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WE, Your Majesty's Civil Service Commissioners, humbly offer to your Majesty this our Fourth Annual Report.
In our previous Reports we endeavoured fully to explain the principles and to describe the details of our proceedings. During the past year we have continued to act on those principles, and we have made but few alterations in those details, so that on the present occasion our Report will (except with relation to the Indian Civil Service and certain writerships in the office of the Secretary of State for India), comprise little more than a statistical account of the ordinary examinations conducted under our superintendence, with the observations to which they necessarily give rise.
The number and variety of the departments and offices in the public service, and of the junior situations which belong to them, are so considerable, that it has been only gradually and progressively that they have become subject to the provisions of the Order in Council of 1855. From time to time also new junior situations are created, which require new regulations. Accordingly, during the last year the following departments and situations have to be added to the list for which regulations have been issued :
University of London, as respects Temporary Clerks.
in the Constabulary Office (Ireland).
and Tithe Commission. Youths employed in the National Education Office (Ireland). We have placed in the Appendix to this Report the subjects of examination adopted in these several cases.
The most important amongst these additions are the established clerks in H.R.H. the Commander-in-Chief's office.
scribed subjects in this case combine, in due proportion, the tests of a good education and of practical official accomplishments. They are as follows:
“Latin, or one Foreign language (French or German, for instance).
Arithmetic, up to and including vulgar and decimal fractions.
which will be given.
“A good clear Handwriting." The regulations made, under the Order in Council of 1855, by the various departments of the Civil Service, prescribing the subjects for examination, have undergone very little change during the year 1858.
As, except in the few cases which will be noticed, no modification in the subjects prescribed for any situation of importance has been proposed by the authorities of any of the departments, it may not be unreasonable for us to infer that the system has worked satisfactorily; and with that inference before us, we have been unwilling to disturb the existing arrangements by any experimental alterations.
The principal exception to this general acquiescence has occurred in respect to the regulations in force in the Foreign Office for the examination of paid and unpaid attachés.
After some correspondence between the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and this Commission in 1856, the Secretary of State prescribed certain regulations for the examination of candidates nominated to these situations.
The subjects of examination were the following for the situation of unpaid attaché :
1. To write a good bold hand, with distinctly formed letters.
narrative, of any collection of papers placed in their hands. 4. A general knowledge of geography. * 5. A general knowledge of modern history since 1789, and
especially of the history of the country to which they are about to proceed, as regards its internal constitution and its
relations with other powers. 6. To understand French well ; to make an accurate and good
translation of any French paper into English, and of any English paper into French, and to speak French with
tolerable ease and correctness. 7. To make an accurate and good translation into English of a
paper written either in German, Latin, Spanish, or Italian, at the option of the candidate.
* For this
text books have been specified.
For the situation of paid attaché :1. A speaking and a writing knowledge of the languages of the
several countries in which they have resided since their
first appointment to the service. * 2. International Law. 3. Reports upon the constitution and condition of the countries in
which they have resided. On the 19th July last Mr. Hammond, by direction of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, transmitted to us copies of two amended regulations to be substituted for those above mentioned. They will be found at length in the Appendix, and it will be sufficient here to state the points in which a change was effected by them.
As respects the unpaid attachés :
The requirements that they should be able to "write a good bold hand, with distinctly formed letters," and that they should “make an accurate and good translation into English of a paper written either in German, Latin, Spanish, or Italian,” are omitted in the new regulations, and the précis or abstract is to be of “ facts or historical events," instead of being a précis or abstract of a collection of papers.
As respects the paid attachés :
Instead of the condition that they should have “a speaking and a writing knowledge of the languages of the several countries in which they shall have resided since their appointment to the service,” it is required that they shall be proficient “ in one other language besides French."
In Mr. Hammond's letter enclosing these new regulations, it is mentioned that candidates had stated that their competency to spell accurately had not been tested by dictation alone, but by the submission of a paper purposely misspelt, which they were expected to correct; and Lord Malmesbury's opinion is expressed, that such a trial is not altogether fair, and may easily confuse a youth who would generally be found correct in his orthography; and that for this reason Lord Malmesbury had specified in the first regulation that the test should be applied through dictation alone.
As the authority to frame regulations prescribing the subjects of examination rests with the chiefs of departments, and as it is only in the way of assistance that we are entitled to interfere, it became our duty to give effect to the alterations Lord Malmesbury had deemed necessary; but feeling assured that any objections we might make to these alterations would receive courteous attention, we explained to Lord Malmesbury, without, however, succeeding in changing his opinion, the grounds upon which we objected to the abandonment of the special test for orthography above adverted to; to the omission of the requirement of good handwriting; and to the relinquishment of a second
language, which had previously been required from unpaid attachés.
We also expressed our regret at the substitution, in the examination of the paid attaché, of a second foreign language in lieu of the previous condition, that he should have a knowledge of the language of the places in which he should have resided whilst an unpaid attaché, conceiving that the regulation as it stood was intended principally to stimulate the industry of the unpaid attaché during the early period of his career, and to furnish him with a motive for availing himself of the facilities which residence in a foreign country affords for the acquisition of the language there current.
As the correspondence relating to this subject is inserted in the Appendix, we will confine ourselves to a brief statement of the general purport of the objections which relate to the changes which have taken place in the subjects prescribed for unpaid attachés, and to a few remarks regarding them.
With regard to the special test for orthography, it is quite possible that to some persons it may present greater difficulties than the exercise in dictation, but to others it is the easier exercise of the two, inasmuch as their attention can be bestowed on it uninterruptedly; it may be considered as dictation to the eye, ordinary dictation being dictation to the ear. The double test is by no means unfavourable to the candidate, as imperfection shown in the one may be compensated by success in the other. The difficulties, moreover, of this special test must not be overrated, inasmuch as in the large competitive examination of 318 candidates for writing clerkships in the India House which recently took place, 31 candidates went through this exercise without any mistakes, and 158 with less than six mistakes.
With regard to handwriting, although undoubtedly the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is the proper judge whether good handwriting is or is not an indispensable requirement for the office of unpaid attaché, yet we cannot but entertain apprehensions that considering that individuals employed in the public service in foreign countries have not readily at their command persons accustomed to write or copy English, occasions may arise in which the indifferent writing of an attaché may produce inconvenient results.
We feel, too, the more reluctance to omit good handwriting from the conditions of the appointment of an unpaid attaché, because it is one of the accomplishments required by all the principal offices in the civil service. *
We objected to the relinquishment of a second language, because we thought that this alternative requirement tended to prove that the candidate had received a good education and had profited by it. Sensible of the importance of ascertaining the special fitness
* We append to this report specimens of handwriting, which, at our request, have been sent to us from the Treasury. They may, we think, be useful to those who are preparing for examination.
of the candidate for the situation in those special subjects which the chief of the department may deem requisite, and without venturing to question his judgment with respect to them, we are nevertheless anxious that the test of general fitness, i.e., of the education of the candidate, should not be disregarded, and we are uneasy in perceiving that the precautions which are taken to secure the admission into the principal departments of the public service of none but well-educated young men, by requiring proof of proficiency in some branch or branches of knowledge beyond the acquirements necessary for the duties of the office, have been diminished as respects the office of unpaid attaché.
The total number of nominations made in 1858 to situations to which the Order in Council has been applied was 2,258. There were 2,189 in 1857, and 2,432 in 1856.*
Of these 1,425 were simple nominations without any reference to competition, and 833 were nominations of several candidates as competitors for one or more situations.
It will be convenient to remark separately upon these two classes of nominations,
Certificates upon simple nomination were granted during the year in 958 cases ; in 935 after examination and in 23 upon the reports of heads of departments; and in 292 cases certificates were refused on the ground of deficiency of knowledge in the prescribed subjects.
The grounds of refusal in the 292 cases are stated in a table in the Appendix.
An examination of that table will show that out of the 292 certificates refused, 286 were refused in part on the grounds of deficiency in spelling or arithmetic, or in both of these elementary subjects, and only six for incompetency in other subjects, not involving either spelling or arithmetic.
We have continued to afford to the candidates who have been found entitled to certificates the opportunities of showing their knowledge in other subjects beyond those which are prescribed.
The list of the 174 honorary certificates which we have thus granted during the year 1858, stating the names of the candidates, the situations which they have obtained, and the branches of knowledge in which they have shown proficiency, is inserted in the Appendix.
The candidates who have obtained these certificates consist chiefly of clerks, either established or temporary, in the public departments.
There are likewise, as might have been expected, several instances of attachés who have distinguished themselves in extra foreign languages.
* The total number of nominations made from the commencement of the Commission to the 31st March 1859 is 8,938. The number of candidates actually examined in the same period was 7,371. Certificates were granted in 4,514 cases, and refused in