A history of technical education in Australia: with special reference to the period before 1914
Document TypePhD thesis
CitationsMurray-Smith, S. (1966). A history of technical education in Australia: with special reference to the period before 1914. PhD thesis, Education, The University of Melbourne.
Access StatusOpen Access
© 1966 Dr. Stephen Murray-Smith
Pagination incorrect in document (numbering goes from p.388 to p.398)
In this thesis the attempts of colonial man to adapt to his environment and to train the young worker, the artisan and the technologist are discussed. Initially education in the form of practical training was merely an aspect of charitable beliefs or intellectual presumptions. The colonies relied in the main on obtaining their needed skills from overseas. But, especially after the gold rushes, indigenous technological challenges arose to which pragmatic educational response was made. Thus the transition from the mechanics’ institutes, largely agents of ‘improving’ purpose, to the schools of mines, ostensibly dedicated to the service and advancement of colonial industry. Technical education however was retained, throughout its history in Australia, a strong ideological component. Its most effective real contribution, in the period before 1914 at least, was in the field of opening opportunity to the socially and educationally underprivileged; but the general insistence was on its immediate industrial relevance. This latter was largely an illusion, but it served to nurture the technical schools while they performed multi-functional tasks and developed as poor men’s grammar schools. The hey-day of technical education in Australia was between 1880 and 1900, when it became a cause which appealed to free-traders, protectionists, the labor movement, the manufacturers, the nation-builders and many other important social groups. In this period it became a means of liberating the potential of democratic man, and thus a prime plank in the liberal platform. But after 1900 the vision became narrower, and technical education became increasingly identified with the concepts of ‘national destiny’, man as a social unit, and educational specialisation. Instead of being a vehicle for the concept of undifferentiated man, it became an excuse for a narrow and rigorous view of individual function. By 1914 the anti-liberal educational revolution had been achieved, and education in general, and technical education in particular, was henceforward conceived as being subservient to the objects of a modern industrial society. But public response was fickle, and the will to plan an industrial economy, and the educational system such an economy demanded, fluctuated. We are still affected by the ambivalent nature of the origins of technical education, still not clear in our own minds as to what our own responsibilities to the development of our own country are.
Keywordstechnical education; Australia; history
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