Sir Ronald Gould convocation address

Address by Sir Ronald Gould, M.A. Hon. F.E.I.S., President of the World Confederation of Organisations of the Teaching Profession and General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers of England and Wales - The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 26th October 1962.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen:

I was deeply moved and grateful that the Senate of the University of British Columbia should have honoured me in this fashion. I regard it as a singular tribute that you have chosen a representative of the teaching profession to be thus honoured, for the magnificent contribution of your university to the progress of education, not only in this Province but in Canada as a whole, is a well known international fact.

It is an opportune moment at this ceremony, taking place so shortly after the opening of your new building for the Faculty and College of Education for me to talk for a few minutes about education in our modern society and the role of the teaching profession in it.

All over the world, Mr. President, education is an EXPLOSIVE issue reflecting social, economic political, technological and demographical developments.

There is an explosion of population.

There is an explosion of demand for school places and consequently for new buildings and equipment. There is an explosion of demand for highly skilled personnel for industry and commerce in an age of ever improving technology. And there in an explosion of demand for teachers to man the educational system and this in turn has created the massive explosion of need for expansion in higher education institutes.

This is a world-wide phenomenon. For just as the peoples of the newly emerging nations realise that education offers the key to the defeat of illiteracy and its concomitantly acute poverty and disease, so the advanced industrial states appreciate that their industrial basis is dependent upon the ability of their peoples to absorb a constantly expanding body of scientific and other knowledge. No society can afford to rest from its tasks even the societies which have the most leisure find that the operation of those mechanisms and resources which have provided their leisure times are becoming. so complex that they give rise to new educational needs. Thus the frontiersmen of Canada did not have to master electrical engineering or atomic physics, but today the standards of this country, as do so many others, depend upon the ability of the heirs of the frontiersmen in mastering science and being able to mentally advance with each successive breakthrough in the frontiers of human knowledge.

Many problems emerge from the series of educational explosions and the situations to which they give rise. These problems touch upon government and public administration the financial system our attitude to educational research and the content of education itself. They touch, too, upon public attitudes toward the education service and the status of teachers in society. Let us look at some of these problems in turn.

First, the explosion of population. Canada is a new dynamic nation: it is a country of the young. And it is growing. This expanding population of young people and their families will have to have available adequate educational opportunities, I am very glad that so much has been accomplished and that so much more is planned. A country that increased its higher education enrolments by 62 per cent since 1952 should be proud of its achievement and even more so when it is borne in mind that it in proposed to expand the numbers in University and Colleges from 102,000 to 229,000 by 1970.

According to Mr. Edward F. Sheffield, something like $700 million in capital costs will have been incurred during the period 1955-1965. To keep pace with this expansion new staff will have to be recruited if the present ratio of 1.13 is to be maintained this will involve recruitment of some 101,000 university and college teachers by 1970. This is problem number two. Skill and advanced learning are at a premium and in a free society the forces of economic competition blow fiercely. Public service is not always able to compete, for its income is derived from taxes, local and national. In a democracy the party which promises the lowest taxes has a natural appeal to populations who may not always appreciate obscure notions about investment for survival. That is why Professor Galbraith spotlights the built-in problem of the open society: the risk of relative poverty in public service provision (including education) contrasted with the massive resources of the private sector. We need, therefore, to convince our citizens that increased expenditure on education in both desirable and necessary and to remove the idea that the service is less important than any other. One cannot deny, however, that the sheer size of the educational budget may rightly frighten the legislators and guardians of the public purse, particularly in societies such as Canada and the United Kingdom in which we try to preserve the democratic nature of educational administration sharing the task between local and national government. The interlocking nature of central and local finance reminds me of the remark of Brendan Behan "The Guinesses have always been very kind to the people of Dublin, but then the people of Dublin have always been very good to the Guinesses."

Mr. President, having experienced local government in England and being aware that we have been discussing reforms on and off since the turn of the century without ever reaching an agreeable conclusion, I will not venture even modest proposals on the relationship between Ottawa and Vancouver except to say that I would deprecate the complete loss of power at local level in the education system of this country. Nevertheless, I can see that you will probably have constitutional issues arising just as we have had in attempting to devise a satisfactory solution to the problem of central finance of higher education and representation of local interests, We, in our geographically small country, have by no means resolved this questions. Indeed at this very moment we are awaiting the outcome of intensive and prolonged study of both our local government structure and the administrative methods which we will in future apply within the sphere of higher education. You also, I am sure, encounter similar difficulties resulting from the federal structure and the vast territory within which the education service has to function. Tidying up our administration and achieving adequate financial support from enlightened tam payers, however, will not succeed in coping with one overriding problem common to practically all societies, agricultural, developing and industrial and upon which I should like to dwell for a few moments, I refer to the question of teacher-supply at the primary and secondary levels.

This is a very complex problem. It has its roots in a number of factors the changing values of occupational status, new marriage and family patterned and the drift from the rural to the urban areas. I do not pretend that there is an easy solution to this common problem but it seems to me that there are certain prerequisites without which this crisis cannot be overcome.

There is, firstly the question of status and the values which society accords the teachers. Then there is the part to be played within education by the teachers which allows for expansion of ideas and actions that in turn justify and consolidate the status of the profession. Without doubt the essential principle involved in the erring of higher status is that no-one who is without training should be allowed to teach and that education as an academic discipline should take its place along with other faculties of social and physical sciences with appropriate facilities for research and development of new techniques. It should be just as unthinkable to us today to entrust the minds of our children to the unprepared, as it would be to let them have their teeth examined by untrained dentists or their medical examinations be conducted by people who had not quite qualified in medical school.

The true mark of a profession does not lie in ability to restrict entry and the nature of the academic distinctions achieved lay the members; ultimately it lies in the extent to which the profession is breaking new ground in its own sphere and contributing to the knowledge of mankind. This is where the teachers have such a lot to give in the establishment of new patterns in education and the advancement of new educational philosophies. This involves society in acceptance of the fact that teachers should have a right to participate even to control the education service. Certainly the teachers should be allowed to investigate new techniques and be afforded the machinery to do this; similarly, when professional opinion is satisfied with the results of experiments the teachers should be tree to implement them on a wide scale. Above all, the teachers should formulate the curriculum and be free to examine the fundamentals of the content of education. Upon this latter point there is so much that they could say in all the controversy about the so-called "two cultures" of science and arts. If there is a group more aware than the teachers of the potential dangers of our students concentrating more and more upon less and less in order to win highly competitive places in higher education centres where the specialisation is carried even further, I should be surprised. Yet the teachers are often forced to accommodate themselves to this intellectually ruinous practice because they do not have the power to control the content of education and the length of courses. It is such power that is the mark of a profession. And when the teachers are allowed to exercise it, I believe that we shall have gone a long way toward solving, the problem of supply for we will be able to offer the young, the ambitious and the creatively energetic, the prospects which they now seek elsewhere.

You, I know, are going some way towards tackling the problem by the institution of first degrees and higher degrees in education. This is a remarkable achievement and one which I hope will spread. The contributions which a centre. of this nature can make to our knowledge of teaching methods and content of education my be far-reaching more especially if your research should sustain the growing belief that there are aspects of the competitive examination system that constitute nothing less than a threat to learning and a built-in mechanism for the waste of the talents of those rejected at one stage or other of the continuing process of mental hurdle jumping. On every ground such waste should be stopped, - the personal happiness and fulfilment of the individuals affected being just an important as the possible loss to the economy of skills not properly nurtured and talents that blushed unseen in the aptitude testing room. The, benefits of the research which you are conducting and will conduct here in British Columbia will, I hope, extend internationally ant certainly I know that the World Confederation of Organisations in the Teaching Profession of which it is my privilege to be president, and the 256,000 teachers in membership of the National Union of Teachers of England and Wales, whose General Secretary I am, will eagerly await the contribution to be made in the field of educational research by this University and its Faculty of Education.

I hope, too, that it will be possible for teachers from all parts of the Commonwealth and elsewhere to come and study in British Columbia and that, likewise, teachers trained here will go abroad and benefit from the experience of international study of educational problems. Some four years ago the impetus to this practical form of co-operation was given when she first Commonwealth Education Conference was held in Oxford as a result of a decision of the Commonwealth Ministers at the Montreal Trade and Economic Conference of 1958. The Report of the Commonwealth Education Conference put forward positive measures for ensuring that we who are most fortunate in the extent of our provision should make available opportunities for teachers, scientists and public administrators from the developed nations to receive scholarships and fellowships enabling them to study in our institutions. Undoubtedly one of the greatest contributions which British Columbia has to make to the fulfilment of these aim lies in the prospects of many Commonwealth students coming to study here. Now, Mr. President, I conclude upon the note with which I began. You have begun a new phase in the history of this university with the opening of the Faculty and College of Education and associated with that you have recognized and paid tribute to the profession of teaching; it is my good fortune that I am the recipient of the degree conferred by the Senate, but it is essentially a profession, not an individual that you have honoured. On behalf of that profession I express deep gratitude for your work and the sincere hope that the aim of the university will continue to be achieved so that the words of Matthew Arnold will remain true:

"The great aim of culture is the aim of setting ourselves to ascertain what perfection is and to make it prevail. The men of culture are the true apostles of equality."