Inspector's Report

Victoria, November, 1892.

Sir,--I have the honour to submit for your information the following general report for the school-year ended June 30th, 1892:--

The progress made during the year has fully kept pace with, if not exceeded, that during any former year with respect to the efficiency and practical character of work as well as to the zeal and faithfulness of the teachers.  The discipline has been generally mild and effective.  Indeed, this might be inferred from the first sentence of this paragraph, for, without good order and proper discipline, progress in study cannot be made.  It is almost unnecessary to explain that the word ‘discipline‘ is here used in the pedagogic sense, viz.:--‘The application of the motives which prompt the pupil to diligent study and good conduct.

After a careful review of the work of the past year, I venture to offer, under various heads, such observations and suggestions as are considered valuable and necessary.


It is the aim to make reading not so much an elocutionary exercise as a means of enabling the child to master and intelligently interpret the thoughts of the writer, as well as to develop power for comprehending new matter. I have sought both by my manner and examination and by advice to show the importance of eliciting the full meaning of the reading lesson by appropriate questions and observations.  In this connection it may be remarked that there is need of greater attention being given to the meaning and application of words.  Training in this matter assists in cultivating clearness and readiness in the use of language.  As the pupil advances, let him be taught the use of the dictionary, and thus assist in laying the foundation for the student in the true sense of the word.  I am glad to say that a good proportion of our teachers understands the bearing of the kind of instruction described under this head of the pupils progress in after years.

The ability to read well varies with the capacity (mental and vocal) of the child; but when the teacher is a poor reader, as is sometimes the case, the standard of the school in this subject is lowered.  I have found pupils rendering in a very indistinct and lifeless manner reading lessons which under another teacher of the previous year they read with fluency and expression.

So far as my observation goes, the suggestion in the Course of Instruction with respect to the use and value of declamation has not been very largely adopted.  Recitation as a voice exercise is of much assistance to the pupil in acquiring a knowledge of the art of reading; he slowly but surely learns to feel that the depth of meaning does not depend so much on the words themselves as on the way they are spoken.  The principal use of declamation seems to be made in the preparation for the semi-annual public examination.  These exercises over, it is quietly laid aside and forgotten, until again required for a similar purpose six months later.  Were, however, a portion of each class required to recite at stated intervals, and were the selections read by other members of the class after the recitation had taken place, an extra lesson in reading would thus be given, and, if well conducted, a most interesting and profitable one.


While some arithmetic exercises written and mental, must of necessity be disciplinary in their character, yet examples that are met with in every-day life should predominate.  In fact, young people are more easily interested in practical than in abstract problems, and by acting on this idea skilful instructors have made their teaching of this branch most effective.  The value of the practical side of arithmetic is very generally recognized in our schools and very commendable work done; but there are one or two points in connection with teaching of this subject to which I shall draw attention.

Without referring to the methods employed in teaching the simple rules, there was noticeable in the large majority of cases a fair degree of rapidity and accuracy in working these rules and their applications, but there were also found in a few instances an undue slowness and uncertainty in dealing with the same rules.  It must be apparent that unless pupils who have been taught the simple rules of arithmetic, can write and arrange dictated numbers correctly, as well as find their sum and read the result, their knowledge of addition has not stood the test.  Teachers must see that the constant writing and arranging of series of numbers on the blackboard for the class to add, is doing more than half the pupils own work.  It is not owing to the short time devoted to this branch that the slowness and uncertainty noticed in a few instances arise, but rather from the want of drill in the combinations of numbers and from the dry and meaningless array of figures frequently given.  In primary classes, the daily mental exercise should consist of examples of which young children would take an interest.  The slate examples based on these, will, of course, be more difficult of solution.  Variety in the nature and statement of the questions is an important feature.  Finally, to speak in general of the work in this subject, it would appear as if in the effort to do much, the necessity for thoroughness had not been sufficiently heeded.


Results show that greater attention has been paid to this subject than heretofore.  It is now pretty well understood that penmanship requires to be taught.  The method of instruction naturally ranges itself under three heads:  1st, Knowledge; 2nd, Execution; 3rd, Criticism.  While some attention has been given to the first two divisions, it was noticeable that little effort had been made to elicit from pupils by questions anything that could be discovered by observation of the copy and from instructions given at the head of the page.  The formation of the habit of criticism—that, the training in the constant exercise of the faculty of judging form—is of the highest consequence; in fact, it is one of the great secrets of success.  Many pupils at first are unable to distinguish between a straight line and a curve; to them, a turn is a turn, whether it is like an acute angle or round as a hoop; all varieties of slant are equally satisfactory.  Some additional causes of weakness are lack of success in security proper pen-holding; carelessness induced by want of proper supervision; neglect of the teacher to show appreciation of well-finished work, or to endeavour to inspire a love for it; impossibility, in many cases, of giving class instruction, owing to the use of different numbers of the writing books, each pupil being allowed to plod along as an independent unit.  Sometimes when the same number is used, scarcely two can be found writing the same copy.  In the effort to do too much, too little real advancement is made.  The stimulating force of numbers is lost; systematic instruction with the free use of the blackboard cannot always be profitably carried on as class instruction.  Careful, constant supervision, joined with healthy emulation and suitable instruction, will make a few lines of more value than as many pages written under improper conditions.

English Grammar.

The secret of English Grammar—and it is an open secret—lies in the knowledge of what word or words goes with what word, and what group of words goes with what particular word.

If pupils are slowly drilled into the perception that all language rests upon four simple ideas—those of the noun, and the adjective, the verb and the adverb, and that these ideas repeat themselves in the form of words, phrases, and sentences—they will never be at a loss in examining their own language or in translating it into another.

This quotation, from the preface of Meiklejohn's Short Grammar, explains in brief the whole question of method, and should be constantly before the instructors mind when teaching this branch.

In the study of grammar, especially in the more advanced stages, much excellent work has been done.  The oral stage of the subject has also received due attention.  There is to some degree, however, a tendency to hurry over the simple steps in order to reach the more difficult and complex.  Clear conceptions of subject and predicate are in consequence not always formed.  Analysis is sometimes reduced to conjecture.  This deprives the study of all its intellectual and of nearly all its practical value.  It is not to be supposed, as one may judge from previous remarks, that these strictures refer to all the schools; on the contrary, the classes in the great majority bear the stamp of careful teaching.


In my last report it was stated that the subject of composition and letter-writing did not receive attention in accordance with its value. During the past year a considerable change in this respect was perceptible in some schools, and more or less improvement in the majority.

It is apparent that the power to use one's mother tongue correctly and readily—a school acquisition of the highest importance—can only be acquired by constant exercise both in speaking and writing.  Consequently, it has been my practice to make special inquiry as to the frequency of giving such instruction as well as to the method employed.

Some of the most noticeable defects, even in the work of advanced pupils, are inaccurate use of common words, carelessness in the framing of sentence, and lack of proper arrangement of material preparatory to its subsequent division into topics suitable for paragraphs.  The need for arrangement into proper order becomes evident at once; but in few instances was it observed that the work of each pupil proved that any plan or outline had been developed for his guidance in treating the subject assigned.

Just what the proper course in language is, has scarcely been determined.  There is a period when the facts are everything; the child does not think of style nor of grammatical forms.  This is the period when the spelling, the capitals, some use of the comma and the period, are to be taught.  Then succeeds the period when his attention is taken up by the words he uses and the structure of sentences.  Something more is learned about punctuation, but not much.  Then follows a period when the form of expression plays a more prominent part; his mind is more developed, and he may use figures.    To some students at this period, the balancing of terms, the happy expressions, the apt quotations, impart an exquisite pleasure, but a large number still shuffles along with little skill in composition.  Then succeeds another period, in which there is ease in writing (if the pupil has written a good deal); the words are quite carefully selected, the phrases balanced, and the general expression clear.  The great rule the teacher must follow is to keep the pupil composing, the second is, at the proper time, to call his attention to the great models.

The hints on teaching composition and letter-writing, which form the appendix to Meiklejohn's Short Grammar, are worthy of careful study by every teacher, and, if intelligently followed, should materially assist in improving the general character of instruction in this branch.


In geography the instruction is generally worthy of some commendation.  It is, nevertheless, necessary to direct the attention of many teachers to the suggestions and criticisms given in former reports on the method of teaching this subject.

The teaching of geography is very materially assisted by the practice of map drawing—a practice which now obtains very generally in our schools, and is attended with excellent results.   Manual neatness is always insisted upon, although the object is not to secure a pretty picture, but to make the hand assist the memory in impression upon it the general outlines of a country and the situation of important places.

Great as has been the advance of the methods of the past, there is one element in the teaching of this topic that could be made very valuable, viz., the historical.

It may be argued that it is not the aim of geography to teach history.  This is quite true; but geography and history are so closely connected that you cannot teach one successfully without the other.  The teacher who rigorously excludes historical illustrations from geography for fear of intruding upon the province of history, is in danger of sacrificing the interest and well-being of the school to an improper notion.  Comparatively few pupils ever study general history, and the majority thus remain ignorant of the life of man in the other countries of the world because of their limited educational opportunities.   There is no better way of starting the child in good healthy reading than by arousing his interest in the persons and places of history and geography.  With that taste once formed, and a small school library to draw upon for the necessary goods, the historical element in geography will have a direct bearing on manhood by inspiring pupils with great and noble thoughts, by placing before them the scenes and places of the great deeds of the heroes of the world.


Two things should be acquired by the study of history in Public Schools, 1st, a love for history; 2nd, a plan or method for studying the subject.  The main practical purpose of the study of history is to guide us in social and political progress.  This philosophy of history cannot be studied to any great extent until the student reaches one of the higher institutions of learning.  The study of history should be confined to the collection and arrangement of facts necessary to the generalization on which the philosophy of the subject depends.

History, whether British or Canadian, received appropriate attention during the past year, and a very fair degree of success in its study may very generally be reported.

Physiology (Anatomy, Physiology, and Hygiene).

While the Course of Instruction recommends that oral primary instruction in thee allied subjects be given to the whole school, yet pupils in the Fourth and Fifth Reader classes are required to use the prescribed text-book. Thus, provision is made for having the facts of this important branch of study presented to pupils at all stages of advancement.  For young children, the oral instruction should principally consist of familiar lessons on health, and should give but little attention to the learning of technical terms.  Were this oral teaching made as practical as possible, and the pupils taught how to bandage imaginary wounds (either or vein or artery), how to treat burns (slight and deep), bruises, &c., they should develop such an increased interest in this lesson that even the ‘dull boy‘ would look forward to it with pleasure.

The interest generally shown by pupils in this subject is proof that teachers have instructed their classes in an intelligent manner.  Under the head of hygiene, ample opportunity has been afforded for giving instruction in the branch subject of temperance.  No teacher who has the welfare of his pupils at heart should fail to teach not only the evils of the use of alcoholic stimulants, but of tobacco and other narcotics.

In addition to the prescribed text-books on physiology, the Temperance Lesson Book and the Pathfinder Series have no doubt been of assistance to the teacher in properly presenting this division of the subject.


A deeper interest in drawing has been manifested during the past year than heretofore.  This subject is now taught in all the divisions of many of the Graded Schools, and in a large number of the Rural Schools.  The proficiency attained by pupils in form study has not been very great, but in the majority of cases progress has been made in accordance with the skill of the teacher and the time devoted to the subject.


Although singing is still an optional subject, the annual returns show that there has been a considerable increase in the number of pupils who have received instruction in this branch.  Music is recommended on many grounds, especially as a means of securing wholesome and cheerful discipline.  There is no exercise that children enjoy so thoroughly, and their joys attention shows how their feelings have been stirred.  In an altered mood they resume their studies, and pursue them with fresh zeal.  Perhaps all our teachers do not see its utility in this light, or it may be that some have no musical talent.

In one or two of the Graded Schools a special instructor was engaged to teach the Tonic Sol-fa System.  At the last midsummer public examination, the pupils trained by this method gave evidence of having made considerable progress, when the short time for which they were under instruction is considered.  If the training be followed up, a great benefit will be conferred.

Physical Training.

One of the most hopeful features of modern education is the recognition of the importance of physical training in school.  By educationists the necessity of the trained body as the instrument of a trained mind is fully recognized, but by the mass of teachers it is not as yet sufficiently acted upon. 

A daily drill of five or ten minutes in free gymnastics would be beneficial.  Without apparatus and without music, a skilful teacher can secure good results from what may be terms ‘free-arm movements,‘ executed by counting in time.  To these may be added ‘breathing exercises.‘  Club-swinging is a favourite exercise in many of the schools, and a well-furnished gymnasium will, in all probability, soon form part of the equipment of the schools in each of the city districts. 

Among other matters of importance under this head to which attention should be given is the teaching of pupils to sit and stand properly, as well as to walk with head erect, shoulders well back, hands at the side, and eyes to the front. When called upon to answer questions, or to read, they should be trained to stand up promptly, and not allowed to roll up or grow up.

My report has, from the nature of my duties, dealt entirely with work in the school-room.  It is the system that establishes the school, but the quality of the teacher's work finally determines educational success or failure.

I have, &c.,
D. Wilson,
Inspector of Schools.

S. D. Pope, Esq., LL.D.,
Superintendent of Education,
Victoria, B. C.


British Columbia. Annual Report of the Public Schools (Victoria: Queens Printer, 1892) 155-159.

Transcribed by Jeremy Inscho, History 349, Malaspina University-College, March 2002.