KENSINGTON STATE SCHOOL.
A soirie was held last night at Kensing ton, in celebration of the opening of a new state school in that suburb. The soirie was held in the new school, and after tea had been partaken of a public meeting was or- ganised, over which Mr W S. Cox, chairman of the school board of advice, presided The Minister of Education was present, and also Mr Deakin, M L A.
The Chairman, in a few remarks, intro- duced the Minister of Education to the meet- ing, stating that he had been invited to declare the new school open.
Mayor Smith, who was received with cheers, referred briefly to the action which Mr Deakin, their member, had taken to have the new school erected He then said he proposed to address the people of the colony through that meeting with regard to what he had recently seen of the educational system of New Zea- land and, to a less extent, of that of New South Wales. When he arrived at Dunedin, New Zealand, the greatest courtesy and attention were shown to him by the educa tional board of that district. He was shown the workings of the educational system at Dunedin, and he thought the one thing in which they excelled Victoria was m the matter of attendance at the schools. He found that while in Victoria in a school on the rolls of which there might be 500 scholars the average attendance was only about half that number, there was an average attend ance at Dunedin of about -400 scholars out of 450 on the rolls. That grand attendance, he believed, was due in a large measure to the fact that the pre- ponderating element in Dunedin was Scotch, and they were a people who were always proverbial for having their children educated if the means of education were to be had. (Cheers ) While in Dunedin he visited their high schools as well as the state schools. He also visited the University, and he found that a considerable number of the best school teachers of the distnct were men who had been educated and trained in Victoria. (Ap- plause ) When he was coming back in a steamer to Sydney, there was a clergyman from the West Coast on board, and that gentleman also told him they had nearly all Victorian teachers on their side of the island, and that they were the best teachers they could get. He thought that in Dunedin they had the best kind of training institute, after the Victorian, of any of the colonies. It was not exactly fair to compare the New South Wales system with our own, because, while there had been free, compulsory, and secular education here for seven years, they had only just made changes in their system. He found in Sydney, however, that they only gave their trainees six months training while here the trainees were educated for two years in the institute. While in New Zea- land he frequently saw advertisements in the papers for teachers, but this colony was not only able to supply itself and other colonies with teachers, but had 250 qualified teachers waiting employment. The young people here were not only anxious to become teachers, but many of them also passed the matriculation examinations at the University. There were, indeed, so many persons anxious to become teachers that since 1878 they had abolished the lower grades of examination al- together for teachers. Whenhe took office four years ago there were 300 unqualified teachers in theschools, while now there was not one. Four years ago there were 400 qualified per- sons outside the school, and he thought it was unfair that there should be 300 unquali- fied in the schools and 400 qualified outside. He therefore gave the unqualified time to pass, and then, if they could not pass, they had to move out and make way for those who bad done so. It could be seen from what he had said that Victoria had reason to be proud of her teachers as well as of her system of education. When he, a short time ago, opened a new state school at Dan- denong, a gentleman who held a very high position under the French Educational de partment said that, with the exception of the Netherlands system, he thought the system of education in Victoria was the best he had seen in the world. He had just spoken of the pleasing features of the Victorian system, and must now come to the dark side of it, namely, the cost. Those who were opposed to the Education Act always referred to its cost, with the view of causing dissatisfaction with it. A few figures had been furnished to him by the depart
ment as to the present cost of the system, and also the probable cost in the future. It was computed that the cost for the financial year 1880-1 would be £535,130, exclusive of build- ings. There had been already expended on buildings £800,000, obtained from loans; and to place all portions of the colony on an equality with regard to school buildings would require another quarter of a million, or, in all, £l,050,000 for school buildings. The interest on the latter sum, at 4 1/2 per cent, would be £47,250, and it was calculated after the £1, 050 000 was expended that £60,000 per year would be required to keep the existing buildings in repair, and to provide new
schools as population increased. The three | items he had named-£535,130, the cost for 1880- 1; £47,250, interest on £1,050 000, and £60,000 for new schools and maintenance, made £642,380 which waa the yearly esti- mated cost of the system in future if it were adhered to as it was at present. He had endeavoured to modify the cost once by reducing the saleries £20,000, but the members in the House proved too strong for him, and he could not make more than half that reduction. In New Zealand, drawing and singing were mostly taught by the ordinary masters, but here £13,000 per year was spent on draw ing andsinging masters. He began by reducing that amount one half, and getting some ordinary teachers to teach singing and drawing ; but whilst he was away the House proved too strong for the Attorney- General, and he had promised to reinstate some of the dismissed teachers. The cost of the act was more than one tenth of the entire revenue of the colony, and several ways were proposed for its reduction. The first way was to reduce the cost by making the higher classes pay fees. That was a plan he ghould never con- sent to, for once the people allowed the thin
end of the wedge to be inserted in that way they could say good bye to the free system, altogether, (Hear, hear. ) Another thing that was proposed was to give the boards of advice more powers, and he would be willing to give them more powers, but the danger was that in future some Minister might be willing to give the boards more powers on condition that they levied local rates, and that meant that in every district of the colony there should be school rates. He would warn the people against that system, because in some parts of America where local rates had been tried, it had been found they were unpopular, and damaged the work of education. In Dunedin they had done what he contended ought to be done here, for they had endowed the schools with land in some districts. They had alao endowed the Uni- versity at Dunedin with land, and Professor Shand there told him that their University, which was one-third less than ours, was en- dowed with 200,000 acres of grazing land The sumof £4,000 was now realised yearly from that land, but it was thought thatin a few years'
time treble that amount would be obtained. In Otago there was an income from lands of £10,205 8s from endowments to schools; in North Canterbury an income of £5,276 16s. 9d; in Southland of £2,475 11s; and in Auck- land of £1,084 5s 9d, or altogether £21,330. He was also told when he was in New Zealand that in 10 years' time the income from those lands, instead of being £21,000, would probably be nearly £100,000. In this colony the state allowed private individuals to take up some of the most valuable lands for a comparative tithe of their value, and he considered the state should make endow- ments here not only for education, but also for charitable purposes. It would not be unreasonable to ask for a twentieth part of the land for those purposes-about two and a half millions of acres. The land in the mallee was said to be very poor, but he would ven- ture to say that if it were set apart for educa tional and charitable purposes a very large sum indeed would be got from it. He believed it was in that direction they should look for reducing the cost of education, and they had an example in that respect m New Zealand. In 1878 an act was passed there to endow 10 additional high schools with land, there being at that time nine schools already en- dowed. In conclusion, he thanked those present for the reception they had given him, and then declared the school open for public instruction. (Cheers .)
On the motion of Mr J M Parry, the mayor of Essendon and Flemington, a vote of thanks was passed to Mayor Smith for his attendance, and for the readiness with which he had forwarded the requirements of the district by the erection of the new school.
Mr Deakin, M L A , in the course of a short speech, assured the Minister of Educa- tion that if he thought the people of this colony were ever going to grudge the money required to keep the state schools on, he was making a great mistake. The people of this country were not afraid of the cost of the system, and if there was one thing more than another in which they would be gloriously spendthrift it would be in making sacrifices for the education of the children of the colony.
Councillor Cook also addressed the meeting, which was a very large one, and the speeches were interspersed with songs, which were well rendered by ladies of the district.
The new state sehool is a handsome brick building, capable of holding 250 scholars, and
it has been erected at a cost of about £1,800.