MR FISHER'S EDUCATION BILL.
By the courtesy of Mr George Fisher we have before us a copy of the New Education Bill which has been prepared by him and the officers of the depart ment over which, until recently, he presided, and which would have been submitted to the Cabinet fcr approval had he remained m the Ministry. As it has transpired that the Inspector General, Mr Habens, had a great deal to do with its preparation, it may be presumed that, notwithstanding Mr Fisher's resignation, the question as to whether or not it should be adopted as a Ministerial measure will be discussed and determined by his late colleagues, and, as m any case, its proposals are indicative of the direction m which at least some prominent educationists desire to go, it will be of interest briefly to indicate to our readers what those proposals are. To begin with, the j Bill repeals all the existing Acts, and starts de novo. It vests the appointment of the Secretary for Education, of the Inspector-General, and Inspectors of Schools, and of the clerks and officers of the department m the Governor, and empowers the Minister from time to time to assign to the Inspectors their respective districts, and, at his pleasure, to transfer them from one district to another. This, as enabling a change of inspectorship, would be a manifest improvement on the present system, because removing all suspicion of favoritism, or the reverse, and tending also to establish an identity of standard, The present Educational Districts and School Districts are abolished, and the colony is to be divided into School Districts as follows, that is to say : — Every borough together with such part, if any, of the surrounding country as is included m the same electoral district as the borough, or any part of the borough, is to be a school district, and every electoral district that does not include » borough, or part of a borough, is also to be a school district. For each such school district th"re is to be a School Board, the number of members depending on the number of schools. Thus, if there is only one fachool m the district there are to be seven members ; if two sohools eight members—four for each school ; if three schools nine members — three for each ; if more than three schools two for each. This, we think, will be found practically unworkable. To begin with it would have amounted to the same thing, and would have been more intelligible to say that " every electoral distriot should be a school district," than to say that every electoral distriot containing a borough or part of a borough shall be a school district, and every electorate not containing a borough or part of a borough shall be a school distriot, since every electorate must come under one or other denomination. Bat let that pass, the Bill does say the same thing,though m a curiously roundabout way. The unworkability of the proposal arises from the unweildiness of the proposed Boards. There are, if we mistake not, a considerable number of electoral districts which contain twenty or more schools, and this would mean School Boards of 40 or more members— as big as the old Provincial Councils. It is patent that this would not do, and to make the scheme workable it must be modified or re-cast m this particular, as for example by the grouping of the schools, and allowing each group to r«turn a member or members of the School Board. The Boards are to be elected m December next by the existing Committees, Bave that where there is only one school m the district then the existing Committee becomes ipso facto the School Board. Such Boards remain m office until the fourth Monday m April, 1890, and thereafter the elections of Boards are to take place on the fourth Monday m April of every year at every sehoolhouse. In these elections! the cumulative vote is abolished, and the electors are to be the parents — " parent" being defined to mean the head of the household to which any child attending a public school belongs as a resident member (of such household) for the time being. The parents present at each such meeting will elect as many members of the School Board as are alloted to the school under the scale before referred to. Here it is to be noted is one of the principal changes proposed. Under the present system every house-' holder i.e. " every adult person who as pwnpr tenant lessee or occupier, occupies, übos, or resides m any dwelling-house, shop, warehouse, or other building m any district, and every parent or guardian who is liable to maintain o? has the actual custody of any cnild " is entitled to vbte, v and under the system proposed no person other than the head qf each household whereof a child attending the sohool is a member will be entitled to vote. So that all propertyowners who have not a child or children attending the State school, will have nothing whatever to do with the election of the School Board, tjjat is to say a$ elector^, though as regards the right to b,e elected this on the other hand is extended to every person male or female of the full age of twenty-one years, who resides m any part of the school district, that is to say not merely the district of toe particular sohdol, but the ft hole district over which the School Board has Jurisdiction. Thus, take for example the case of the electoral distriot of Ashburton, of which the town district of Hampstead is a part. The heads of households sending children to the Hampstead School would be entitled to elect two members for the Sohool Board District of Ashburton, and while no ] property-owner m Hampstead could vote unless he had a child attending the Hampstead School^ n,or any parent who chose to Bend his child or children to any other than the Hampßtead State School, everyone of those persons thns disqualified to elect would be himself, or herself, qualified to be elected. This is contrary to tho universal rule m all other elections that a person qualified to elect is qualified to be elected and vice versa. Subject to the requirements of the Act, oach School Board is to have tho management of tho publio schools within its district and may appoint and dismiss teachers, but no appointment or dismissal is to take effect until it has been submitted to and approved by tho Minister. Tho educational status of teachers mußt, howover, correspond with the status of the school, the schools being classified as follows, according to attendance, thus : above 700, First Class ; 401 to 700, Second Class ; 251 to 400, Third Class, 151 to 250, Fourth Class } 36 to 150, Fifth Class j below 35 (or two half time pohoole) Sixth 'Claw . The numbers of
the teaching staff are fixed by scale for' the several classes, and the* salaries of headmasters, mistresses, and assistant j teachers are also similarly defined, the rates for headmasters being as follows : First Class Schools, £420 to £460 ; Second Class, £340 to £380 ; Third, £270 to £310 ; Fourth, £210 to £250 ; Fifth (with average attendance of 76 to 150) £180 to £210 ; (with average attendance of 36 to 75) £150 to £180 ; Sixth (with average above 20) £120 to £150 ; (with average not exceeding 20) £5 for each unit of average attendance. No headmaster is to be appointed to any school unless he holds a certificate not lower than the following, viz :— For a First Class School, Cl ; Second Class, Dl ; Third Class, El ; Fourth Class, E2 ; Fifth Class, E3 ; Sixth Class, with average above 20, E4 ; with average not exceeding 20, E5, or the equivalent of such certificate m either case. The above are the salient features of the Bill, the most desirable of which are those providing for uniformity of pay and of qualification "of teachers m relation to the importance and extent of the schools under their charge, but as we have shown, tjiose portions relating to the constitution and mode of election of the* School Boards will certainly need very large alteration to make the proposed new system even decently workable. There are a number of minor proposals of a desirable character, such as that authorising the establishment of school libraries, and of evening schools, and for higher education upon payment of a small school fee, but all these could be grafted upon the present Act, and m no way necessitate its repeal and the substitution of an entirely new system. Mr Fisher's Bill will serve to indicate many possible and desirable amendments of the existing system, but we are inclined to think that it would be better to secure these by passing successive amendments of the present Aot, and so by degrees curing existing defects, and preparing he way eventually for a consolidating, tather than a revolutionary measure.
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