Front Page Titles (by Subject) EDUCATIONAL ENDOWMENTS 1866 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXI - Essays on Equality, Law, and Education
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EDUCATIONAL ENDOWMENTS 1866 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXI - Essays on Equality, Law, and Education 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXI - Essays on Equality, Law, and Education, ed. John M. Robson, Introduction by Stefan Collini (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984).
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In “Report of Commissioners on Education in Schools in England. Not Comprised within Her Majesty’s Two Recent Commissions on Popular Education and Public Schools.” Parliamentary Papers, 1867-68, XXVIII, Pt. 2, 67-72. Headed, “John Stuart Mill, Esq., M.P.” Signed “J.S. Mill.” Not listed in Mill’s bibliography. No copy in Somerville College. For comment on the items, see li-lii and lxvi-lxvii above.
Blackheath Park, August 9, 1866.
I have now the honour of transmitting to the Royal Commissioners for Inquiry into Schools, such answers as it is in my power to give to the queries which the Commissioners did me the honour of addressing to me. Want of time, no less than the understood wishes of the Commissioners, has compelled me to be brief; but, for the further elucidation of the topics to which I have adverted, as well as for many valuable facts and thoughts connected with the subject of their inquiries, I hope I may be permitted to refer the Commissioners to the paper by Mr. Chadwick,[*] mentioned in my answer to the second query, and the evidence appended thereto.
I have, &c.
The Secretary of the Schools Inquiry Commission
* * * * *
1. The expediency, in the case of endowed schools, of continuing to give gratuitous education to the scholars, and fixed incomes to the teachers.
I conceive the practice of payment by fixed salaries to be almost fatal to the general usefulness of educational endowments, and quite sufficient in itself to account for the admitted fact of their extensive failure.
If any practical maxim for the conduct of business of any kind by a delegated agent can be called fundamental, it is that of identifying the agent’s interest with his duty. But if a schoolmaster’s remuneration is neither increased by efficiency, nor diminished by inefficiency, his personal interest is, to have as few pupils as possible, and to take the least possible trouble with their instruction. I have read of a school where the master’s salary was 600l. a year, and his object was to drive away the pupils, which he succeeded in effecting by a series of severe floggings.[*] Without vouching for the strict truth of this anecdote, it may be accepted as a warning illustration of what may happen in an extreme case. Every motive that acts upon a teacher thus situated, tends to render his work valueless, except conscience or a disinterested love for his duty; and the insufficiency, in average cases, of these motives, is the principal cause which renders laws and institutions necessary.
The true principle for the remuneration of schoolmasters of all classes and grades, wherever it is possible to apply it, is that of payment for results. The results of their teaching can, in general, only be tested by examinations, conducted by independent public examiners, and if this examination were partly of a competitive character, extending to the pupils of all endowed middle-class schools, somewhat after the model of the Oxford and Cambridge local examinations, it might be made a basis for proportioning, in some degree, the remuneration of schoolmasters to the degree of success which their pupils obtained in the examinations.
It appears to me, generally speaking, undesirable that education should be provided gratuitously for the children of the classes specifically concerned in the present inquiry. Those classes can afford to pay, they are not objects of charity: they have no claim to be relieved from the duty of providing education for their children; and entire relief from that obligation on any other ground than inability, appears to me to have a highly demoralizing tendency. The suggestion that exhibitions should be given to pupils of the elementary schools, to be earned by merit, for the purpose of enabling them to prolong their school course, and advance to a higher grade of education, seems to me, on the contrary, to be of a highly moral and improving character, and I would give it my warmest support. I would suggest that these exhibitions be awarded by competitive examination. It is, however, a different question, whether the funds of endowments should be exclusively devoted to this purpose, or to this and to the pensioning of retired teachers. Though endowments are not, I conceive, beneficially employed in educating the children of the middle classes without expense to the parents, I think it a very proper application of them to provide, for those classes, a better quality of education than can be supplied from the contributions of parents as an exclusive resource. They should be called on to pay only what they can, in ordinary cases, well afford, and this having been done, the very best education should be given which can be provided by the addition to those payments, of all other funds legitimately applicable to the purpose.
2. The best mode of providing for the future management of endowments, and of preventing them from relapsing into inefficiency.
As the first and most indispensable part of any arrangements for this purpose, I would urge that the whole of the foundation schools be placed under the regular supervision of the Inspectors of the Privy Council. Nothing but frequent and systematic inspection, by an authority having the power, if not of removing, at least of proposing the removal of the schoolmaster in case of proved unfitness, will ever prevent the majority of such schools from falling back into the state from which it is now desired to rescue them. The inspectors, some of whom are gentlemen of great experience and ability, and the selection of whom will always be the most important of all the duties of the Education Committee of Council, will be the persons most capable of pointing out, in each case, the best arrangements for securing a local superintendence in aid of the general one. The manner in which power and responsibility should be shared between the local and the central authority, and, above all, the question which of the two should exercise, in the last resort, the most important function of all, the appointment and removal of the masters, are matters of deep and serious consideration, with a view to obtain the best security for the efficiency of the work, while avoiding the danger of giving too great a control over the education of the country to a department of the executive. In a country possessing any organized system of local administration, there would be, in every district of a certain size, a school committee, composed of those inhabitants of the locality (whether elected or nominated) who took the greatest practical interest in the subject; and to such a committee, with a representative of the Education Committee of the Privy Council for their regularly appointed adviser, the authority over the local schools might safely and properly be entrusted. But in the chaotic confusion of English local institutions, which throws such obstacles in the way of any systematic improvement in the real government of the country, it would require much more practical experience than I possess, and more meditation than I have been able to bestow on the subject, to enable me to suggest the best constitution for the local superintending body, or to define the powers which ought to be vested in it. It is even possible that both its constitution and its powers ought to be different in different localities, according to the nature of the materials available. For the present, probably, the responsibility of selecting the proper persons from among the leading inhabitants of all denominations, might with advantage be temporarily intrusted to the inspectors; though I would by no means propose this as a permanent arrangement. In whatever manner appointed. I strongly recommend that there should be but one such body for the whole of the endowed schools of a considerable district, comprising, however, persons from various parts of the district, who might severally act as local visitors of the schools nearest to them.
In still further extension of the same principle, I would propose that all the educational endowments of the district, together with all other charitable endowments within the same local limits which are now applied, ostensibly or really, to the relief of the poor in modes which are useless or hurtful, should be brought into a single fund, to be devoted to maintaining one or a few large schools in convenient situations, in preference to a greater number of small ones.
Large schools, with numerous pupils, have a great advantage in point of economy and efficiency over small schools with few pupils. The principal sources of this advantage are—
a. That when the pupils are numerous they can be formed into considerable classes, of about the same degree of proficiency, and capable of profiting by the same teaching; while, if they are few in number, pupils of very unequal degrees of advancement have to be taught together, and either the majority are neglected in favour of the few most proficient, or the teacher’s attention is given to them by turns, those to whom the teaching of the moment is unsuited remaining comparatively idle.
b. That by merging many small schools in one large school, it becomes possible to obtain teachers of a far better quality for the same cost, and to economize their labour by confining the superior teachers to the higher departments. A small number of well-paid masters, adapted to the different grades of proficiency, are a vastly superior educational instrument to a large number of illpaid masters scattered over the country, each of whom has to teach pupils of all grades, and if he is fit for the higher work, is throwing away his labour in teaching mere elements to little boys.
c. And lastly, that large schools economize, in a similar manner, the most important labour of all, and that which requires the highest qualities in the persons intrusted with it, the labour of inspection.
These and other reasons in favour of the consolidation of schools, will be found largely illustrated in a document forming No. 120 of the papers printed by order of the House of Commons in the session of 1862, containing evidence collected by Mr. Chadwick for the former Royal Commission on Education, accompanied by comments of his own on this and other points of the very highest value.[*]
The same Parliamentary paper contains the particulars of a most important practical application of the principles just stated—the case of the Faversham schools.[†] This was a new foundation, growing out of a bequest by a banker of Faversham,[‡] as recently as 1840, of property yielding 2,000l. a year, for the general benefit of the poor of that place. The trustees, being thus free to adopt the best ideas of the age, and being evidently men of practical good sense, determined that the purposes of the testator could best be effected by devoting the bequest to an improved scheme of public education for the town and its neighbourhood; and having drawn up a plan for that purpose, obtained the authority of the Court of Chancery for carrying it into execution. The plan comprehends an infant school, a national school, a middle-class or commercial school, and an evening school for adults under trained masters. The Parliamentary paper already referred to shows the great advantages which have been found to attend the union of all these schools under the same management. Pupils are promoted, as a reward for proficiency, from the national to the commercial school, where they are supplied with books, and their school fees paid, at the expense of the endowment; and there is an annual examination of the commercial school by graduates of one of the Universities, at which exhibitions are awarded, by what is stated to be in effect a competitive examination, to successful pupils, to enable them to continue their studies in an old foundation grammar school which already existed in the town under another trust, and the union of which with the new schools under a common management would complete the scheme. No religious difficulty is experienced, dissenters and churchmen, both lay and clerical, acting together with perfect cordiality, both as trustees and as members of the school committee.
3. The possibility of securing for purposes of education, endowments that are now wasted.
There are numerous charitable funds which are now, under the terms of antiquated trusts, distributed in mere doles, to persons supposed to be necessitous, but who have not always even that claim, such as it is. It would be a far more efficacious mode of alleviating the evil of indigence, to employ these funds in making war on its principal cause, the want of education. Full information respecting these wasted endowments could probably be obtained through the Charity Commissioners, within whose special duty it naturally falls to procure such information, when they do not already possess it.[*] The sanction of the Court of Chancery or of Parliament would probably not be refused to the necessary change in the destination of these endowments, due regard being had to the fair claims of living individuals who may have become, in any degree, dependent on them for support.
4. The best mode of securing, or at least encouraging, a due supply of qualified teachers.
No part of the subject is more important than this; the wretched incompetency of the great majority of the existing schools for the children of the middle classes being notorious. Mr. Edward Carleton Tufnell, one of the ablest and most experienced of Her Majesty’s inspectors of schools, stated in evidence to Mr. Chadwick, “It has frequently occurred to me to cause the dismissal of a master from a pauper school on account of gross ignorance or gross immorality. The useful power of the Poor Law Board[†] prevents such people being again appointed to pauper schools, but I have taken pains to ascertain what has become of those masters, and I have generally found that they have got places as ushers in schools for the middle or upper classes.”[*]
With a view to correct the extreme deficiency of due qualification in the teachers, all the suggestions referred to in the letter which the Commissioners did me the honour to address to me, appear worthy of adoption, and all of them together are not more than sufficient. It would be highly important that training schools should be established for teachers, where they should learn, not only the things they will have to teach, but how to teach them; for which purpose these training schools must of course be connected with schools of the ordinary kind, where the art of teaching may be practically acquired. It is evidently proper that the restriction, in many foundations, of the office of schoolmaster to persons in holy orders, should be abolished. And it is also right that certificates of fitness for the office of teacher should be granted, after examination, either by the Universities (that of London included) or by examiners appointed by the Committee of Council. I would add a recommendation that on the first appointment of teachers, the principle of competitive examination should be introduced as far as practicable, and that in their subsequent promotion a mode of examination should be resorted to, which might, if possible, test the results of their teaching in the schools where they had already taught. But the greatest security of all, without which no other will permanently avail, is the assured prospect of removal, in case of incompetency proved by experience. The whole chance of success of any reform in the endowed schools rests upon the degree of certainty which can be given to this expectation; and the utmost exertions of the department should, I earnestly urge, be above all directed to this end. With a view to it, the visitorial functions of the Court of Chancery should be transferred to the Privy Council, who might be empowered to avail themselves, if needful, of the aid of the Poor Law Inspectors, as well as of the Charity Commissioners. The arrangements for local visitation I have already touched upon. But all will be ineffective without efficient and vigorous examination of the pupils, by an authority totally independent of the teachers and of those by whom the teachers are appointed; and the value of this examination would be greatly increased if part of it were made competitive among the pupils of all the schools in a given district, or in the whole country.
[[*] ]Edwin Chadwick, “Copy of Two Papers Submitted to the [Education] Commissioners,” PP, 1862, XLIII, 1-160. Chadwick’s papers were not submitted in time to be included in the Report of 1861 (see p. 212 below).
[[*] ]See Chadwick, “Copy of Two Papers,” p. 143.
[[*] ]Report of the Commissioners Appointed to Inquire into the State of Popular Education in England, PP, 1861, XXI, Pt. I, 1-707, as indicated above, Chadwick’s papers are in PP, 1862, XLIII, 1-160.
[[†] ]See Chadwick, “Copy of Two Papers,” pp. 52-7, 144.
[[‡] ]Henry Wreight.
[[*] ]See 16 & 17 Victoria, c. 137 (1853).
[[†] ]See 4 & 5 William IV, c. 76 (1834), Sect. 48.
[[*] ]Chadwick, “Copy of Two Papers,” p. 143.