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NEW IRELAND REVIEW.
TECHNICAL EDUCATION IN IRELAND.
EDUCATION is concerned with, first, the development of
faculty, and second, the application of it. The first stage is the making of the man; the second, the making of the scholar, the professional man, the business man, the artisan.
This is the broad distinction between primary and secondary education. In primary education only those things are taught which everyone must know. Secondary education is conducted in view of the special life that has to be lived, and with the express purpose of forming a person fit to live it.
Technical education as defined in the Technical Instruction Act, means instruction in the principles of science and art applicable to industries, and in the application of special branches of science and art to specific industries and employments. It is a branch, therefore, of secondary education.
Before we can say, however, whether any particular instruction is technical instruction or not, we must know both what subject is being taught, and what person is being instructed. Instruction in the scientific principles, optical, chemical, and artistic, of photography, for example, is technical instruction to a photographer, but not to a silversmith. Education is technical only so far as it is directed to the training of the individual in and for his business in life. To the :
man in the street,” however, Technical Education is a delightfully elastic term, including almost everything except Latin and Greek.
VOL. XVIII.-No. 1.
In old times, technical education was provided for by the system of apprenticeship. While the apprentice was acquiring for himself the skill which practice alone could afford, his master imparted to him such knowledge of the trade or business as he himself had learned from his master, and so by oral tradition the inherited experience of the trade was handed down. Example and precept were in this system more thoroughly blended than has been found possible in any substitute, but with the growth of the factory system, and the extension of the principle of division of labour, its defects became more apparent and more dangerous. Nowadays a master practises only a portion of a trade, and teaches his apprentice only a part of that portion. An all-round workman is, therefore, no longer to be found, the work becomes unintellectual and uninteresting, the workman's taste becomes vitiated, originality languishes, and if some remedy be not found the artisan becomes, if not an inferior workman, certainly an inferiorbecause a less intellectual-man.
The Royal Dublin Society, which was founded in 1731, early recognised the importance of developing the scientific side of practical industries. From the funds which the subscriptions of its members and the grants of Parliament provided, it gave premiums for the encouragement of various industries, such as agriculture, brewing, weaving, and tanning ; and many of the papers recorded in its transactions deal with subjects which would nowadays come within the province of the technical instructor. The disastrous decline of the other Irish industries caused it by degrees to devote its attention principally to agriculture, and it has done much—perhaps more by example than by precept—to further the interests of this pursuit.
A further attempt to meet the needs of the principal Irish industry was the establishment of the Templemoyle Agricultural School in 1826. Eight hundred students passed through it prior to its incorporation with the National Board in 1850, but after leading a chequered existence it finally became defunct in 1866. Other efforts in the same direction were subsequently made by the National Board, which established the Glasnevin Model Farm in 1838, and twenty other farms some ten years later. These farms appear to have been popular, and might, perhaps, under more favourable auspices, have done much to introduce better methods into Irish farming They were, however, for the most part too large to be suitable training places for a nation of small farmers, and the management of them was uneconomical, inelastic, and doctrinaire. Successive English Governments discouraged them as opposed to the doctrines of free trade, and in 1874, when the number of pupils in attendance had dwindled to thirty, they were abolished. Only the Munster farm at Cork, and the Albert Institution at Glasnevin are now maintained, but it is not unlikely that similar farms on a smaller scale, and more in touch with local needs than were the former ones, may soon be established by the Department of Agriculture.
Another method of imparting instruction in Agriculture, one which after a long period of disuse has been lately revived, was the employment of itinerant instructois. According to the evidence of the late Sir Patrick Keenan, no more fruitful experiment in the material interests of the country was ever attempted. Several important improvements are said to have been introduced to the South and West through their influence, and had they been allowed a longer period of utility, Irish agriculture might be less deplorably primitive than it is to-day.
Since the abolition of the Model Farms, agriculture has been a compulsory subject in the fourth, fifth, and sixth standards of boys' rural schools, and provision has been made at Glasnevin for the instruction of teachers in that subject.
It must be confessed that the practical results of all this have not been overwhelming. The schools and farms were in existence twenty years before the people were taught the advantages of green cropping, forty years before the peasants of Munster and Connaught learned not to burn their farms, and the farmers even in Ulster have apparently not yet learned how to handle flax properly. As for the agriculture that is still taught, if you find an Inspector in a confidential mood, he will tell you that the children get about as much practical benefit from it as they would from a course in comparative philology.
Meanwhile, the interests of other pursuits were not altogether neglected. Schools of Art were founded in Dublin in 1848 and in Belfast in 1849, in which, though they have always been hampered by lack of funds and accommodation, much excellent work has been done in the training of designers in lace and damask. Further facilities in the study of similar subjects were afforded by the establishment of the Science and Art Department in 1853. This Department was to encourage and generally supervise the teaching of Science and Art, more particularly in evening classes and in Mechanics' Institutes. The plan adopted was the giving of grants to local committees who were responsible for the immediate management of the classes, and the providing of scholarships awarded on the results of an annual examination. These grants were at one time largely availed of in Ireland. Large and enthusiastic classes were maintained even in small provincial towns, and Irish students took a satisfactory proportion of the honours and prizes awarded. By a process of evolution, however, which seems inevitable in matters educational, the grants were before long diverted from evening classes for adult mechanics to day classes in secondary schools. This change was both a consequence and a cause of the Department's being out of touch with practical workingmen, and as time went on it became more plainly evident that the care of technical education must be intrusted to other hands. The result, perhaps, could hardly have been otherwise. When the Science and Art Department began its work there were very few capable science teachersthere are not very many even now—and there were scarcely any facilities for proper science teaching. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that the type of education afforded by it, and favoured in its examinations, rapidly became too bookish to be of any use as technical instruction.
Other causes combined to narrow the scope of the Department's work in Ireland. The National Board and the Intermediate Board favoured the teaching of literary rather than scientific subjects, and the control of primary and secondary education centred almost entirely in their hands. More than ever was this the case after 1890, when the revenues of these Boards were increased by a contribution from the Imperial Exchequer, which in England was devoted to the furtherance of Technical Education. About the same time the Science and Art Department raised its standard and lowered its fees. The consequence was that the teaching of science, at all times attended with considerable expense, became absolutely a