Problems of Primary School Scholarships – 1815-1956

Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago

Ward’s recommendations not considered

By D. Napal 

The appointment of Mr Ward as Director of Education is epoch-making in the history of education in Mauritius. The Ward Report was published in 1941. It laid down many suggestions which covered different aspects of the educational system. We shall have, however, for the present to consider his opinions on the grant of scholarships.

Mr Ward condemned the system prevalent in his time. He found it rather strange that a pupil who had failed to carry away the junior scholarship could two years after compete for the senior scholarship. He recommended the abolition of the senior scholarship and consequently the suppression of that class in the primary school and the addition of the eight senior scholarships to the “junior twelve, making a total of twenty scholarships.”

We know that very often it is not the intelligent and really deserving pupils who win the scholarships but the few in the words of Ward are the “well crammed boys from each school.” The phrase each school, however, does not tally with the truth for there is no mystery about the fact that only a few privileged schools had the facilities of cramming the scholars. The word cramming brings another thought to our mind — private coaching. Who can deny that private coaching or cramming is at the roots of the success of many scholars? And is not private coaching the privilege of a few lucky students? Have not many of those who have come first in the scholarship done so by the sheer power of their purse?

In order to do away with the evils inherent in the competitive examination, Mr Ward wanted the scholars to be chosen “on the basis of a qualifying examination followed by an interview”. It was represented to him, he said that, “public opinion in Mauritius would not have confidence in the impartiality of any conceivable selection committee.”

A Committee was appointed by the Governor to study the Ward Report. Among others, Mr Raoul Rivet, Mr Tristan Mallac, Sir Jules Leclezio, Dr Edgar Laurent, Mr Atchia, Mr Osman and Dr Ramgoolam sat on that Committee.

The Committee made a detailed analysis of the changes in education proposed by Mr Ward. On the question of scholarships there was much disagreement. There were, in fact, “few points on which they reached any large measure of agreement.” They agreed that the proposal to award scholarships by means of a selection committee was out of the question. They considered that the selection committee would be biased and would be “imperfect judges of character” and a candidate was “less likely to do himself justice in a half hour interview than in a five-day examination.” There was division of opinion on the question of the abolition of the senior scholarship examination and the lowering of the scholarship age.

When the education Code, published in 1944, was drafted, the Ward Report and the Committee examination of that Report were taken into account.

We find that the code followed almost to the letter of the law the recommendation of the Committee.

If we were to say that the children of the well-to-do classes should be debarred from scholarships on the grounds that their parents can easily afford for them not only a secondary education in Mauritius but a university education in Europe, we would be taxed of communism and what not. But what about Mr Ward’s having said in his Report that the financial position of parents should be taken into account. While considering the grant of scholarships, no wonder the Committee rejected this as utopian. What else could they do coming as they did from the moneyed class?

Today that a new Education Code is being proposed, we should in all honesty and fairness say that the system of granting scholarships is faulty. Every pupil who is qualified for the scholarship examination does not get the same facilities, especially in the rural areas. Moreover, French being a compulsory subject is a serious handicap to many competitors of the scholarship examination. It is high time, we believe, for government to give thought to this question. What about the establishment of central schools or rather classes — for the schools are there — for the proper training of scholarship competitors?

4th Year – No 135
Friday 8th March 1957

* Published in print edition on 27 December 2019

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