Music, Art and Handicraft, and a simple training for citizenship. Strong as are the interests that will fight this proposal, they must not be allowed to torpedo it for a second time. Industrial) ts and employers and farmers must learn to adjust themselves to half-tune employment for the sake of the whole citizen body, and poor parents must be helped to bear the burden involved by the deferment of children's earnings. The country can' not afford the waste that has resulted from the complete or almost complete neglect of the irresponsible years, 14$ which has placed so many of our young people on the Kral)" heap.

The public-schools must be brought into the system as a vital part of it by changing their age of admission, and organising a four- or six-year course on the same basis as the secondary school. They should accept from the elementary schools an entry of not less than ten per CtAG a year of boys chosen on record, interview, and quahfrtig :amination. They should adopt simpler standards, and ain the boys to be largely self-dependent in the matter domestic service ; their pupils should black their own toes, lay their own tables, and make their own -beds. 'here is a model of the type of school which should become metal to be found in Christ's Hospital, a school which has record that can bear any comparison. But its peculiar irtues have been sustained by its independence, and, unless Idependence is safeguarded, the English public-school vtern will not produce its fruit. The financial respon- ibility of the whole should be taken over by Whitehall, and be schools should not be handed over to the local Educa- ion Authorities. The actual duties of administration should fie carried out, as hitherto, by special boards of governors ; odividuality and tradition, so far as it is good, should be reserved. Ultimate financial control would lie with the and of Education, and everything should be done to make education as cheap as is consistent with excellence.

It may be said that this will prove to be extravagantly pensive, but it is not so expensive as it looks. The State ould be taking over without capital expenditure well- uipped buildings and playing-fields, and all the advantages f a running concern. It may be said that public money nnot be spent for the advantage of one class. But the hole point of this proposal is that the doors of the public hools will be opened without respect of class. And if it said that the well-to-do middle-class will be buying ucation below cost price at the public expense, it may be swered, first, that it is very doubtful whether after the war ere will be any well-to-do middle-class, and, secondly, that ucation is already being purchased far below cost price in very aided or maintained secondary school in the country. The scheme merely involves an extension of a policy which has been long approved and put into practice. It would put an end to the weakness which has of late years increas- ingly revealed itself, that we have one set of schools for one class and another for the others, so that we produce a citizen body of two elements which, like oil and water, do not mix.

There is another consideration which goes to show that the whole scheme, expensive as it must be, is yet not so expensive as it looks. It would produce better-trained and better-disciplined men and women, and would lift a con- siderable burden from the funds which have to be devoted to the relief of unemployment and ill-health. Even if this were not so, the cost ought to be faced. We have reached a stage when the birth-rate is declining, and many have come to feel that they cannot maintain their standard of life if they have a child, and still less if they have three children, which is the minimum necessary if the population is to be maintained. This is perhaps the gravest problem that con- fronts the country, since, unless it maintains the numbers of its population, and improves their quality, it must fall rapidly back into the second rank, nor will it long be able to main- tain even its present standards. Family allowances in some form are inevitable, and one of the best forms in which the State can help the family is to bear the whole, or a larger part, of the cost of education.

Brevity has been necessary, and much has here been briefly stated which demands fuller discussion. Let me end by saying that this or any other system must fail us unless it is so inspired by the ideal of public service that it issues in a practical expression of that ideal, and unless it is built on the supremacy of those spiritual values which are cast into deadly hazard by the present war.