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In the course of the recent no-confidence debate, Mr George Fisher thus spoke in defence of his Public Schools Bill:—" With regard to the Education Bill which I prepared and circulated during the recess, the Premier took upon himself to condemn the Bill on one ground, and on one ground only —namely, that it would lead to the payment of a largely increased sum for travelling expenses for members of the school boards to be constituted under the Bill. Again the hon. gentleman is wrong. There are at present fourteen education boards, the members of which receive travelling expenses, and sometimes some very novel circumstances take place. Take the case of the Wellington Education Board. The country school districts of the Wairarapa elect members to attend the meetings of the Education Board in the City of Wellington to represent the interests of these country districts, and yet every now and then we see the chairman of the Board and one or two town members travelling with him to the country districts to inquire what the requirements of those districts are, This, I think, is an abuse of tho system. On the other hand, the members of tho school boards to bo constituted under my Bill would require to travel very little ; they would all reside in the particular school districts they represented. For instance, the members of the Wairarapa School Boards would reside in tho Wairarapa. Some might have to travel a few miles to the schoolhousc, but they would not have to travel, as the members of tho Education Board do at present, from Wairarapa to Wellington, or from Wangaehu and other out-districts to Wanganui. Each school board would meet in the schoolhouse of its own district, and there would be no necessity whatever for large travelling allowances. That was the only objection the hon. member made to the Bill; and surely, having regard to the amount drawn by the hon. gentleman for travelling-allowances as a member of an education board under the existing Act, he should have had little to say. The boo. gentleman next made a reference to high schools, and I presume he' referred to the district high schools constituted under the Education Act of 1887. Now, I agree that these district high schools are not a necessary part of the State school system. They are accountable for much of the waste and overlapping which form a general ground of complaint. They absorb the teaching-power of the school, to the detriment of the State school children in the lower forms of the school; and although the Act provides for the payment of fees for the superior education given in the higher classes of the district high schools, the fees paid by these students for their superior education are oily just enough to swear by, while the State-school boy suffers. Under this Bill I proposed the institution of scholarships tenable at the colleges and grammar schools, to be followed by exhibitions, carrying the State-school boy to the highest attainable educational point—the university itself. Thus we should have the State-school boy taking all the education the State school can give him, going on to the second grade—the college or grammar school —thence to the top of the tree the university—at tho cost of tha State. By the adoption of a complete and continuous system of education such as is here mapped out, you would avoid all overlapping such as exists under our present system, which is imperfect in this respect. The Bill contains many other provisions which would be of great advantage to the youth of the colony, and I am only sorry that no opportunity is likely to be presented to us this session of discussing amendments which, in the opinion of educational experts, are necessary to the improvement of the present system. Ido not say that any revolutionary measure should bo introduced—revolutionary, I mean, in the sense of attacking or weakening the present system. I proposed the abolition of the education boards because, to my rnind, that does not weaken the svstem in any way. On the contrary, I am suro it would strengthen it, and render it le3s open to attack from tho enemy without. B2sides, there are certain large forms of national expenditure which ought to be nationally and not locally controlled. T'tat is admitted even by text-writers on the subject of local government, local taxation, and local expenditure ; and this is a form of expenditure which I think, properly speaking, is national expenditure. I regret more than I can express the absence from our education system of some of the provisions contained in this Bill. I am as well aware as a man can be of the danger of introducing amendments in the existing Act; but, so long as we have assurance of the bona fides of the man who proposes to amend and perfect the system, that man, instoad of meeting with comment of an adverse and unreasonable kind, should receive the aid and support of all who have the welfare of the education system at heart."

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Bibliographic details

MR FISHER DEFENDS HIS BILL., Evening Star, Issue 8006, 7 September 1889, Supplement

Word Count

MR FISHER DEFENDS HIS BILL. Evening Star, Issue 8006, 7 September 1889, Supplement