By Peter Ibbotson —
MT 60 Years Ago – 3rd Year No 78 – Friday 3rd February 1956
• The statesman shears the sheep, the politician skins them. – A. O’Malley
In my article in the Mauritius Times January 13, I made certain suggestions about alleviating the shocking situation that has arisen in the education service. On the same evening, Mr Kynaston-Snell broadcast on the distressing exclusion of 10,000 would-be pupils from the primary schools.
It seems, according to Mr Kynaston-Snell, that the problem has three aspects: space, teacher shortage, and teacher training.
I asked whether the Government had surveyed all the possible emergency accommodation, so that village halls, etc., could be pressed into service as temporary schoolrooms. It appears that, as evidence of their desire for education, as evidence of their consciousness of the value of education, the people – through their village councils – had offered the Education Department the use of halls, rooms, etc. So the space aspect of the education problem disappears. It seems that there is room, with improvisation, all the children to be accommodated who wish to attend school.
Instead of complaining that there is a shortage of staff, the Director of Education should be attempting to find staff; should be welcoming the voluntary attendance of many children. But no, there is, in the speech over the M.B.S., no sense of urgency. He doesn’t seem to realize the immense value that education has in the modern world. But assuming he does not realize the imperative need to find school space for everyone, what are his plans? Or since there is an Education Committee and a Liaison Officer (none of whom, in the last analysis, has any real power to affect the Director’s mind), what plans has he to lay before the Committee and Liaison Officer for their consideration? If he realizes just how urgent the problem is, he will have plans outlined already. What are they? Unfortunately, the broadcast does not speak of urgent need to deal with the situation; only that the development plan is being reviewed “with a view to finding out at an early date how quickly and to what extent” the educational problem can be dealt with. Note that – not to find out how far and how quickly it can be dealt with; only and how quickly it can be dealt with. That isn’t good enough. What we need is a plan for positive action, not a plan for seeing how much action we can have at some unstated time when action may be possible.
The Director is on very thin ice in saying there is a shortage of teachers. Other contributors to the Mauritius Times have referred to the unemployment that exists among ex-servicemen, for example. Why cannot ex-servicemen cannot be recruited to the teaching profession? If Captain Lebrasse is good enough to hold the Queen’s Commission, he is surely good enough to teach? There can surely be no objection on educational grounds to the appointment of men of such caliber as teachers? I referred in my earlier article to the Emergency Training Scheme in the UK which brought a large number of recruits to the profession. Has Mr Kynaston-Snell considered short intensive training courses for Mauritian ex-servicemen, so that a number of teachers can be trained in a short while? Why isn’t such a scheme under very active consideration at the Education Department? The Department’s motto should be “The Children in School”. But the broadcast, which oozed complacency that nothing could be done to get more children admitted, made no mention of any such emergency scheme even having been considered.
The Director made much play of the essentiality of having the teachers trained. Trained for what? Presumably he meant trained to teach. In fact, he said: “You want your children to be taught by men and women who have been trained for the job”. Only the trained teacher, he implied, knows what he is doing in schools; “otherwise we and you are wasting our time”.
This is a lot of poppycock – a smokescreen put up, presumably to cover the failure of the Department to recruit enough staff whether qualified as teachers or not. Perhaps Mr Kynaston-Snell would tell us, if trained people alone know what they are doing, what training he had to be a Director of Education – and when and where he had it. If you must have training to do your job properly, what is Mr Kynaston-Snell’s opinion of a former PRO becoming a deputy Director of Education and acting as Director in his chief’s frequent and prolonged absences?
Look at the teaching profession in England. Education in England is held up over the whole world – except behind the Iron Curtain – as a model to be emulated, if possible. But, Mr Kynaston-Snell, it is unnecessary for a person to be trained as a teacher to become a teacher in an English school. No graduate need take a course of training as a teacher before starting to teach, whether in a state school or a private school. In fact, many private school teachers consider it a handicap to their teaching to have taken a course of training. And how many teachers in England and Wales are there who have never been trained as teachers?
In January 1954, the latest date for which figures are available, there were 231,210 teachers in state primary and secondary schools. Of these, no less than 33,764 had never been trained as teachers! That is, of England and Wales’ teachers, more than one-eight were not trained; and by Mr Kynaston-Snell’s definition, therefore, didn’t know what they were doing and were wasting their time and the time of their pupils. No, Mr Kynaston-Snell, the excuse of not having enough trained people just won’t wash. It’s merely another excuse to put off doing something positive in favour of considering doing something sometime, somewhere.
There cannot surely be objections to this on the grounds urged by the Director, that children’s education would suffer by their being in school only 3 hours instead of 5 hours. In heavens’ name, Mr Kynaston-Snell, stop and think. Which is better – to have 15,000 children attending school three hours each; or 6,800 attending five hours each and 9,000 not attending at all? And why only three hours in a shift? Aren’t the teachers willing to do their bit, if the shift system does get put into operation, and do two half-hour shifts? And as the editor of the Mauritius Times has suggested, couldn’t the curriculum be curtailed so that as much reading, writing and arithmetic as possible could be got into the shorter shift?
What Mauritius needs is a Director of Education with more gumption than the present one displays to judge him, that is, by the inadequate broadcast that he made on January 13. (And to forestall criticism that I may be making comments on education without knowledge of education, let me at once point out that I have had a very successful teaching career and am fully conversant with the problems of education today).