[From Education Week,1926]
THE advance in modern educational methods is shown most noticeably in the infant schools. Happiness and activity are now certainly the notes of the little folks schoolrooms, and where these exist together we may be sure that real education is in progress. Some people may ask whether the children in an infants school work or play. The answer is that activity that is both pleasurable and useful is natural to all young things, and to the young all work should be in the form of play. The stern, real work of life comes to most of us all too soon.
The business of the infants teacher is to provide the toys, materials and occupations that are suitable for the training of the child in habits of cleanliness, health and right speech ; in the various steps that lead to writing and to the understanding of number ; in observing the wonderful world that surrounds it, and describing freely its observations and interests. In all this work the training is through the senses, and as the fingers gain skill in controlling the varying material, so the little brain begins to develop. A demonstration of the interesting modern ways of beginning to teach reading, writing and arithmetic will be included in the Exhibitions held in the four towns of the Island during Education Week, and in the Schools, which will all be open to parents and others during that week.
Training in good citizenship begins in the Infant School. It is the childs first community, and there he learns co-operation in work and play, consideration for others, the need to take turns, . Simple habits of courtesy and good manners, and the duty and joy of putting ones heart into ones work
The child begins also to find out here something of the meaning of beauty in flowers and animals, in dance, song, rhythm, and in the human imagination. The school works together in following this aim and the parents themselves in many cases join in when special festivals such as May-day or Christmas arrive.
Between the ages of seven and eight the child, now able to read with interest simple stories and to write plainly, often indeed quite beautifully, in the "script" characters, leaves this junior republic and joins the "big boys " or " big girls" section of the School, an important event in the childs career.
Here the child from the Infant School is to spend about seven years, unless at the end of four or five years he is transferred to a Secondary School.
With With three exceptions, all the senior departments in the Elementary Schools of the Island are mixed, i.e. , boys and girls are taught side by side, chiefly because the number in attendance at each school is not sufficient to constitute two separate departments.
The original idea in the minds of the founders of the first Public Elementary Schools was that they should provide only the merest elements of instruction in the subjects of reading, writing and arithmetic In these days we have grown accustomed to the idea that the education provided should be as broad and generous as possible, and that every child, whatever the rank of his parents, has a right to the highest form of intellectual training of which he is capable, and so the teaching the "three Rs " is a mere fraction of what is now taught in every Elementary School in the British Empire. The "three Rs" are still the foundation of the work done, but it is clearly recognised that these provide only the instruments of civilised life, and everything depends on the way in which they are used.
During the past twenty years great changes have been introduced in the methods of teaching the various subjects in the Schools, and all these may be said to spring from one main idea,that the function, of the teacher is not so much to impart facts to a passive listener as to devise suitable channels for that wonderful stream of energy and activity that is possessed by every normal, healthy child.
How is the work in our Elementary Schools arranged and divided ? The main subjects to be taught are specified by the Isle of Man Education Authority, who follow the regulations laid down by the English Board of Education. But the exact way in which they shall be taught, and the amount of time given to each, is left for the head of the school to decide when making out the scheme of work and time table for the school.
Every Isle of Man Elementary School opens and closes daily with a hymn and prayer and the first half-hour of each day is devoted to religious instruction. The syllabus of this teaching was carefully drawn up by the Religious Instruction Advisory Committee. A wonderful opportunity is given here to raise the whole tone of the school. It is impossible, in the space at our disposal, to give figures showing how much time is given to the various subjects, for this differs greatly according to age and to the particular scheme of work. must be remembered also that subjects are treated in relation to one another, and that a lesson in geography, for instance, may also contain teaching In science, history, calculation, drawing, or handwork. In order of the amount of time devoted to the subjects taught are :
The English Language. Clear language implies clear thought, and in language is preserved all the wisdom of mankind. The boy or girl gradually learns to use this master-key by writing, spelling, reading, grammatical construction, recitation, composition and other means, spending less time by degrees on elementary practice, and beginning towards the top of the school to enjoy some of the great books that have been written in the English tongue, as the librarians both in the schools and of the Douglas Public Library can testify. The Carnegie Rural Library scheme, recently introduced by the Education Authority, whereby every school in the Island becomes a branch library through which excellent literature may be introduced into every home in the Island, will confer an inestimable boon upon the inhabitants of the scattered hamlets in the outlying districts.
Arithmetic takes second place, especially in boys classes. All mathematical subjects taught in the modern school are dealt with in a practical manner The study of the rules is made concrete by actual jobs in measuring, weighing and surveying. Illustrations are taken from familiar things such as the family shopping, and from the science, geography, or drawing lesson.
Drawing comes next. No longer do children laboriously copy from a flat sheet, but direct representation by various methods, in line and in colour, of objects seen, develops hand, eye and rain. Many beautiful samples of work done in our Schools may be studied in the Exhibitions during Education Week and will well repay more than a Casual glance.
Other subjects have usually to be content with little more than an hour each a week. There is Historynot lists of dates and kings, but glimpses of the past daily life of our own and other peoples, and a study of how industry and society have developed : Geographynot lists of rivers, capes, bays and towns (although names must not be omitted)but a study of cause and effect in climate, soil, valley formation, communication,, etc., and of map reading. Music occupies an honourable position in Manx Schools and periods are set apart for voice training and the learning and practice of unison and part singing. What has been accomplished in this direction is well known to the thousands who annually attend the childrens day at the Manx Musical Festival. Another opportunity will be given at the concerts to be held in the different parts of the Island during Education Week of hearing and seeing what our children can do in this delightful art. Physical Training, a most important part of the school curriculum, is dealt with in a separate section.
There remains one of the most important sides of school activity, that which is associated with the words, "practical work" or "handwork." This branch is not confined to the work done at special handicraft centres, with which the Island, by reason of its scatttered small groups of population and consequent small village schools, cannot be fully equipped . These centres will be the subject of another section. Handwork in the schools (and every Manx scholar from infant upwards does handwork) is, from one point of view, a method rather than a subject, and is found associated with the subjects taught throughout the school, and es use of all materials : paper, cardboard, wool beads, rush, cane, raffia, soil, clay, sand, food, wood and metalfor its own ends . It relies upon the proved fact that the brain develops as the skill of the hand develops ; it enables most children to double their interest in their work, and for some is almost the only path of advance ; it helps the growth of the idea that education is not a thing merely of desk, book and blackboard. For girls, the special practical work takes the shape of needlework, the art of designing, making and mending clothes, treated today more sensibly than in the past.
Douglas, Ramsey, Peel and Rushen children in the higher school classes are fortunate in having the opportunity of attending well equipped centres for instruction under specially qualified teachers, the boys. in handicraft and the girls in cookery, laundrywork and housewifery. A number of the country schools and a few of the town schools possess school gardens where the science of horticulture is taught practically.
Domestic Science. In the five cookery centres of the Education Authority girls of twelve years and over are taught to cook simple dishes, to lay tables properly, to serve dinners and other meals, and to know sufficient of the relative values of food to enable them to arrange well-balanced meals. They are also taught the reasons for the various processes, and the uses and compositions of the various cleansing agents.
Lessons are also given on the preparation of foods for infants, invalids and convalescents. In addition, there are demonstrations on household economies and of the bathing and care of " baby." In the School Laundry the girls are taught how :to prepare for washing day ; the various methods of removing stains, etc. , the washing and finishing -of white, coloured, silk and woollen garments.
The work is of special importance, not merely because it helps the girls to be practical, but, because of the individual work involved, the training inculcates habits of economy, cleanliness and accuracy. Girls have two, and sometimes three courses in cookery and laundry-work.
If the Education Authority were in possession of a fully-equipped self-contained flat or small house in Douglas, where the girls could carry their domestic education several stages further, it would be a great advantage. Perhaps in the near future something may be done in this direction.
There will be displays of the work done in the various domestic centres at the exhibitions, and we hope that the public will take the opportunity of visiting these during Education Week. Those interested will be welcome at the centres on the "Open Days, " when they can see the work of training future wives and mothers in full operation.
Handicraft. In the handicraft centres, of which the Isle of Man Education Authority possesses five, boys of eleven years and over construct useful articles in wood and other material from their own working drawings. To allow children to construct not only satisfies the natural desire for making somethingit creates initiative, gives the maker a knowledge of material, helps to connect school with the home and the outer world ; it also helps to develop and fix ideas.
In addition to encouraging manual dexterity and giving an elementary knowledge of the use of tools, handwork, by natural methods, increases a childs mental activity and experience, as, in order to create, or construct, a comparatively simple object demands considerable and concentrated mental application, thereby helping to educate the child on broader and more balanced lines than a purely theoretical training could do.
Above all, this practical education gives the backward child an opportunity of finding out that there re is a method of expressing himself and at the same time developing his latent ability in "doing things" , and accomplishing them with at least equal success compared with the results obtained by the rest of his class. It is frequently found that the boy who appears to be mentally slow (judged by bookish standards) often shines at hand-work, and through the stimulus thus obtained he has his self-respect restored, his intelligence roused and through this his other school work actually improves, and lie continues to develop at an average rate.
Handwork in the schools is part of a boys normal training and is not intended to be vocational, though it may often point towards the choice of a career.
An important section of the various Exhibitions held during Education Week is that devoted to specimens of work accomplished by the boys at the handicraft centres.
The sound body is not entirely a question of medical supervision and treatment, though we all admit that this is of the utmost importance. We must see that no serious obstacle hinders the development of our juveniles along right lines. Various means have been adopted to bring about that development The Board of Education, under whose code we work, have given close attention to physical training for some years, and now physical exercises and organised games form part of the regular work of all our schools . In many of the schools folk-dancing is taught and some delightful examples of Eurhythmics will be performed in public in Education Week.
For the encouragement of the boys' games there is the Isle of Man Elementary Schools Football League. Unfortunately a large number of the smaller schools, by reason of their lack of numbers of older boys, are prevented from membership, but on each Saturday during the football season school teams travel from north to south and from east to west in charge of their teachers, to meet in friendly rivalry the teams of other schools. And two of the smaller schools, greatly to their credit, have already wrested the coveted trophy from their larger rivals in the four years of the League's existence ! Hockey and netball matches between teams of girls of the Douglas Schools are frequently played.
The Douglas Elementary Schools Swimming Club is a thoroughly healthy institution . The Public Baths are open free each Friday for the greater part of the year to school children in ~ charge of their teachers and hundreds of Douglas boys and girls have been taught the useful art of swimming as a result of this concession. The annual competitions are exhilarating affairs to witness Owing to the generosity of public-spirited citizens there is no lack of handsome trophies to be awarded to successful competitors at the galas. Thanks therefore to our school teachers and to many voluntary workers, in teaching, encouraging and training our boys and girls to play, there is growing up in our midst a sturdy race of children. But there is more than muscular development involved. Upon the plastic minds and characters of our growing boys and girls are impressed the invaluable discipline of co-operative effort, healthy competition and readiness of initiative that arises from all sport carried on in the real "spirit of sport."
During the Spring, Summer and Autumn months happy and interested bands of school- children, numbering anywhere between a dozen and thirty, or even forty, may be seen almost every fine day in all parts of the Island under the guidance of their teachers. Each member of a party is provided with a note-book and perhaps a sketching block,of which full use is made to record the observations for which the journey has primarily been designed. Visits to historic buildings such as Castle Rushen, Peel Castle and Rushen Abbey are popular. The Marine Biological Station at Port Erin and the Museum in Douglas claim many visitors from the schools, while an excursion round the Island by steamer is one of the best lessons in geography that can be given . Nature rambles for the collecting, naming, examining and pressing the many forms of plant life are quite frequent episodes in a modern child's school day. and the opportunity is taken, while thus afield, to learn something about the bird and animal life encountered. School journeys extending far beyond the boundaries of our Isle have been brought within the reach of a fortunate few. Wembley was the Mecca of several parties from the Secondary and the Elementary Schools during 1924, and the pilgrims brought back with them valuable experiences that only travel can provide In the Douglas Secondary School last year a successful experiment in foreign travel was made, and it is hoped that a larger number of senior students will find it possible this year to attend summer Courses in French at one or other University town of France
No financial assistance is given by the :Anthority, or asked for by teachers or pupils towards the cost of school journeys
In a comparatively small and scattered unity like ours many children are obliged to travel quite long distances from their homes to school, and the provision of a mid-day meal at school is essential. Usually, the children who live at distances of between a mile and three miles from school (as many who attend our village schools do) bring with them a parcel of food for lunch. Arrangements whereby the children can sit in comfort at a decently laid table have been made by the Education Authority. Each school has an adequate supply of table cloths , crockery and cutlery, and tea, coffee or cocoa is made for the children who stay to lunch.
In the Secondary Schools, to which children all parts of the Island travel daily by train, electric car, charabanc or cycle, there are specially equipped rooms, which at mid-day are thronged with diners.
Almost every school in the Isle of Man is a branch of the National Savings Movement, and hundreds of pounds are invested annually in National Savings Certificates by Manx children. e School Association is, in effect, a school savings club for the purchase of National Savings Certificates by instalments . Generally the smallest that can be invested weekly is sixpence. As soon as the depositor has saved 16s. a Certificate, which in six years becomes £1 and in ten years £1 4s., is purchased. By means of the School Associations the valuable habit of thrift is formed, inestimable benefit to the individual and to the community.