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Late Victorian Britain Education Revision Notes

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Technical Education and R&D

Britain's slow growth between 1870 and 1914 has been attributed to her low level of technical education and R&D. Does the evidence support this view?
Criticism of British technical education and R&D1:

No comprehensive education system, rather chaotic with no common standard and based on private initiative

Elementary, secondary and tertiary education neglected science and put too much emphasis on other subjects

Social attitudes looked down upon science, making technical studies unattractive. The public schools played big role as school of the elites in creating these attitudes Numbers of students in technical subjects too small

Absence of research as occupation by university teachers and unwillingness of state to fund scientific research, leaving research only to wealthy amateurs Lack of research in the industry, partly because of lack of scientific personnel and unscientific education of managers Amateur tradition and practical "trial and error" may have been suitable during the Industrial Revolution, whereas the late Victorian period required systemized knowledge

Development: 1824: The Mechanics Institute offered evening classes and was founded to stimulate innovation and make workmen more efficient.2 Early 1850s: Department of Science and Art, established after the Great Exhibition. From 1859 on, it was able to provide grants for teachers pay.3 Number of candidates examined by DScA grew from 16,000 in 1870 to 151,000 by 1900. 18481875: Introduction of Natural Sciences Tripos in Cambridge in 1848, Founding of the chair of engineering in 18754 1870s: Emergence of civic universities in provinces, serving the industries of their region. Numbers of students: 19 (1870) to 166 (1890) to 1231 (1910) 1878: First Central Schools built, favoured scientific education of the more talented elementary school children, but then closed due to lobbyism.5 1880: City and Guilds of London Institute, channelled wealth of City companies into technical education. Founding of Finsbury Technical College and a Central Institution in South Kensington. The CGLI provided examinations in technical subjects. The number of students rose from 2,500 in 1880 to 34,189 by 1900.6 1889: Spread of municipal technical colleges after the Technical Instruction Act, which empowered local authorities to use rate money to establish technical colleges.

1 Pollard (1989): p2046 Pollard (1989): p139 3 Broadberry in Floud & Johnson (2004): p62 4 Sanderson (1988): p40 5 Pollard (1989): p207 6 Magnus (1910) 2


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