Learning from the past

I have been reading the History of Victorian Education and I have found it fascinating reading as I can now understand how an educational revolution will require great courage and perseverance to bring about necessary change.

In 1905, there was only one Departmental secondary school. In 1910, there were 10 schools, the pupils numbered 1,338, and the teachers 52.
In 1912, eight new schools were opened. To-day (1922), the 31 schools contain 6,980 pupils taught by a staff of 232 teachers. Besides these, there are the higher elementary schools, the junior technical schools, and central schools of different kinds, all providing some form of secondary education.
It is typical of the obstacles that have beset the path of the reformer in Victorian education that practically no new type of school has been tried unless it could be housed at little initial cost in some old and abandoned school-building, or could be attached to an existing school.
Of the secondary schools that were early established, Melbourne, Ballarat, and Bendigo were so housed; and, when, in 1910, the University High School was opened, a disused State-school building was furbished up for its use. It was not until the present year (1922) that financial provision was made for improved accommodation for the Melbourne High School and the University High School.

Throughout the history of education I have also read how difficult it is for reform to take hold.

Nor must the example and guidance of the mother- country be ignored. In these new lands and young dominions, we are apt to delude ourselves with the belief that, in all essential matters of national life, we are ahead of the old land. In whatever other concern this may be true, it is not always true in that of educational development. The young, rich, democratic State of Victoria has, in its organization of public education, often lagged behind the mother- country, and its educational leaders have had to fight a conservatism as strongly entrenched as that of England.

The air was full of hope, and bright with possibilities.” So felt many teachers and inspectors in the dawn of 1902. But they and the Director were to find, after much uphill struggle, that reforms in such a field as education are not easily won. Obvious practical difficulties were the lack of professional training of so many teachers, the natural conservatism of many others who had succeeded under a narrower system, and the apathy and indifference of a public which had come to look upon the school as the concern of the State and not of themselves. The daily papers were full of criticisms of the new order and of the absurdity of the changes which were being introduced. The first task, therefore, was to make sure that the teachers appreciated the new ideas.

Read here about the introduction of a technical education around the years 1893-1910.

There can be little room for doubt that mistakes were made in the establishment of the complicated educational machinery of technical education in this State.
In the first glow of enthusiasm, it was too frequently believed that the establishment of a school ensured a steady stream of learners.
When disillusionment came, but before the authorities had learned how to adapt the school to what was needed, the “boom” burst; and, in the impoverishment that followed, both they and the workers grew disheartened, or merely plodded along without much vision or hope.”


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