Volume I Report
Preliminary pages (i-xxxi)
Part 1 Education in a Changing World
Part 2 The Development of the Modern School
Part 3 'Secondary Education for All'
Part 5 The Sixth Form
Part 6 Technical Challenge and Educational Response
Volume II Surveys
Preliminary pages (i-xviii)
Part 1 The Social Survey
Part 2 The National Service Survey
Part 3 The Technical Courses Survey
Index of Tables (237-240)
The Crowther Report (1959)
15 to 18
A report of the Central Advisory Council for Education (England)
London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1959
376. The question of specialisation is particularised in our terms of reference, and we devote this chapter to a discussion of the problems it presents. Clearly allied to it are the problems created for the schools by the conditions of admission to the universities. Specialisation - the problem of the curriculum - and selection - the problem of university entrance - are indeed so closely interlocked that any separation of them is bound to be artificial. Nevertheless it seems essential for clarity to keep the two issues distinct, and we therefore reserve for discussion in the next chapter the questions arising out of the transition from school to university, to other forms of further education and to employment. The two chapters should be read in close conjunction. In this and the following chapter we exclude, unless specifically mentioned, reference to the problems of "General" Sixth Form courses which are raised in Chapter 27.
377. When a pupil enters the Sixth Form, he becomes a specialist - that is to say, the subjects of his serious intellectual study are confined to two or three. They are usually interlocking, especially on the science side, and are chosen, at least for potential university candidates, with an eye on faculty requirements. It is to this concentration of the mind's attention on a limited field of study that the name specialisation is given. There are considerable and important variations in the degree of specialisation between one school and another, and between one field of specialisation and another; but the general picture is constant. Boys and girls spend up to three-quarters of their time (if private study in school hours is included) in their last two or three years at school on a range of subjects which for many of them is a little, but not much, wider than that on which they will spend the next three years as undergraduates if they go to a university. The remainder of their time, which we describe in this report as "minority time", is normally divided between a considerable number of subjects and educational activities none of which receives much time or, perhaps, the full attention of the pupils. It is out of this "minority time" that provision has to be made in most day schools for organised games and physical education.
378. Specialisation, in the sense that we have used it, is a product of the nineteenth century and a consequence of the tremendous advances
in knowledge which from that time on began to mark all branches of study. The old ideal was the polymath, the man whose education fitted him to be at home in all branches of human knowledge. It is not to be thought that the bishops who were original members of the Royal Society were laymen in scientific discussions, nor that Sir Isaac Newton was an amateur bungler in biblical studies. As late as the time when John Henry Newman was an undergraduate, the honours course at Oxford demanded proficiency in both classics and mathematics. Today an all-round education is possible only to a relatively low level; the extent of human knowledge is now so great that it is impossible for a man to be really at home in the higher reaches of more than one or two subjects. The argument is not whether specialisation is desirable or unavoidable; it is about when it should begin. In England it begins for many subjects earlier than in any other country. From the age of 15, or 16 at latest, the classical specialist in an English school will spend only a small part of his actual school time on anything but Latin, Greek and ancient history; the equivalent is true of the mathematician or scientist. In most boys' schools, however, and in almost all girls' schools, pupils on the arts side specialise to a rather smaller extent in that their main subjects do not interlock so closely, though in some schools the historians and modern linguists specialise as closely as the classics.
379. In this system of specialisation for young people while they are still at school English education is singular. Neither in Western Europe nor in North America is there anything of the sort. Even nearer to home, in Scotland, the schools insist on a much wider spread of subjects in the Sixth Form than we do in England. On the continent of Europe, there is no question of dropping altogether the study of languages or history or mathematics or science, while in some countries Latin as well is kept on the compulsory list for all pupils in the most highly selective schools. There is, it is true, the possibility in the later years of following a course with a bias towards either literary or scientific studies - the situation in this respect (though, of course, at a much higher level of attainment) is rather more like that in the Fourth or Fifth Forms of an English grammar school than in the Sixth. But admission to a university or equivalent institution depends on satisfactory performance in all subjects of the curriculum, and not only in those in the direction in which the curriculum is biased. In the United States, similarly, the 17 year-old in High School takes a wide range of subjects. Sometimes, in our eyes, the variety is almost bizarre, though, if he hopes to enter a good college, its entrance requirements will impose a certain uniformity. He will then find himself taking a daily period of mathematics. science, a foreign language, history or political science.
and English; each of these subjects carries equal weight in fulfilling matriculation requirements.
380. But, if American and continental practices are united against the English in being non-specialist, there is one important respect in which England and the continent take the same side against America. In Western Europe, as in England, the secondary school is traditionally concerned with educating an elite, an intellectual aristocracy on whom the most stringent academic demands can be made and in whom there can be awakened a real love of learning. It treats them as adults capable of a reverence for knowledge, beginners in a lifelong quest for truth, which they can share with those who teach them. This outlook is shared equally by the professeur in a French lycée and the English Sixth Form master, widely though they differ in their actual methods of teaching. The intellectual task of an American Senior High School differs entirely from that of all English Sixth Form, because it is not dealing with, and would not wish to deal with, a segregated few. Not only is the climate of public opinion strongly against the segregation of the abler pupils into selective schools (though there are some recent signs of a willingness to consider this), but the standard pattern of an American High School does not even allow for the segregation of pupils inside the school into faster and slower streams. All are educated together, and there is an emphasis on problems of individual adjustment to a mass society which we would regard as more appropriate to the modern school than to the grammar school, whose pupils' characters, (so, rightly or wrongly, the English tradition insists), can be trained simultaneously with their minds by the "full rigour of the academic game" and the freedom of out-of-school activities. Thus while the English grammar school differs from the American High School both in its methods and in its objectives, our difference from the Europeans is chiefly one of method.
381. This does not alter the fact that we are isolated at least in the method we use, and that is an important enough matter to justify asking whether isolation is worth while. Indeed the singularity of the English tradition is such that we should be very wrong not to examine it most closely. We start by stating the case against specialisation. In its essence the argument against the English Sixth Form is that it introduces specialisation too early and on too narrow a front. It is said to be too early because a decision has to be made before a boy is old enough to know his own mind. Where the decision is in fact virtually made one or two years before he enters the Sixth Form we have already endorsed the criticism, but the general argument
against specialisation goes further. Not only may specialisation begin before a boy knows his own mind, but (the argument runs) before anybody can give valid advice on what his best course is. It is easy to identify the extremes of ability and incapacity in any subject, but the great majority of gifted boys and girls could probably develop reasonably well in several directions. Early preferences are often reflections of the qualities of the teaching, or of the teacher, rather than of the pupil, and it is surely well to leave a decision, which must normally be of lifelong importance, until it can be made on more substantial grounds. Specialisation is also said to begin too early because it takes place before a boy has had time to reach in his other studies and in his own psychological development that stage at which their contribution to his education can safely be left to him to develop out of his own interests. To abandon French under the first shadow of the subjunctive is probably to condemn oneself to the tourist phrase book, to be shut out of one of the great literatures of Europe. and to sacrifice half the value of the investment already made in French lessons.
382. The other great complaint about specialisation is that it is on too narrow a front. This can mean two things. It may mean that the actual subjects selected for study are themselves too restricted and too much out of the main stream, or the complaint may be about the treatment of a subject. In either case, however, the fear is that specialisation will act as a constricting frame and not a liberating agent to the boy's mind The more he learns, it is said, the more he will be cut off from his fellows, finding it possible to communicate freely only with those who have followed his own narrow course. His contacts with the rest of his peers will be confined to the level of gossip; for the things that matter he must retire into the private world of his own fellow specialists. A good education should aim at developing a man's intellectual interests on as wide a front as possible, even if it means postponing for a year or two the beginning, and therefore the end, of his specialised education. If he must specialise early, let us at least see that his specialist subjects have as wide a reference as possible.
383. These are telling criticisms against specialisation, as we know it, in principle. They apply to good schools as well as bad. A third type of criticism is not the less important because it applies only to below-average schools. In a good school, the argument runs, the really good teacher with the really good pupil may find the present system a grand way of encouraging a boy to think, but in an average school the average teacher with the average pupil will do little more than cram him. If this is true, the educational argument for specialisation, as a tool to sharpen the mind, has to be discarded; and the only
defence left is the utilitarian argument that it saves time in the total educational process from the infants' school to the post-graduate course. This argument, drawn from what is thought to happen in the average school, is a serious matter, and we have already referred to the shortage of highly qualified teachers, which may limit the quantity of true Sixth Form work that can properly be undertaken. It is not, however, obvious that to cram in eight subjects would be better than to cram in two or three.
384. Such are the arguments against specialisation. They are effective; but it is worth noting that the broad curriculum of Europe and America is almost equally under fire. England may stand alone in the nature of its solution to the problem of how to educate its ablest boys and girls, but it is not alone in being criticised for its solution. In America the burden of the complaint is, not that too many unrelated subjects are studied, but that they are not studied seriously enough. The spur of competition, the demand for hard work and high standards are, we are told, lacking. Certainly the American High School is under heavy criticism from the universities. On the continent, the complaints are nearly as insistent, but strikingly different. They are concerned with the pressure on pupils of a curriculum which makes serious academic demands, often of a competitive nature, over too wide a range of subjects. The strain, it is said, is altogether too great. It is tempting to say that the American and European criticisms between them destroy the case for a broad curriculum from 16 to 18. For if, as would appear, such a curriculum, taught in the average school by average teachers to average pupils, is either too superficial or too exhausting, then the field is left clear for the English recipe of specialisation. It is tempting, but it would be wrong, to conclude the argument with such a palpable debating point. Let it be said at once that there is no patent and perfect formula for the education of young minds and that all systems have their advantages and their defects.
385. For ourselves, after considering the matter most carefully, we are agreed in accepting and endorsing the English principle of specialisation, or intensive study, as it would be better described. It is the principle that we endorse. If that meant that we had to rest content with some of the practices that are to be observed in English schools at the present time, we might well reverse our view. There are undoubtedly some abuses of specialisation, which ought to be corrected. But the best line of advance, in our opinion, is to reaffirm the principle and reform its application rather than to abandon it altogether.
386. Before we set out the arguments that have led us to this view, there is one widespread misunderstanding which must be corrected.
To some people, the success or failure of a course of education is to be judged by what the student "knows" at the end of it. Now there are some things that every citizen "ought to know", and they cannot in the present age be confined to the "three R's". For example, we shall ourselves shortly be suggesting that nobody's formal education at school should be completed without some acquaintance with the fundamentals of scientific knowledge. Nevertheless, the acquisition of factual knowledge is by itself a poor test of any education, and a lamentably poor test of the education of boys and girls of 17 and 18. The process of education, as has been said, is not to be compared with that of filling up an empty pot, but rather with that of lighting a fire. The proper test of an education is whether it teaches the pupil to think, and whether it awakens his interest in applying his brain to the various problems and opportunities that life presents. If that has once been done, then factual knowledge can be assimilated. If it has not been done, then no amount of nodding acquaintance with widely varying fields of human knowledge will equip a boy or girl with an educated mind. We argue the case for intensive study, then, not primarily on the score of the information it provides, but because it awakens interest, teaches clear thinking and induces self-discipline in study.
387. The first step in the argument for specialisation is that able boys and girls are ready and eager by the time they are 16 - the ablest by 15 - to get down to the serious study of some one aspect of human knowledge which, with the one-sided enthusiasm of the young, they allow for a time to obscure all other fields of endeavour. "Subject-mindedness", as we have already noted, is one of the marks of the Sixth Form. It is there whether we use it or not. It is sensible to direct this great emotional impetus towards intellectual effort.
388. The second step in the argument is that concentration on a limited field leads naturally to study in depth. The boy embarks on a chain of discovery; he finds that ultimately each new fact he encounters fits into the jig-saw. As he goes deeper and deeper, he acquires self-confidence in his growing mastery of the subject. He is emancipated from the textbook and goes exploring behind the stage scenery that defines the formal academic subject. No longer does he accumulate largely isolated pieces of information and separate, unrelated skills. Most of what he does has a bearing which gradually becomes apparent to him, on the rest of his work. In a word, he begins to assume responsibility for his own education. In the course of two or three years in the Sixth Form he is bound to experience moments of frustration and periods when the material is too great to be immediately assimilated; but if he perseveres, he comes in the end into that enviable position where the picture begins to become
plain. His subject is no longer something that he must "learn"; he begins to feel himself the master of it.
389. The third step in the case for specialisation is that, through this discipline, a boy can be introduced into one or two areas which throw light on the achievement of man and the nature of the world he lives in. The honours school of Literae Humaniores (Greats) at Oxford is a classic example of specialisation or study in depth. With the aid of a precise linguistic discipline, it develops a knowledge of the literature, the history, the art and the thought of one of the great cultures of the world. At the schoolboy's much lower level, similar studies in depth, embracing more than one discipline, can be, and readily are, developed from starting points in half-a-dozen literary or scientific subjects. The science side has developed a unity which the arts side has lost, to the regret of many, with the decline of the classics. This is why the selection of material for specialisation at school is of great importance. We should reject certain fields, which are eminently suitable for specialisation at a later age, such as law or the technology of a particular industry, because they are not among the best means of introducing a boy to the fundamental processes of thought and the greatest achievements of the human mind. It should go without saying that a school should not offer a subject for specialisation just because it will be vocationally useful in later life. If that result follows, as it often does, it is incidental. The proper concern in the school years should be the development of the pupil's brain and character, not of his future earning capacity. This is not, of course, to deny the strong vocational interest which from the pupil's side may enter into his choice of a specialist study.
390. The fourth step in the argument is that, given the right teaching, a boy will by the end of his school days begin to come out on the further side of "subject-mindedness". He is hardly likely to do that, perhaps, much before 18; but, as he sees how the facts he has been handling in his own subject knit together, he begins to wonder how his subject fits into the whole field of knowledge. He reaches out for himself towards a wider synthesis. As he enjoys the first delights of intellectual mastery of his own subject, he observes that his fellows have the same joy in their subjects, and his interest impels him to discover what lies behind their enthusiasm. If a boy turns that intellectual corner, as he often does at the end of his Sixth Form time, we can be sure that, narrow as his education may have been during the last few years, he will take steps to widen it as well as deepen it.
391. The fifth step in the argument is that this process of intellectual growth demands a great deal of concentrated time. It virtually enforces specialisation because the time left for other subjects is bound to be small - rarely can it he more than one-third. This
intellectual ripening depends, too, on a close personal relation between pupils and teacher which can only be established if they spend many hours together in the intimacy of a small teaching group. In Chapter 21 we identified this "intellectual discipleship" as one of the marks of the Sixth Form. We must recognise that it is inconsistent with the small weekly time allocations for each subject which a wider curriculum would entail. The intellectual level of any type of Sixth Form work requires subject teaching by specialists; but, if the specialist teaching is also to be personal teaching, it is necessary that the pupils themselves should also be specialists.
392. But, while we accept the case for specialisation on these broad educational grounds, we reject one of the most common arguments advanced in its favour - that specialisation at school is necessary if pupils are to be brought up to the necessary standards to get university entrance. It is no part of our duty, nor is it within our competence, to consider what standards should be set for a first degree at a university, and, consequently, how long the course should be. We are, however, very much concerned to make it clear that an arbitrary fixing by the universities of the stage that a boy or girl should have reached by 18, (standards which are determined by "counting back" from the degree standard) should not be allowed to determine the nature and content of education given in pre-university years, especially (but not entirely) since less than half of the boys and girls in the Sixth Form will be going to a university. We have two main groups of complaints about things as they are. The first group concerns the specialist subjects themselves and really arises from the pressure that is put on the schools by the universities. The length of the whole course of professional training, embracing both school and university, has not been stretched to match the enormous expansion of the corpus of human knowledge, especially on the scientific side. The attempt is made to pour a quart of professional competence into the pint pot of a very few years. To take a boy from Ordinary level to graduation - as graduation is currently understood in this country - in five years is to attempt more than can be done properly in the time. Our second group of complaints is concerned with the use that is made of what we have called minority time.*
393. Our criticism of the existing syllabuses is based on two beliefs. The first is that what is taught in any subject should be taught because it is right for the pupil at that stage of his development, and not because it will be convenient for his teachers in the next stage of his education to be able to take certain knowledge for granted. The second belief is that the job of the Sixth Form is above all to
*See para. 377.
teach a boy to think and not just to memorise facts. How does the syllabus for the work of the Mathematical and Science Sixth stand in relation to these two principles? The main difficulty, and a main glory, of both mathematics and the natural sciences is the constant growth of knowledge. The syllabuses therefore naturally expand. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The capacity to assimilate new knowledge is apparently itself expanding. In time, quite ordinary people master as a matter of course what a few generations before was a mystery for the elect. Samuel Pepys was already at the Admiralty before he learned the multiplication table; today candidates of 15 to 16 are examined each year at Ordinary level in the processes of the differential calculus, which fifty years ago was known only to a few thousand Englishmen. But the expansion in the curriculum can be too rapid and cause temporary congestion. If we extend the syllabus in one direction, we should try to curtail it elsewhere. Periodical revisions of the intellectual diet are in fact necessary. The evidence given to us, and our own comparisons of Higher School Certificate with Advanced level syllabuses covering a span of thirty years, suggest that such a review is now imperative, and that it should include the specialist curriculum of the Science Sixth as a whole, and not only subject by subject. The volume of the syllabus has in general been increased - new topics have been added without compensating reductions, and the quantity of each topic, in the sense of detail rather than of penetrative thought, has been maintained. The Science Masters' Association told us that the existing syllabuses were very far from what they would wish to see, especially referring us to the accumulation of factual knowledge that is required at the expense of opportunities for developing intellectual curiosity. One division of the Incorporated Association of Head Masters, writing on the need to see specialist studies in relation to the whole field of human understanding, reports that "the science teacher's work in this direction is severely limited by the great amount of factual knowledge and practical skill demanded, not involving any depth of human understanding". The work of many science specialists in schools is in fact, we are told, far removed from the scientific spirit of enquiry. We are convinced that the disciplines proper to the Science Sixth can be a suitable instrument of a liberal education. But, until syllabuses have been revised with this purpose in mind, and are no longer regarded simply as the first stages in the vocational training of a scientific worker, it is impossible not to endorse many of the current criticisms of the ill results of over-specialisation.
394. The criticism we would make of the arts syllabuses is of a different nature. it can at least be said of the science specialists that their "majority time" is given to a closely knit group of subjects
which support one another. Alternative courses are normally provided - one in the physical sciences, and another in the biological. A third course for a few mathematicians proper exists in some, but by no means all, schools. These three courses are sufficiently related in character and approach for pupils following anyone of them to feel that they are engaged in kindred work with pupils on the other courses. No such unity exists in most schools in the Arts Sixth. It is true that where there are separate classical, history and modern languages Sixth Forms each provides an integrated course which can compare in intellectual coherence with that given on the science side; but in the majority of schools there is commonly a free selection of three main subjects from a field of five or six. English, history, geography, Latin, French, a second modern language and, quite often, economics and divinity are found in many combinations. Out of these diverse elements, integrated and mutually supporting courses of study can be, and are, built, but it does not happen of itself and must be carefully contrived, not only by arranging suitable combinations of subjects, but by seeing that the teaching of one makes use of the knowledge which has been gained in others. The membership of Advanced level sets in English, history and French will, for instance, usually overlap but be far from identical - cross-fertilisation is perfectly possible and highly stimulating. Too often, however, the subjects tend to be taught in isolation, and we are in some doubt how far the virtues of intensive study apply to the work or an Arts Sixth organised in this way. Certainly specialisation has a different connotation when applied to the Arts and to the Science Sixth.
395. A boy finds when he enters the Arts Sixth that the number of teaching periods he will get in each of his three main subjects is increased by one or two, or at most by three, over what he has been accustomed to in the Fifth Form. Greater and more significant will be the increase in the time given to him to work on his own at these subjects. A rough estimate suggests that he will now have for each subject about as much time for private work at school and at home as he has of teaching, and later on even more. In the Fifth Form the ratio of teaching to private work was probably 2 to 1 or even 3 to 1. To read widely - real books, not textbooks; to reflect and argue fiercely about what he has read and heard; to write frequently, freely, critically, imaginatively, accurately - these are the ways in which the arts specialist gets his liberal education (and to some extent the science specialist as well). It is pertinent to ask how much of the time available is spent in these ways. How much goes in hearing lectures and writing up notes afterwards? How much on writing down dictated notes? How much on "getting up" from a text book selected facts and ready-made opinions? To what extent are these practices forced on schools by pressure of time and an externally
prescribed syllabus? Or by the quality of the teachers available? It is worth going back to the comparison made in the last paragraph between the practice of different schools. The contrast is not only between, so to speak, a table d'hôte and an à la carte menu, but often between two subjects at Advanced level and three. Those schools which cut down the number of Advanced level subjects have more time for study in depth. The difference is often reflected in the quantity and quality of boys' reading lists, which in schools offering three subjects are not infrequently largely restricted to set books and the larger textbooks. The schools that offer two subjects only at Advanced level are able to spend longer on the same examination syllabus, which means, for instance, that the opinions a boy expresses can be based on a more thorough examination of evidence - though of course, this does not always happen. Narrowing the examination field ought to mean deepening the quality of study; it can, however, be used merely to acquire more facts. If this is all the difference, three subjects may be better than two; but, if the teaching is good enough, the smaller field will better serve the purposes of a liberal education. We doubt whether three semi-detached arts subjects can really be studied in depth. At any rate, two is what we would prescribe for the able boy from a limited home background. In fact, it is the able boy from a favoured environment who most often gets it.
396. There are, however, schools which enter their better pupils for four Advanced level subjects. It is largely a boys' school matter and a regional one. One division of the Incorporated Association of Head Masters recently found from a survey of 48 schools that in this group the typical boys' school had 62 Sixth Form pupils only two of whom would be taking four subjects. A similar survey of 83 boys' schools in another division of the Association showed that on the arts side one-eighth of the pupils and on the science side one-third were taking four Advanced level subjects. Where four subjects are taken, a higher proportion of the whole school week is given to specialist work, but an inadequate amount of time to each of the four subjects to permit of real study in depth. This is surely a formula for getting the worst of all worlds. In the area where four subjects were commonly taken the allocation of time to specialist subjects ranged from 24 to 32 periods, with 28 as the most common allocation, out of a 35 period week. We have no hesitation in condemning this practice of taking four Advanced level subjects. It makes any idea of a balanced curriculum unrealistic, and, while increasing specialist time, adds to the difficulty of making a proper educational use of it by piling up the burden of facts to be borne in the memory. It is true that the practice is declining at present, but we fear that the increased pressure to enter universities may lead to a revival. If this happens,
we think the Secondary School Examinations Council should be asked to consider how it could best be discouraged.
397. Our second main criticism of the present practice of specialisation - and perhaps the most important - concerns the use to which the minority time, amounting usually to between one-quarter and one-third of the time-table, is put. We are strengthened in our view by the fact that it is plainly shared by many of the schools. One of the main functions of minority time should be to provide a complementary element in the curriculum; and if it is properly used, we think it will provide a remedy for some of the most serious of the justified complaints about the dangers of over-specialisation. What actually happens at present? Normally the minority time is divided between a large number of subjects none of which gets more than two periods a week, or at the very most three; a good many get only one. A typical programme for minority time in the North-East of England looks something like this:
Other subjects and combinations would be available, but these seem to be the most widely chosen. Neither to teachers nor to pupils do they represent a major commitment or concern. Both have, in their own estimation, more important things to do. There is great pressure to use the available private study and homework time for the specialist studies - they represent commitments which must be met if a satisfactory Advanced level record is to be achieved. There is, normally speaking, no such similar incentive to devote unallocated time to the subjects taught in minority time. Some boys, it is true, have to work hard to qualify for university or professional entrance by adding Ordinary level passes in subjects which they either did not take or failed to pass a year before. They have an incentive to work, but the work is of an elementary character. The masters teaching general subjects are chary for understandable reasons of making heavy demands on their pupils outside the pittance of assigned periods. A very little reading, done only by the keenest, and perhaps one short essay a term may well be all that religious instruction involves beyond attendance at one lecture or discussion period a week. English may well involve a little more writing - perhaps five or six short pieces in a year - but much, perhaps most, of the time
will be given to reading plays or poetry together in a way that provides a series of very valuable introductions without, however, leading on to developed, intensive study. The foreign language teaching is frequently of a "care and maintenance" order, "keeping up" a knowledge already gained, so that unseens may be tackled without disgrace in university or college entrance examinations. It will be noticed that all the subjects we have discussed are arts subjects. This is because only a minority of schools make any provision for mathematics and the natural sciences in the Sixth Form except as specialist subjects. It may be thought that the picture we have painted is too gloomy. For some individual schools it would be, but we doubt whether their number is growing rapidly, though there are signs of improvement. In the generality of boys' schools the practice is not unlike that which we have sketched here. In girls' schools it is probably somewhat better.
398. In schools where the conditions we have described in the last paragraph prevail, little is done to make science specialists more "literate" than they were when they left the Fifth Form and nothing to make arts specialists more "numerate", if we may coin a word to represent the mirror image of literacy. What is achieved is far nearer a successful holding operation, which prevents a relapse into illiteracy, than an advance commensurate with the growing maturity and ability of the boys. Some of the blame for this relative failure may perhaps rightly be put down to the pressure of the specialist subjects; but more, we feel, belongs to the way in which the minority time is organised. Fragmentation to the degree to which it is practised invites a lack of seriousness among the teachers and the taught. The heaviest blame, however, belongs, we believe, to a failure of determination. Schools and universities agree in theory on the need for balanced education; in practice, however, they refuse to will the means, and therefore must be held to deny the end. We attach great value to the English practice of specialisation. Equally, we attach great importance to those complementary elements in the Sixth Form curriculum which are designed to develop the literacy of science specialists and the numeracy of arts specialists.
399. What do we mean by literacy for a Sixth Former? In the first place we imply the ability to speak and write clearly and correctly at a level commensurate with his general intellectual ability, and to understand thoroughly what others write. This is much more than a simple knowledge of spelling and grammar - though accuracy in these is important. It is not something which can be acquired, at any rate by most boys, by the time they leave the Fifth Form. They are not by that time mature enough to understand the ideas and concepts - in politics or science, for instance - which they will need
to master and express as they grow older. During their Sixth Form years they will need to use language to express more difficult ideas and to develop more extended and complex arguments than they have met before. They need also to develop the skill to follow closely a chain of reasoning and to detect fallacies in it. The ability to do these things does not come to most people without teaching and practice. It is no part of our purpose to discuss teaching methods; our concern is to see that schools recognise the task and provide the time. A pass in "English language" at Ordinary level at the age of 16 does not guarantee effective communication at the level of an 18 year-old.
400. But by the literacy at which a Sixth Former should aim we mean much more than this. We mean that he should, by the time he leaves, be some distance on the way to becoming a well-read man. The teachers to whom he will say good-bye when he leaves school should have introduced him to the company of teachers to whom he need never say good-bye: great writers and thinkers whose work is a permanent enlargement of the human spirit. In history or in literature he can encounter human problems and get wisdom and understanding as he follows the interplay of the ponderable and imponderable forces which shape human destiny. By 15 he is ready for very little of this; but if he has not begun to find it by the time he is 18 or 19 he may never do so, for in the adult world he will have to find it for himself. The years in the Sixth Form are crucial years in which the foundations of a sound social and moral judgement can be laid. They are the seed-time for a lifelong harvest.
401. Literacy has long been important, and its value is as great as ever. Just as by "literacy", in this context, we mean much more than its dictionary sense of the ability to read and write, so by "numeracy" we mean more than mere ability to manipulate the rule of three. When we say that a scientist is "illiterate", we mean that he is not well enough read to be able to communicate effectively with those who have had a literary education. When we say that a historian or a linguist is "innumerate" we mean that he cannot even begin to understand what scientists and mathematicians are talking about. The aim of a good Sixth Form should be to send out into the world men and women who are both literate and numerate. It is perhaps possible to distinguish two different aspects of numeracy that should concern the Sixth Former. On the one hand is an understanding of the scientific approach to the study of phenomena - observation, hypothesis, experiment, verification. On the other hand, there is the need in the modern world to think quantitatively, to realise how far our problems are problems of degree even when they appear as problems of kind. Statistical ignorance and statistical
fallacies are quite as widespread and quite as dangerous as the logical fallacies which come under the heading of illiteracy. The man who is innumerate is cut off from understanding some of the relatively new ways in which the human mind is now most busily at work. Numeracy has come to be an indispensable tool to the understanding and mastery of all phenomena, and not only of those in the relatively close field of the traditional natural sciences. The way in which we think, marshal our evidence and formulate our arguments in every field today is influenced by techniques first applied in science. The educated man, therefore, needs to be numerate as well as literate. Side by side with this need for understanding a new and essential approach to knowledge, the educated man also requires a general acquaintance with the directions in which science is most rapidly advancing and with the nature of the new knowledge that is being acquired. Neither the understanding of scientific method nor this general scientific knowledge is possible unless a sound foundation has been laid in the main school by thorough mathematical and scientific teaching. However able a boy may be, he cannot reach a Sixth Form level of numeracy except on the foundation of a Fifth Form level; but, if his numeracy has stopped short at the usual Fifth Form level, he is in danger of relapsing into innumeracy. It is now one of the most important tasks of the Sixth Form to ensure that no boy or girl leaves school as innumerate as most have done in the past, and as far too many do even today. The boys' schools at least can no longer be criticised for providing an inadequate proportion of science specialists. The task that boys' no less than girls' schools have little more than begun is that of seeing that the Sixth Former who is not going to be a scientist or a technologist is given enough understanding of the scientific side of human knowledge to be able to hold his or her own in an increasingly scientific and technological world. By whatever means this problem is tackled in the schools, it will make heavy demands on really good teachers. But we believe that it must be done, and that the fruits will amply repay the labour
402. The literacy of the scientist and the numeracy of the arts specialist are clearly complementary needs, and it is sometimes suggested that these could be catered for by a "general studies" course in which (or in parts of which) all would find what they need. The idea is tidy and to that extent attractive. Periods could be reserved on the time-table in which the various specialist teachers might make their contributions, and pupils would, therefore, in this way obtain a general conspectus of the contributions which the different branches of the curriculum make to human culture. At a later stage, there is much to be said for such an encyclopaedic approach; but we do not
believe that it is suited to the needs of the Sixth Form. Its members have hardly yet reached the depth of knowledge in any one subject which makes introductory lectures to others profitable. The time given to any subject would necessarily be slight, and the treatment superficial. Both the science specialist and the arts specialist need for their complementary studies a syllabus which is serious enough to provide and call for real study and hard work - "something to get their teeth into". There, perhaps, the resemblance ends. The arts specialist has one over-riding deficiency which is only likely to be met in one way in any given school; the science specialist has needs which can be met in several ways and there are possibilities of various options. The two problems are, therefore, clearly distinguishable and are discussed separately in paragraphs 411 and 413 below.
403. Another proposal has been made to serve the same end. It is reasonable to leave the question of the literacy of a boy on the arts side to his specialist studies; but we cannot, as things now are, trust to his minority time to make him numerate. Similarly, the science specialist may well remain imperfectly literate. How can we enable predominantly arts men to speak and to understand, to some extent, the scientists' language? The proposal has been made that three subjects at Advanced level should remain the normal Sixth Form programme, but for the arts specialist one of these would generally be a scientific subject, and for the scientist one would be taken from the arts curriculum. Some readjustment of syllabuses at Advanced level would be necessary, and the result perhaps would be something like the continental system, but on a less broadly extended front, in order that for each Advanced level subject there might roughly remain the same quantity of class time and private study as at present. This plan would have the great advantage of simplicity, as well as that of being economical in staff. One pattern of this kind is common in girls' schools where biology at Advanced level is quite frequently taken by girls who are also offering two arts subjects. Other "bridge programmes" are, however, uncommon, and this too may be significant. If this plan were to be suitable for pupils who had a university course in mind, it would probably also involve some adjustment in university syllabuses.
404. Clearly this sort of arrangement, where it is practicable, is much better than nothing, and in a number of schools there may for some time be no other way of providing numeracy for the arts specialist. But we have, though with regret, come to the conclusion that this also does not provide an effective remedy for the monocular vision which our present system too often produces. We think that it would make specialisation less effective and valuable than it is now without providing a satisfactory way of securing numeracy for the
arts specialist and literacy for the scientist. It is best to take these objections separately.
405. First, then, what would be lost? It is basic to our thinking that what is done in "majority-time" should form a coherent whole, one subject continuously reinforcing another so that teaching and learning may be enriched by cross-references. The science side, as we have seen, nearly always provides this kind of specialisation; the arts side sometimes does and sometimes does not. A hybrid curriculum would reduce the valuable interlocking element for everybody by roughly one-third - that portion of the majority time allocated to the unrelated study. In practice the value of the two interlocking subjects would, we suspect, be reduced still further by the presence in a class or pupils who had no supporting specialist subject - the arts specialists doing their one science subject, and the scientists their arts course - and who would, therefore, be less familiar than the others with the general context of the particular work in hand.
406. It is fairly clear that a "subject-minded" pupil, as the best are at this age, is likely to resent anything that takes much of his attention from his main interests. He may well regard interlocking subjects as falling within his proper sphere, but he is pretty certain to regard the unrelated subject as a thief of his time and attention. He may put up with it because that is the way the school, or the university entrance requirements, insist on ordering things; but, although he may be an industrious worker, he will not he a satisfactory Sixth Form pupil. "I've got to get an A level in history" is, at best. an invitation to be crammed, not taught. It seems clear to us that, although this plan may command the interest of those pupils whose interests are diffuse, it would not solve the problems of most of the intellectually better Sixth Formers.
407. Our second objection is that the proposed overlapping programmes would not provide what we regard as essential because they would be bound to ignore the valid distinction between the study of a subject which is being tackled for the last time in formal education - a terminal study as it may be called - and advanced work which is designed to lead on to further study at the university or elsewhere. The latter type of course is normal for Sixth Form specialist work. The purpose of teaching history to specialists is not to store their minds with facts, but to enable them to approach a problem historically, to enter into the past and interpret it, and to begin to appreciate the nature of historical evidence. The choice of period, though important, is itself, for them, secondary; but for non-specialists it is of primary importance. Altogether different criteria are appropriate in planning a course for non-specialists whose last formal history teaching this may be. The science specialist too will
almost certainly continue his scientific education after he leaves school. The work he does at school is preparatory, and much of it must be concerned with the mastery of techniques and the acquisition of knowledge which are more relevant to his future needs than to his present understanding. But the arts specialist will in all probability receive no more science teaching after he leaves school, and the pupil from the science side will be in a corresponding position with regard to arts work. Neither, then, needs to acquire the skills and techniques required to carry their off-subject to a high level. Both require a course which will, so to speak, enable them to see what the other side is getting at. Advanced level syllabuses are not designed for this purpose; nor do we see how they could be revised to do this without spoiling them for their major purpose. This is one case where amateurs cannot be mixed with professionals.
408. But though we do not feel able to accept either of these short cuts, we are very far indeed from suggesting that there are no needs that all Sixth Formers have in common, and nothing that they cannot study with advantage together. This common ground includes religious instruction - or, rather, the very much wider field of everything that contributes to the formation of moral standards - art (also in the widest sense), and physical education. There is no reason why arts and science specialists should not be brought together for these purposes, and many reasons why they should. Music, especially in the form of appreciation, is very commonly provided; art appreciation quite often. Opportunities to paint, to carve stone or wood, or to model in clay are relatively seldom available in school time. It is our belief that the non-verbal arts have a most important contribution to make to education, and not least to the education of the ablest pupils. The education we give them is so highly and necessarily verbalised - and this applies in some measure to science as well as to the literary subjects - that it needs a counterpoise. The non-verbal arts are quite as important as physical education at this age, and we believe that opportunity for appreciation and the practice of one of them, freely chosen, should be available to the Sixth Former and that he should be actively encouraged to use them.
409. All Sixth Formers also share a common spiritual heritage. They bring to it many different attitudes. The approach, and the recoil, of the history specialist and the science specialist are likely to be different but complementary. The study of the "Christian Religion and its Philosophy", as the School Broadcasting Council now describes its series for Sixth Forms, involves ventures into scientific method and historical criticism as well as into philosophy and straight religious exposition, and this is bound to happen whether or not a school uses the broadcast talks as a basis for its teaching.
There is much to be gained from making the periods set apart for this purpose periods in which arts and science specialists can join together - provided that the members of the group know each other well enough to make discussion profitable. Each side, as we have said, has its own separate contribution to make and its characteristic viewpoint, but the reason they come together is common to both. It is the endeavour to discover and to understand the central affirmations of the Christian faith so that (whether they accept it or not) they at least may know what Christians believe.
410. In our view, then - to sum up the argument to the point it has now reached - there should be not two but three elements in a sound Sixth Form curriculum. The first and largest should be the specialist element, on which a boy will spend, say, two-thirds of his time in school and much the greater part of his homework. Secondly there should be the common element, when scientists and arts specialists should come together. And, thirdly, so to speak between the other two, there should be the complementary element, whose purposes - and in our view they must in the main be pursued separately - are to save the scientists from illiteracy and the arts specialists from innumeracy. In the next two sections we shall take up this complementary element and attempt to explain what, in our view, it should contain on either side. But first it is perhaps necessary to meet the possible objection that three distinct elements in a Sixth Form curriculum is more than can be squeezed into the time-table. We do not think this is so. Out of the conventional total of 35 periods a week, 25 or 26 (plus almost all the homework) ought to be enough for the specialist subjects, unless the pupil's programme is hopelessly overloaded (for example, by four Advanced level subjects). That leaves 9 or 10 periods for the common and complementary elements. Four or five periods for the common subjects is not a great deal, but it is probably about as much as can profitably be used. That leaves about the same for the "complementary" courses. If this amount of time is used in a purposeful and concentrated way, we believe that it could achieve a great deal. It is, in any case, doubtful whether more than a handful of schools could find staff for the sort of courses we are about to describe to an extent greater than is implied in 3 or 4 periods a week. We do not, of course, pretend that we have discovered a magical formula by which the circle can be squared and enough time be found for everything that has to be done in the Sixth Form. It is here that, for most people, the supply of time first begins to run badly short of the demands they put upon it - never, in most lives, to catch up. Our concern is only to show that, by analysing the content of a Sixth Form curriculum under three heads, we are not suggesting any net addition to the burden that the time-table has to bear.
411. There is no special difficulty in providing science specialists with the means of making themselves literate in the broad sense which we have given to this term - the establishment of moral, aesthetic and social judgement, and the development of adequate powers of verbal communication. It is something that schools are well able and well staffed to undertake. Literacy is bred in the bone of a school. To induce it is the teacher's familiar task. His pupils have the rudiments by the time they leave the Fifth Form; in the Sixth Form the task is one of development. What difficulty there is (apart from the perpetual problem or finding time) is likely to turn on the choice between the rich fields of opportunity. Some real language study is surely essential - practice in the skill of writing, and writing appropriately in different styles for different purposes; and, when it is possible, beyond that and in relation to it, some introduction to syntax and etymology as instruments of precision in thought. The art of reading for understanding and appreciation - the mastery of a complicated document, the appreciation alike of shades of meaning and beauties of expression - is something that can only be acquired by study. But, then, there is another side to literacy. No science specialist, it seems to us, should be deprived of the chance to see human society as it is now, as it has been in history, and as it should be - that world of men which is more precious, less predictable, more fragile and yet more resilient than the world of machines. The proper study of mankind can be approached in a dozen ways. Some schools will have a teacher who can stir young blood with the old issues of that French Revolution which turned the world upside down; in another there may be a classic with the gift for bringing scientists to the feet of Plato; in a third Shakespeare or T. S. Eliot may hold the needed key. Other schools and other pupils may find what they need in the study of a foreign language; but, to be worth its place as a main complementary element in the curriculum, it must be carried far enough to give the pupil some insight into the life and outlook and, if possible, the literature of the people whose language he is studying. And that implies adequate time - more than a token number of periods each week and for not less than one year. Without that, it does not seem to us worth while.
412. These two aspects of literacy - the basic one of language and communication, and the developed one which includes all that is conjured up by the term "the humanities" - can be satisfied either in conjunction in one subject or separately, and in many forms. The great danger is, of course, that of yielding to the familiar temptation of trying to do so much that nothing is well done. A properly
balanced combination is important, but the complementary subjects will weigh too little if there are too many of them, each with a derisory ration of time. The right prescription for any single school must depend on its individual circumstances (not least on the teaching strength available); but it is worth remembering that English subjects do not as a group require continuous and uninterrupted treatment. A good weekly time allocation, including provision for private study for one subject over a relatively extensive period, followed by similar arrangements for another, is a better programme, where it is possible, than shorter concurrent time allocations for each. We need to think of a rota of subjects and a curriculum planned in units of one (or at most two) complementary subjects at a time, each lasting for a term or a year. If the science specialists are numerous enough, there is no reason why there should not be alternative courses and every reason why there should.
413. Schools are much further off finding a solution for the numeracy of arts specialists. The majority ignore the problem and make no provision. The minority most commonly provide a history of science, which is apt to turn into another literary subject. A few schools have made bold experiments designed to provide the kind of numeracy which we described in an earlier paragraph. They are, however, no more than pilot experiments. Standard science courses have been designed almost exclusively for the preliminary training of future scientists, and not nearly enough attention has been given to the role of science in the general education of men and women who specialise in other things. This is a matter which at the university level is profitably engaging the attention of some of the best scientific minds. It is one of the most urgent tasks that confronts the schools today.
414. The pioneers in the schools have shown that a well thought-out course can open eyes that never expected to see a scientific prospect. We assume that mathematics and science will normally have been among the subjects studied by arts specialists up to roughly Ordinary level standard. This represents probably the minimum equipment without which the kind of course we have in mind would prove impracticable. The pupils will by then have done sufficient individual laboratory work to make it reasonable (as it will certainly be necessary) to substitute demonstration for experiment over much of the Sixth Form course. On an Ordinary level foundation we could hope to accomplish something worthwhile with four periods a week, but it would be possible to make a start with three, or even with two periods, if that is all for which staff could be found. Fruitful experiments of many kinds have been made and we are indebted to the
Science Masters' Association for a clear appreciation of the problem as they now see it. Theirs is an interim report; and we are all still in the stage when we recognise the end, but are not sure we have found the means. The Science Masters' Association identify four aims. The first is to provide an introduction to "scientific method": how the scientist approaches his experiments, what sort of answer satisfies him, how his mind works. The second is to develop five or six fundamental scientific topics such as energy, living and dead matter, evolution, cosmology. The third is to illustrate the impact of science on society; and the fourth its impact on philosophy and religion. They believe that those aims could be achieved by the method of a close study of certain "case histories" or sequences of scientific discovery. Newtonian physics and Darwinian evolution are two examples that spring to mind. The study of both can be rooted in observation; used to illustrate the way in which theories are formed, tested and modified; and developed to illustrate the profound influence of science on society and on philosophy and religion. Other case histories can be found and will be needed; but the Science Masters' Association would, if we understand them rightly, lay down as a criterion for selection that no "case history" should be chosen to form part of a course in numeracy for arts specialists which does not to some degree satisfy all four aims. We agree. There are other methods which can be devised to satisfy these aims. The period of experiments is by no means finished. We would insist that the matter is one of urgency, and that concerted efforts should be made to see not only that a choice of suitable courses is planned to meet the needs of every Sixth Form, but also that sufficient staff are available to undertake them. This will involve no doubt a considerable training programme. Many qualified and successful teachers of science, as it has been taught, will require short refresher courses to make them aware of what is involved in the new task that is being put upon them. They will need in some instances a wider and clearer apprehension of what science is about than even their own training gave them, or than they are giving to the science specialists in their own Advanced level courses. ft ought not to be possible to say this of future generations of science teachers; but, if they are to be free of the imputation, there will have to be a thorough reconsideration of their training both in its scientific and professional aspects.
415. Our awareness of the great additional demands these courses must make on highly qualified - and scarce - staff leads us to examine with great sympathy any suggestions for economy. Is it possible to provide the kind of interpretative course we have in mind jointly for the Arts and Science Sixths? Both need teaching which will help them to find their bearings in the world of science and its relation
to other worlds. There is nothing of this in syllabuses up to the Ordinary level, and could not be. It is essentially a Sixth Form problem. Both arts and science specialists will, we hope, in future have followed a common course in science, or at any rate a largely common course, until the end of the Fifth Form. They start from the same position. Why cannot they travel further together to the good of their own souls and with a considerable economy in staff? The argument is attractive in the same way, and for the same reasons, as the plan for a mixed specialist curriculum which we discussed in paragraphs 403 to 407. It differs from it by suggesting that the technical element in the education of science specialists, the preparatory work for the professional superstructure, should be designed for, and taken by, them alone. In this way it meets one of the principal objections to the other plan - that it would give the arts specialists what they do not want, and withhold from them what they need. But, for all that, a common course in the general aspects of science does not seem to us often likely to be practicable. It would involve the dilemma of whether or not to use scientific and mathematical symbols and language. Without them, the course would be likely to seem child's play to the scientists; if they are used freely, the arts specialists are likely to be left far behind. For the science specialist a common course with the arts men in general principles and a separate course in subject matter would cut his science course as a whole most undesirably in two. The course in the general principles of science would either have to take the form of theories isolated from evidence, or of inferences from another set of observations than those that form the staple of his Advanced level work, with which the arts specialists would not be familiar. Arts and science specialists may indeed start from the same place, but they travel at very different speeds. This is in our view the insuperable objection to a joint course in the principles of science. The science specialist should get the broader view, and a realisation of the social implications of science, within the revised curriculum of his specialist subject itself. The arts specialist should get his numeracy from a special course tailored to his needs.
416. There is probably general agreement about the sort of things that the different groups of boys and girls in Sixth Forms ought to be taught in their minority time. There is very much less agreement about the kind of measures that are necessary if they are to be taught effectively, or even taught at all. How can we so arm these subjects that they are able to survive in a curriculum dominated by the jungle law of the survival of the fittest?
417. No artificial stimulus is necessary in a good school where the headmaster and the heads of departments are seized with the importance of the minority time and let their opinion of it be widely known among the boys. All schools will never be like this, and perhaps we shall have long to wait before even the average school could justly be described in this way. Would external examinations help the average school? In what way could they hinder it? Examinations have come to have such a high value for Englishmen that most unexamined subjects are regarded with indifference. An obvious step would be to submit the work done in minority time to external examination - not merely to examine it, but to incorporate it in examinations that the specialist has to pass, such as university entrance examinations. Nevertheless, we think there are decisive objections to any imposed external examination of complementary subjects - unless indeed, it takes a very broad form such as the "general paper" that most Oxford and Cambridge colleges include in their entrance examinations. There are two major ones: first, that it would prescribe a syllabus, and secondly, that, as scripts multiplied, marking standards would inevitably tend unduly to reward meticulous preparation which had been careful to cover the whole field. These are very serious objections. The schools are little beyond the beginnings of finding suitable science courses for arts specialists, and we believe that any externally imposed rigidity would at this stage almost destroy the possibility of doing anything useful. To some extent this is true also of the literacy courses we want to see established for the science specialists. The other objection, the depressing effect on teaching of the kind of marking which is necessary in a large-scale examination, is a very real danger.
418. Nevertheless, some sort of adventitious incentive is probably essential. Where can one be found? The most potent in our view is that those who are responsible for the next stage in a pupil's career should show as lively and informed an interest in the use he has made of his minority time as they do in his specialist work. We shall return to the selective aspect in the next chapter. Here we are concerned with how to convey the information about what he has done and how well he has done it. There are various possibilities, some of which are at present being tried out experimentally. The best known solution is the General Paper at Advanced level which is now being given a trial by the Northern Universities' Joint Matriculation Board. In its experimental run, when it was taken by only a few schools, it proved a stimulating influence on Sixth Form work. It is not yet clear whether the growth in the number of scripts to be examined will have a deadening effect, or whether, despite its sponsors' wishes, what is intended to be merely a general paper will become in effect the paper examining the work done in a
"general subject", about the value of which we expressed doubts in paragraph 402. Another possibility would be to record on the certificate given as a result of the Advanced level examination an assessment of the work done in the minority time side by side with the examination results of the specialist work. Such an assessment might, perhaps, be made internally with the help of an external assessor. Some Institutes of Education* are using analogous methods of continuous assessment instead of examinations to judge the progress of students in teacher training colleges. This method would convey both what a Sixth Former had done with his minority time and how successfully he had used it. A third method would merely record the subjects he had studied in his minority time, leaving university or employer to find out by interview, or in some other way, how well he had worked and how good he was. It is worth remembering, too, that headmasters write reports both to parents, and confidentially to employers and university authorities, which can, and do, comment on the use that a candidate has made of his minority time. They can hardly do this satisfactorily for our purpose, however, where the school, as well as the individual pupils, fails to take it seriously. There are thus a number of methods that could be used, and it should not be difficult to find which of them is the most suitable, once the essential point has been made, and school, pupil, employer and university all alike come to realise that the proper employment of a Sixth Former's minority time is nearly as important as his performance in his specialist subjects - important not only for its own sake but for the immediate purpose of being admitted to the next stage in his career.
419. We summarise below our conclusions on the curriculum of those pupils following Advanced level courses in the Sixth Form.
(a) We endorse the principle of specialisation, or study in depth.*See Glossary under Training College.
subjects. The number of pupils taking four subjects is falling, but is still too high, especially in certain areas.(c) There are two purposes for which the minority time should be used, which we distinguish as complementary and common.