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[Introductory Letter to Vol. 6 of the Series.]
To Sir G. W. KEKEWICH, K.C.B.,
Secretary of the Board of Education.
SIR, I HAVE the honour to present to you the accompanying volume of Special Reports, descriptive of the work of Preparatory Schools for Boys and of the place which they occupy in secondary education in England.
The schools in question are an interesting and important part of the system of national education. In their history, organisation, educational aims and courses of study, they exhibit many characteristic features not found in the corresponding parts of secondary education in other countries. They provide for a large majority of the boys, intended for the Public Schools, the first three or four years of secondary education. During the last two decades they have made notable advances in general efficiency, and it is doubtful whether any other part of our national education has been distinguished by a more rapid and comprehensive improvement. In many respects they may be said to be the best schools of their kind in the world.
It is singular that no attempt has previously been made to describe in a systematic way the varied work of these schools, the conditions under which that work is carried on, and the relations which they bear to the Public Schools for which they prepare. The present volume has been written in order to fill this gap in our educational literature, and to provide for the students of English education materials which will enable them to judge of the aims, methods and special difficulties of this type of secondary schools.
The table of contents, following this letter, will best show the range of subjects with which the volume deals. The aim has been to give an account of the various sides of the work of English Preparatory Schools, in a form which will (it is hoped) be not unattractive to the general reader, while at the same time in sufficient detail to meet the special needs of the professed student of educational systems. I believe that the volume may be taken as giving a just idea of the present position of these schools in national education, of the intellectual standard reached by them in their work, and of the varied influences which they bring to bear on the character, the activities and the physical well-being of the boys committed to their care. And, as the 4333. Wt. 25798. 3000-12/00. Wy. & S.
matter is not elsewhere discussed in the volume, this will perhaps be the most convenient point at which to state that religious instruction forms part of the curriculum in all English Preparatory Schools. While there is a general agreement, among those interested in the education of boys of preparatory school age, that the moral tone and religious atmosphere of the school, and the example of the masters and of the elder boys, leave a deeper mark on conduct than, taken by itself, verbal instruction can ever make, there is none the less a strong conviction among almost all concerned that religious teaching of a systematic kind, given in a form suitable to the age of the pupils, is a necessary part of all true education. As one outcome of the freedom which, in so many respects, is characteristic of English educational development, the religious teaching in preparatory schools has adjusted itself, naturally and without friction, to the varied shades of association and observance which are typical of the religious life of this country. The fact that the schools in question are mostly boarding schools has obviated many of the difficulties, practical and theoretical, which might have been encountered under other conditions. But, as things are, variety of influence has not given rise to conflict or to misunderstanding, nor has it in any way impaired the feeling of unity among those who, from somewh.it different standpoints, are co-operating in this branch of national education.
It will be obvious to all readers of this volume that the welfare and outlook of the preparatory schools are closely and necessarily bound up with the traditions and requirements of the public schools. In regard to the course of instruction which still holds a dominant place in the public school curriculum, there is at the present time considerable difference of opinion. The subject is admittedly a complex one, and not easily determined either by theoretical considerations or by appeals to individual experience. Much is to be gained from a temperate consideration of the arguments advanced on both sides. Some persons incline to favour, others to distrust, attempts to alter the present prevailing curriculum. High authorities seem to differ on the question whether the ordinary classical course (taken at its best and with the present admixture of other subjects) could be made more "educational" without some loss. of salutary discipline and of its power to correct inaccuracies in thought and expression. Hardly less divided again is expert opinion as to the degree in which a course of study, for boys of the age in question, can be made to combine "educational" and directly practical" advantage. These differences of opinion are, as is natural under the circumstances of the case, reflected in the present volume, the contributors to which will be found to approach questions of curriculum from many points of view. But, however divergent in their opinions on other matters, they are all at one in their hearty appreciation of the service which the public schools have rendered, and are rendering, to national education.
Thanks are due to the ladies and gentlemen who, often at great inconvenience and under pressure of much other work, have been so good as to contribute articles on those aspects of the question on which their long experience specially entitles them to speak. Acknowledgment should also here be made of the kindness of large numbers of correspondents, who found time to furnish the materials on which the greater number of the following reports are based. The papers of questions which they answered for this purpose are printed in the Appendix.
I am, however, under special obligation to Mr. C. C. Cotterill, who, throughout the two years during which this volume has been in preparation, has acted as honorary co-editor of the reports and has shared with me from the first the labours of correspondence, arrangement and correction. To him is due the original conception of the work in its present extended form, and without the help of his great experience and of his personal influence among preparatory schoolmasters the completion of the plan would have been impossible.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
MICHAEL E. SADLER,
Director of Special Inquiries and Reports.