Royal Commission Report

Read the report from the Royal Commission on Scientific Instruction in 1875. There may have been science questions on the Cambridge and Oxford Local Exams but that doesn’t mean that the general public was experiencing a school curriculum that contained science.

As you read from Gillard at the Education in England: a history site in Chapter 6, the curriculum of 1871 (reading, writing, arithmetic and, for girls, needlework) had, by 1896, expanded greatly:

the three Rs, needlework for girls, drawing (for older boys), object lessons or one class subject. In addition schools could provide (with certain restrictions) such class subjects as singing, recitation, drawing, English, geography, science, history and domestic economy. Welsh was an optional class subject in Wales. Specific subjects (again within limits) included mechanics, chemistry, physics, animal physiology, agriculture, navigation, languages and shorthand. Girls could also be taught cookery, laundry and dairy work, and boys could be taught gardening. Explicit provision was also made for manual instruction, physical exercise (including swimming and gymnastics), and visits to institutions of educational value (Lawson and Silver 1973:330-1)

There was much emphasis on the ‘object lesson’, sometimes involving simple demonstrations in science, sometimes using concrete examples to convey abstractions (especially in number work), and sometimes ‘as a process of discrimination among colours, forms and so on’ (Lawson and Silver 1973:331). Science became more widely taught, often by peripatetic teachers: by 1900 Birmingham had a ‘central science staff’ of one chief demonstrator, seven assistant demonstrators and seven porters to handle apparatus (Lawson and Silver 1973:331).

Despite all the improvements, however, elementary education still retained its role as ‘preparation for a defined status of life’ (Lawson and Silver 1973:331).

It was not until the 1891 Elementary Education Act that public elementary education was free for children 4-14. Note the literacy rates as we approach 1900 as well as attendance data and school leaving age change. What was happening with secondary schools at this same time? Add to your timeline being sure to include descriptions of who was in school, for how long, and with what curriculum content? The Science and Technology section is helpful for understanding the reasons science instruction at the primary and secondary level was virtually nonexistent for most of Mason’s life.