When did Schools of Arts arrive in Australia?
The Institutes/Schools movement may well have been one of the most successful examples of British educational imperialism, spreading throughout the English-speaking world very quickly.Quite quickly is the short answer.
This was clearly an idea whose time had come. Beginning in Scotland, soon separate bodies with purpose built premises, called Mechanics’ Institutes or Schools of Arts, were being founded with the goal of providing scientific and technological education for skilled manual workers.
The Institutes/Schools movement may well have been one of the most successful examples of British educational imperialism, spreading throughout the English-speaking world very quickly. The impulse for greater rationality, the passion for science, the desire for moral improvement, and the thirst for useful knowledge turned out to be as powerful in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA as they were in the United Kingdom.
George Birkbeck, a wealthy Quaker MD, who was a professor of natural philosophy at Anderson’s Institution in Glasgow, from 1799 to 1804, began to offer, in 1800, a free course of Saturday evening lectures for mechanics or artisans [or in today’s terms, skilled trade persons], designed to familiarise them with the scientific principles that underpinned the work that they did and the tools and machinery that they used in their everyday work.
The class met with immediate success [soon some hundreds of mechanics were attending each Saturday evening] and survived its originator’s departure from the institution. In 1822, a number of former participants in the classes begun by Birkbeck, formed a separate body, the Glasgow Mechanics’ Institute and invited Birkbeck to be its first president even though he was then no longer living in Glasgow.
He was living in London, where he was practicing medicine. Later the suggestion was made that Glasgow example should also be followed in London. The result was the creation of the London Mechanics’ Institute, the development of which became the lifelong work of the man whose name it now bears, Birkbeck College, a college of the University of London.
In the meanwhile (1821), a similar institution had been founded in Edinburgh called a School of Arts; as we noted in our last Q & A the term ‘arts’ as it was used here meant the practical arts in much same way as NSW high schools used the term ‘Manual or Industrial’ Arts.
With regard to Schools of Arts, the ‘ARTS’ referred to are the practical arts: e.g. the domestic arts; the manual arts; the industrial arts, etc.