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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
* For this subject particular text books have been specified.
language, which had previously been required from unpaid
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
It is right to mention also, that even in the subordinate situation of Letter Carrier we find instances of proficiency in several useful branches of knowledge; and we have, on more than one occasion, deemed it right to give to tidewaiters certificates of marked proficiency in the prescribed subjects.
It will be perceived that in twenty-three cases we have granted certificates on the reports of the heads of departments, without requiring the parties to pass an examination; namely, in those cases in which persons who, before the date of the Order in Council, held junior situations in a department and have served continuously, are appointed to other junior situations in the same department, for which the same subjects of examination were prescribed.
Where a person who has once passed our examination is transferred from one junior situation to another junior situation, for which latter situation the prescribed subjects of examination are different from those prescribed for the former, we have not altogether dispensed with his examination, but have limited it to those subjects only in which he had not been previously examined. As the peculiar circumstances incidental to this class of cases have occasionally presented difficulties, we think it advisable to call attention to a correspondence between the Department of the Admiralty and this Commission, which will be found in the Appendix, together with some observations which we deem it right to offer on the subject.
The total number of junior situations to which appointments were made during the last year, without competition, was 958. The total number of situations for which competing candidates were nominated during the last year was 258, and the total number of such competing candidates was 833.
The following list will show the most important particulars of the competitions held in 1858: