Art. L.—The Extension of University and Science Work in New Zealand.
[Read before the Hawke's Bay Philosophical Institute, 12th October, 1896]
What is known as the “university extension movement” in England has already reached its majority. The movement was begun in the year 1873 by the governing authorities of the University of Cambridge, who, having considered certain memorials from a number of public bodies interested in the advancement of education, including women's educational associations, committees of industrial co-operative societies and mechanics’ institutes, decided “that the Syndicate be empowered to make the experiment of organizing courses of lectures at a limited number of centres, and to make provision for holding such examinations as they might consider expedient, on condition that the requisite funds were guaranteed by the local authorities.” The plan adopted by the University rapidly grew in popularity, and the scope of the work was widened, and soon other universities were engaged in the movement, so that to-day every university in Great Britain is engaged in carrying the higher thought and learning to the people by means of lectures under the guidance of specialists in the various subjects of study. For the session ending with the year 1891, which is the latest complete return I have, it appears that the University of Cambridge
carried on “extension work” in forty-seven centres in England. The attendance at the classes established in these centres averaged 11,595 students for the year. The London Society carried on similar work, and had an attendance of 13,000 students, whilst the University of Oxford and the Victoria University had an attendance of nearly 19,000. Hence we have the remarkable fact that by means of classes in connection with four educational centres 43,595 students have been added in a single year to the list of those who come into direct contact with the higher educational influence of the universities. We need not enter here into an estimate of the effects such increase of students is likely to have upon the future thought and mind of England, but it can hardly be doubted that the universities and the nation as a whole will be largely benefited by the adaptive process which is going, on. Each university has become a new source of educational vitality, and the directive tendency that is being given to students in the pursuit of a definite course of study is of high moment, whether considered from an individualistic or from a national point of view.
The widening of educational advantages is of high importance to those who are engaged in business pursuits during the day. Such persons enjoy the fullest opportunities for study if they so desire, and the smallness of the fee demanded for attendance at the university classes is such that even the poorest in the community may share with the richest the educational benefits such as the opening of “extension classes” has made possible. New Zealand has not yet arrived at that stage when the citizens of our growing towns have come to feel the necessity of doing something to extend the educational benefits of the people in the higher fields of learning, and outside what may be set down as work belonging to the government of the country. As colonists we are collectivists in matters educational, and on the whole the people appear to be quite satisfied with what the Government does for education. Our country has few manufactures, and the question of over-population is not one likely to cause anxiety among us for many years to come. The question of the advancement of the arts and sciences is not just now of pressing importance, and, unfortunately, it is seldom that men in any country anticipate future needs. To satisfy the wants of to-day is in the main accounted sufficient, and hence it is that as colonists our people have hardly reached that stage in social and political evolution such as the people of older countries like England and elsewhere have attained. Our public scheme of education has satisfied the people—far too easily it appears to me—and there are many to be found who think that the system is second to none. It is a serious mistake to make,
for our primary system is scientifically very defective, seeing that it is non-adaptive to the needs of the people. I appreciate to the fullest the fact that the system offers to every child in the country the right of receiving a certain type of instruction, but there is a wide gulf between a permit to receive a certain form of instruction and the giving of instruction which is adaptive and anticipatory. However, like everything else, education is evolutionary, and it may be assumed that the time will come when a modification will be found necessary in our primary system such as is here suggested.
Before proceeding to discuss the question of university extension in this country it may be well to review in outline our present educational standing. We are supposed by many to be tending to a purely socialistic form of government. Much of our legislation is said to be tending that way, but to those who strive to harmonize the tendencies of legislation. in its application to life the facts hardly support the contention. The education system such as we have is certainly not democratic in its tendency. In some measure the country has charge of primary education, but every step outside the primary stage up to the university itself is only the semblance of State control without any of the powers which are necessary to bring the various educational forces into one harmonious whole. There is no continuous and complete scheme of education established even in the matter of primary education, and the high schools and university colleges, such as are in operation in various centres, are carried on by authorities altogether independent of Government control, although all of them are maintained in great part out of revenues derived from State endowments. Under what is known as the “voluntary system” it is easy to understand the difference between the aided and the public schools of England. The latter are self-sustaining, and offer a type of education specially adapted to English polity. Public schools like Eton, Harrow, and Cheltenham are purely class schools established for specific purposes. They receive no Government aid, and need no Government control, as their prestige can only be sustained by maintaining high tone, efficient control, and capable tuition. But English precedents cannot be taken as applying to this country. The people of New Zealand possess no hereditary rights, and what is understood in England as “society” and class distinction do not and cannot exist here. Environment is a factor that cannot be neglected, and it is certain that whatever advantages there are in education, no matter of what kind or character, those advantages belong in common to all the people of every kind and degree. The difficulties which have limited until lately the educational advantages of the
poorer people of England need not exist in this country, for the State, by means of its large reservations of public lands, has provided an income sufficient to assist every intelligent and ambitious youth to pursue his studies from the primary school to the university. And such a plan in a new community like ours is reasonable, and commends itself in its fullest acceptance to all who desire to see the best and most promising of our young colonists receive due recognition in the land of their birth.
But even when the widest advantages are offered two factors will always operate in regulating the number of those who are likely to continue their studies in the higher branches of learning. These are, first, the physical condition of the children themselves; and, second, the competency of parents to maintain their offspring at school. It is manifest that children of weak bodies are not able to pursue their studies with the same power and prospect of success as those who are physically strong. These latter, however, are subjected to disabilities of a special kind in the case of poor parents, for they are withdrawn from school at an early age in most cases to enter upon the battle of life, and the field is left open mostly to the children of comparatively the well-to-do, or to those whose bodies are incapable of undergoing much physical toil and exertion.
It would provide a subject for an interesting inquiry were it possible to follow, as it were, step by step the history—the school history it ought to be—of ten thousand children from the date of their entry into the schools at the age of five years to the time when they ought to quit, at the close of their fifteenth birthday. How many of the ten thousand would be attending school at the end of the period, and why would the numbers be so few? Death would account for some; but, in any case, the results would differ widely in every hundred children of the poor, of the middle well-to-do class, and of the rich. The demands and needs of the poor compel parents to withdraw their children from school at an early age, and the higher pathways of learning are mostly left open for the benefit of children who are more fortunate if not more capable than their poorer neighbours. The law of the strongest and the fittest does not operate here, for the law of parental necessity forces the physically capable to neglect the mental part of their training in order that they might minister to the needs of home. But difficulties such as these, though they can hardly be avoided, can be minimised.
The freeing of the schools from the payment of fees for instruction has largely added to the school attendance as lately shown in England, and parents are coming to recognise how important it is for their children to receive as much
schooling as possible. The primary schools, however, constitute the limit of the large majority of children, and even long before the highest standard of the school is reached necessity has caused the withdrawal of most of those who successfully met the requirements of the lower standards. In the case of children who succeed in getting through the standard course, and would proceed further, the question of school fees bars the way. Many parents would gladly sacrifice the earning-capacity of their children if by so doing it would enable them to be instructed in the higher branches of knowledge, but at present this is impossible. Fees are chargeable at every high school and university college in the colony, and they undoubtedly constitute a bar to the acquisition of that form of wealth which should be free to every one Choosing to seek after it. But why are fees necessary for attendance at secondary schools, or even university colleges ? Were they private institutions like the class schools in England, to which reference has been made, the case would be on a different footing, but all the higher educational institutions are highly endowed by the State. Defective organization is at the root of the whole matter, but no man in the country has yet been bold enough to attack this important question. The subject, however, will have to be dealt with, for it is to the best interest of the country that the revenues from education endowments are spent for the common good.
But let us inquire as to the character and extent of these endowments. The information is to be obtained among the public records. From time to time there have been published to the order of the House of Representatives certain papers dealing with the extent and value of the land areas that have been reserved in this colony—First, for the benefit of primary education; second, for secondary education; third, for the special endowment of certain high schools; fourth, for the endowment of university colleges; fifth, for the endowment of university. The latest return of such reserves in my possession is dated 1885, and I am uncertain whether any public return has been issued since then. This, however, is sufficient for the purpose of my inquiry, as it shows that the colonists have not been unmindful in the way of making large endowments for the maintenance and support of education.
The extent of land reserved in the colony for the benefit of primary education amounted to 466,049 acres in 1885; but under what is known as the Education Reserves Act of 1877 there must be set aside 5 per cent. of all the land in the colony before being offered for public sale. Thus large reservations must have been made during the past ten years, and no doubt the lands set aside and known as primary-education reserves must largely exceed 500,000 acres. All these lands
are vested in School Commissioners, who control them in each provincial district for the Government, and who pay all revenues from such lands either into the Consolidated Fund or into such fund as may be authorised for the maintenance of the primary schools.
The secondary-education reserves are controlled in the same way, but, curiously, the income derived from the lease of them is paid over to the high-school authorities in the several education districts, though there appears to be no legal authority for the adoption of this course. The governors of high schools have separate and special endowments of their own, which were allotted when these schools were constituted. The lands controlled by the secondary-school Commissioners amounted to acres, whilst the governors of high schools either have or had 152,234 acres of town and country lands, from which large revenues are drawn for the maintenance and support of middle-class education.
The fourth class of reserves is for the benefit of what are known as the university colleges. These are four in number, Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington, and Auckland each having one. The college at Wellington has only been constituted a short time, and it does not appear that any lands have yet been set aside as an endowment for it. The reserves of the Canterbury College and the Otago Univerity College amount to 314,000 acres, or about 500 square miles of country; in other words, an area representing one two-hundredth of the whole of New Zealand is set apart and administered by independent authorities for the benefit of two colleges. The estimated value of these endowments ten years ago was £245,000, and the annual rent-roll was £13,306. The Auckland University College has an endowment of more than 30,000 acres of the public land, but I have been unable to discover from returns either estimated value or what income is being derived from the lease of them. Suffice it to say that an annual grant of £4,000 is made to the College by the Government towards maintenance in addition to what may be derived from the lease of the endowments. Finally, there are the special endowments for the benefit of the New Zealand University.* These lands amount to something like 46,000 acres, and their value ten years ago was set down at £32,535. At that time only a portion of the land was leased, which brought in an annual income of £775.
What the rent-roll from all the secondary and higher endowments was I have no means of knowing, but that they
[Footnote] * The New Zealand University was deprived of all land endowments by the Act of 1874, and has never enjoyed any revenue therefrom, as it all passed to credit of local bodies.—Ed.
were large and ample for the wants of the several schools and colleges there can be no manner of doubt. If now the high schools are excluded from consideration, seeing they form no part of the higher aspect of training as a branch of university work, there remain in the colony four university colleges as centres of teaching, and the University proper, which is simply an examining body for conferring degrees. The large endowments held by at least three of the colleges have already been enumerated.
With respect to the functions of the University, the Act of 1874, under which it was constituted, says, “That the University hereby established is so established not for the purpose of teaching, but for the purpose of encouraging in the manner hereinafter provided the pursuit of a liberal education, and ascertaining by means of examination the persons who have acquired proficiency in literature, science, or art by the pursuit of a liberal course of education.” From this extract it will be seen that the University has no power to foster higher education further than to grant degrees in art, science, and literature. Thus the authorities of the University could not establish colleges or classes for teaching purposes, nor does it appear from the Act that they could promote the establishment of centres of instruction outside the area of the present university colleges on the lines of the extension scheme which is being so successfully carried on by all the English universities. The only really active teaching forces in the colony for the advancement of the higher learning are the four university colleges, and each of these might extend its operations. These institutions are affiliated to the New Zealand University, and they carry on in each centre the same kind of academical preparation as Cambridge and Oxford in England, where the power of conferring degrees is held by each university. Here the university colleges possess no such authority, except that the Otago University Council may confer degrees under an old provincial Ordinance, but which for all practical purposes is now a dead-letter. The power of conferring degrees held by the University, which exists as an entity apart from the college, is of much importance, for, whilst the latter can aim at specialisation and adaptation to local requirements, the same standard of attainments is demanded from all in the University examinations. The power possessed by the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, or London of conferring degrees may have advantages in the opinion of some compared with the plan adopted in our own colony. A Cambridge man is one of a special type, distinct in many respects from an Oxford man, and a London graduate differ from both. It is probable, however, that a degree issued by
a central authority like the University of New Zealand would be of greater value to the recipients, in the same way as the New Zealand degree would carry with it a higher status than if issued by one of the university colleges, for every increase in the number of degree-conferring authorities diminishes the value of the degree irrespective of scholarship.
We have seen that the University and the affiliated colleges, with one exception, are highly endowed; but the endowments differ from those usually held by similar institutions in England. The revenues of the colleges are derived from what in reality are public lands. The colleges, however, are controlled at present by authorities who are not amenable to Government control under any Act. This statement hardly expresses the actual facts, for each year a balance-sheet is published at the instance of the Government, in which the income and expenditure of each college are given, with a brief report of the work done during the year. But the Government has no controlling-power over the expenditure or in the administrative work of either institution. The annual expenditure on salaries in the Auckland University College is between £3,000 and £4,000. In Christchurch the salaries amount to about £5,000, and in Dunedin to a little over £6,000. In addition to the fixed salaries, most of the professors receive the fees paid by students for attendance at the college lectures.
But this is not the only curious thing about the administrative work of the university colleges. The lectures have been planned on the lines of the old universities, like Cambridge or Oxford, and they continue for little more than six months out of every twelve. Perhaps the number of lectures delivered is sufficient for the students who attend them, but it can hardly be supposed that twelve months' salary should be paid for six months' work. Under more effective discipline and administration such a state of affairs could hardly exist. As now planned, the professors in each university college are limited in the exercise of their duties to the delivery of lectures in the colleges where they are engaged. A six-months course of lectures may possibly suffice for the undergraduates, but ought this to entitle the professors to a six-months rest? Let it be remembered that the professors are specialists of a special type, and their services ought to be utilised to the fullest extent for the good and general welfare of the colony.
No doubt the country has received and is receiving many advantages by the establishment of university colleges, but the educational organization of the country is imperfect from whatever practical standpoint it is viewed, whilst the benefits offered by the colleges to districts like Wanganui and Hawke's Bay are of little or no value. The school life of the great
majority of the boys and girls in this district closes after passing the Fourth or Fifth Standard in the primary school, and there is no further opportunity offered to such pupils to pursue their studies further. A like remark applies with equal force to the pupils who quit the high schools. Advancement beyond an ordinary high-school course is now impossible, except in a few rare instances where parents are blessed with sufficient funds for the maintenance of their children at one of the university centres. Under our present imperfectly developed methods the people in districts like Wanganui, Nelson, Invercargill, and Hawke's Bay are heavily handicapped in all the higher walks of life by the absence of educational facilities such as are offered to the people in the more highly favoured centres of learning.
Now the question arises whether it is not possible to organize some scheme whereby arrangements can be made for the establishment of special centres, either on the lines of the university extension movement or on the plan of the Science and Art Department in England. Thus Napier, Wanganui, Nelson, and Invercargill, to be followed by others as the need arises, might each be made a centre of higher educational work as a preliminary to the University course. But the motive force and organizing capacity are wanting. The only State machinery in operation is that established for the furtherance of elementary education, and the question arises how “university extension” can be carried out As explained already, the University is simply an examining body, and, although the University Senate might countenance the establishment of classes under capable tutors, it is doubtful whether they possess the power to carry on examinations and issue certificates which are of a lower grade than the arts degree. This, however, could be put to the test. But a difficulty at once appears. Men of capacity and power as lecturers and specialists are wanted to initiate any scheme such as is here suggested. Outside the college centres higher educational thought and activity are dead, and the only hope for the future is to be found in the opening of “university extension centres” by the college professors, aided by men of equal academic standing.
Nothing illustrates the prevailing deadness better than the futile attempts that have been made in Napier itself to create mental activity of a higher kind. Parliamentary unions, debating clubs, amateur and literary clubs have all been tried with a view to arouse the mental energies of the better class of young men, but failure has invariably followed each attempt. And yet clubs for the promotion of athletics, such as cricket, football, and cycling, flourish here and everywhere throughout the colony. There is perhaps no other country
where young men enter with greater zeal into physical competitions with each other. From north to south, winter and summer alike, the country rings with the doings of some local or interprovincial team of footballers or cricketers, or with the prowess shown by some member of a bicycle club. And why is this display of energy so great in the case of the physical aspect of life and so dead as regards the mental ? The difference is simply one of organization and reward. Physical development comes home directly to the individual. On every hand there are clubs for the emulation of young men in feats of endurance, skill, or prowess of some kind, and, what is of more moment, opportunities are provided whereby young men from the smallest districts are able to compete against the best talent in the country. There is no need to go to any special centre for training or professional advice, as every town and township is made a training-school for the development of physical endurance and skill, whilst the public Press and the athletic associations constitute a professional court second to none for the recognition of excellence of a special kind. The desire for honourable distinction is strong in human kind, and it is ever active in the minds of those whose energies are being exercised under healthy surroundings.
But why is there so much energy shown in the physical side of human nature and so little in the mental, more particularly with respect to higher education ? Let the methods adopted by the Government and by the responsible educational authorities for the higher training and culture of the people be compared with those employed for the physical development and training of young men, and the causes of educational indifference and deadness will soon become manifest. On the one hand there are organization, emulation, and opportunity to excel, and on the other there is conventionalism, a holding-fast to the past, and a mistrust of change. It was a saying of the late Matthew Arnold that the great need of the primary school in England was to simplify the work. The same thing is badly wanted in our country just now. Isolated governing bodies are in possession of the educational field. They control all the pathways to the higher pasture lands of learning, and none can enter except by the payment of a heavy toll. Co-ordination of studies is absent, and nothing is done to induce young people to pursue their studies in the higher pathways of knowledge. People living in towns where university colleges are already established receive certain benefits, but even these are small compared with what is possible under a system so coordinated that the whole colony might be interested as much in the pursuit of learning as it is in the pursuit of pleasure. Education, if it is to flourish, must be as available to all as
the air we breathe and the water we drink. Its diffusion impoverishes none, but supplies means of blessing to all, and hence the university colleges should be organized with a view to the multiplication of educational opportunities throughout the land, so as to create emulation and hope amongst our young men and women.
It can hardly be expected that we shall excel as a people in these days of competition by becoming exclusive, for the outside world is active and aggressive. Our thoughts, our energies, and our minds must be prepared to accept the new order of things, for the “old order changeth, giving place to the new,” and, stem the current as we may, we cannot turn back the inevitable torrent. The educational life of Old England has been renewed by this adaptation of university life to meet the new conditions of the country—the outcome of a generous scheme of public elementary education. The time has come to press for similar concessions here. Lectures by men connected with university work, or who have graduated in honours, would prove a powerful attraction to young people. We have seen by what means the physical side of life is promoted and encouraged amongst us, and a like success awaits the higher educational training of the people if proper means are taken to formulate a popular working scheme. Let it be kept in view that the social and mental condition of the people is not what it was a few years ago. Everything in nature is ever in motion, and adaptation and development are simply the necessary conditions of change. Universities and colleges of the old type have had their day, and the “resort of a leisured class” they can never hope to be again, if maintained at the public expense and worked for the common good.
I have pointed out as briefly as possible the conditions regulating the higher education of this country. Defects have been named and modifications suggested, and the example set by the university authorities in England has been quoted to show the good work it is possible to accomplish under proper organization in the spread of higher education among the masses. We are compelled to run in the race of nations whether we like to do so or not. Competition is everywhere. Competition brings change, and unless we wish to be led rather than ourselves to lead we must take the proper means to prepare the rising generation for the competition that is before them. Education has become a necessity in the evolution of our race. Physical, moral, social, and intellectual education are present-day needs, and they must be provided for the people as generously as a good father provides for the needs of his family.
I shall conclude this paper by giving in summary form
what, in my opinion, is wanted to bring the educational forces of this country into effective working-order, so that emulation in educational pursuits may be fostered and districts like our own assisted in the development of that higher intellectual life which the university colleges have it in their power to give under a properly organized scheme such as I have suggested here:—
(1.) The university colleges should be free to all, without fee or payment of any kind. Admission to be by examination.
(2.) The services of the professors should be available at intervals for the promotion of university extension work in districts like Hawke's Bay, Wanganui, Nelson, and Southland.
(3.) The University should encourage the establishment of such extension work, and formulate a scheme for the examination of students.
(4.) A central department should be organized on the lines of the English Department of Science and Art, which should be controlled either by the University or the present Department of Education.
(5.) The department should have power to hold examinations in science and art, and to issue certificates of competency to successful students.
(6.) Encouragement should be given to public bodies like Town and County Councils and other duly constituted Boards to open classes for the teaching of art, science, and literature as may be necessary.
(7.) Certificates gained at such classes should be recognised by the Education Department and by the Government as qualifying for appointment.
(8.) Maintenance scholarships should be established, open to all, for admission either to the university colleges or to some technical school of science.
(9.) Similar scholarships should be established for senior pupils at the high schools.
(10.) The high schools throughout the colony should be reorganized, and their course of studies co-ordinated with the syllabus in the primary schools.
(11.) Arrangements should be made for instruction in the primary schools, under certain conditions, in subjects like algebra, French, and Euclid.
(12.) The education reserves not specialised, and at present. in the hands of the School Commissioners, should be used to provide the necessary funds for (8) and (9) scholarships.