Schools and the Commonwealth (1961)

Written by a group of HM Inspectors, this pamphlet made the case for more time for Commonwealth studies in the school curriculum. It was endorsed by Sir David Eccles, who was Minister of Education twice (1954-57 and 1959-62).

The complete document is shown in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go to the various sections.

I Introduction (page 1)
II The Commonwealth today (4)
III The significance of the Commonwealth for education (13)
IV The present position in the schools (19)
V Possible developments (28)
VI Conclusion (36)


I Sources of information and other teaching material (39)
II Map (foldout sheet)

The text of Schools and the Commonwealth was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 1 May 2022.

Schools and the Commonwealth (1961)
Ministry of Education Pamphlet No. 40

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1961
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.


[title page]


Schools and
the Commonwealth


[page iii]


At school I learned a great deal about ancient Greece and the Roman Empire; and practically nothing about the Commonwealth, except the Australian Test cricketers' names and capabilities. I do not regret the Greek and Roman history but I wish I had been taught about the British Dominions and Colonies as well.

Today the Commonwealth is seen to be the greatest contribution men have ever made to the freedom from the fear of conflict between people of different race and colours. Equality and friendship have taken the place of the superiority or suspicion which still characterises the relations of so many nations.

Our children inherit this Commonwealth tradition and we look to them further to improve on what has already been achieved and to hand on the work of goodwill and peace to their children. But to do this they must learn about the men and women who made the Commonwealth what it is today - the seas they crossed and the lands and peoples they found. They must learn too about the leaders and the ordinary people who inhabit the many countries of the Commonwealth. I felt therefore that the schools would welcome some ideas from the Ministry of Education on the teaching of the history and geography of the Commonwealth. A group of Her Majesty's Inspectors have written this little book making a strong case for more time for Commonwealth studies and suggesting an imaginative and realistic approach to such teaching.

I find their ideas stimulating and I very much hope that a great many teachers will do so too.

[page iv]


CHAPTER I. Introduction1
CHAPTER II. The Commonwealth Today4
CHAPTER III. The Significance of the Commonwealth for Education13
CHAPTER IV. The Present Position in the Schools19
CHAPTER V. Possible Developments28
CHAPTER VI. Conclusion36
APPENDIX I. Sources of Information and Other Teaching Material39

[page 1]



'WHY' said the Australian 'do the British expect us to know so much about their history? None of them seems to know even where Canberra is or to have heard of WiIfred Lawson[*]. They don't know anything of the guts of the men - and women too - who cut their way through the bush and into the lonely sheep country out back.' And then, in changed mood, 'But I'm planning a trip to England next year. The kids are keen to see the Tower of London, and Buckingham Palace, and Westminster, and Stratford and, of course, the little place in Winchcombe where the old grandfather still lives'.

The Australian expresses a mixture of affection and resentment. He feels that something is not quite right, yet his words imply a conviction that the bonds between Australia and Great Britain are strong and not lightly to be broken. At an informal gathering of Commonwealth visitors held towards the end of 1959 in the north of England, Africans, Indians and West Indians spoke in the same vein. All of them had arrived knowing much of our history and familiar with the essentials of our geography; but all had found that we in our turn knew much less than they would have expected about their own countries. Some indeed had gathered the impression that our knowledge, such as it was, tended to be of the white peoples of the Commonwealth. Others maintained that what we learned of coloured races was heavily embroidered with descriptions of primitive conditions and tribal customs; that we were treated, like tourists, to picturesque details but were starved of basic facts about cultural growth and social development. Hence they detected in our attitude a touch of patronage and not a little complacency. Nor did they consider that the literature, broadcasts and films available to those of us who sought to know more were likely to give us a true picture.

How do its peoples regard the Commonwealth? What is its significance for them? A Pakistani boy when asked this question talked gleefully of 'Big Ben, London and the Queen'. To him these represented the heart of the matter. One of his more mature friends added 'The Commonwealth, to me, is a kind of club, in which members of different colours, creeds and races may sit together in friendly and tolerant association'. But an Indian, writing from the centre of the Deccan, gave a very different answer: 'Frankly, our students here and elsewhere have no views on it, because the Commonwealth idea has been driven out by

[*This appears to be an error. The reference is presumably to the writer and poet Henry Lawson (1867-1922), whose work helped popularise the Australian vernacular in fiction.]

[page 2]

other current ideas, viz. our relations with China and Pakistan. ... The politicians think that, since Britain has ceased to be a first-rate world power, the Commonwealth idea is not as important as our relations with either the U.S.A. or Russia'. Meanwhile, from the other side of the world a Barbadian adjusts the balance when he comments: 'Britain no longer matters, but the Commonwealth does'. And having said this, he pleads for a greater sense of responsibility for teaching about the Commonwealth in Britain.

Ignorance, complacency, lack of responsibility - these are harsh words. They suggest either that we take the Commonwealth for granted or that we do not really believe in it. We can deny both suggestions; we can, as a nation, refute the implication of such harsh words. But it is more difficult for us, as individuals, to maintain that the criticisms are invalid. We would do well to ask ourselves what we think of the Commonwealth and what we know of it, how much our children know and how real is their concern.

This pamphlet has been written in the belief that the Commonwealth, as a free association of sovereign, independent states, is a unique achievement in human history and that young people in our schools should have some knowledge of how it came into being and of its present significance. The pages which follow are an attempt to state, in more detail, the argument for teaching about the Commonwealth, to present a picture of the extent to which it is now being taught, and to suggest how this teaching may be developed further. Judged by any standards, the story of the Commonwealth is remarkable. It illustrates, on the one hand, pioneering adventures and achievements, whether in Canada or Australasia, in Africa or India, in Malaya or the Caribbean; and these adventures and achievements have been absorbed into the traditions of the countries in which they were enacted, while they remain an integral part of our own. On the other, it reveals a complex of traditions to which many peoples and many cultures have made significant contributions. These traditions will not survive unless all the peoples of the Commonwealth have some knowledge of each other and recognise the roots of their interdependence.

Nor is it enough to think only of the older independent countries of the Commonwealth and to limit our teaching, as is the more usual practice, to their history before 1900. The Commonwealth is the creation of the twentieth century and its Members include countries which have only recently emerged from dependent status. Others are now moving towards independence with the right to choose whether they apply to remain Members of the Commonwealth or not. Still others, dependencies of one or other of the independent Members, are at various stages on the road to self-government. A knowledge of the

[page 3]

life and problems of all these peoples today is obligatory, if, as we believe, the Commonwealth is an institution that should endure. There are sceptics who foresee its early disintegration under the pressure of internal frictions or the prospect of new and more rewarding political alignments. They should remember that the history of the past fifteen years has revealed the astonishing resilience of the Commonwealth and a protean quality which enables it to reshape itself in face of emerging needs.

More pertinent perhaps is the criticism of those who find difficulty in reconciling the theme of this pamphlet with the seemingly competing claims of the United Nations for a place in our teaching. This problem, however, should not arise, because the study of the Commonwealth is to be seen as one aspect only of a wider issue, the reconciliation of men to each other and the struggle to give effective political expression to the concept of one world. Indeed, the reality and the immediacy which can and must be given to a study of the Commonwealth at the present stage in its evolution will do much to render less theoretical and less idealistic the concept of a world-wide society. No teacher should feel the pull of conflicting forces when he is asked to teach, on the one hand, about the United Nations and its specialised agencies and, on the other, about the history of the old Empire and the significance of the Commonwealth in what may be an evolving pattern of world government. They are not mutually exclusive; rather are they complementary and indeed essential studies if pupils in our schools are to have some insight into the forces making for cooperation in the world today.

[page 4]


The Commonwealth Today

THE word 'empire', so frequently encountered in the pages of nineteenth century British history, is one with varied associations and emotional overtones. The centuries have seen many empires rise and fall, each with its own characteristics and each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The word itself has been modified in meaning from one period to another in keeping with contemporary habits of thought and with the social and political patterns of the age. As, for example, with the passage of time Britain's relations with the scattered territories and peoples which constituted the British Empire were transformed, so also were modified the meaning and associations of the word 'empire'. But in the twentieth century countries which were formerly part of the British Empire have evolved and are still evolving a new conception of political association, and so the word 'empire', despite the elasticity of its meaning, has become totally inadequate and indeed misleading. Hence the comparatively new use of the word 'commonwealth', which since the sixteenth century, as the Oxford Dictionary tells us, has been 'applied in various ways to a number of persons with some common interest'. The concept which this word now denotes is also comparatively new and perhaps not generally understood, and is still liable to be confused if not actually identified with a former stage of evolution which has now passed away.

The Imperial War Conference, which met in 1917, spoke in its Ninth Resolution of a full recognition of the Dominions, at that time comprising Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, as 'autonomous nations of an Imperial Commonwealth'. This was the first official use of the word 'commonwealth' in a context which has now become so large a part of our vocabulary, though as early as 1884 Lord Rosebery had in a speech delivered in Australia referred to the Empire as 'a commonwealth of nations'. The new official word did not however immediately replace the word 'empire'. Even up to the Second World War the phrase 'British Commonwealth and Empire' was in common usage, the British Commonwealth being restricted to the self-governing territories and the Empire representing the non-self-governing territories. But continued evolution in the relations between Britain and the non-self-governing territories further strained the meaning of 'empire' which, with the parallel growth of international sentiments and nationalist aspirations after the First World War, began to have a

[page 5]

somewhat derogatory meaning. At the present time it is common practice to use the term 'the Commonwealth' to include both self-governing sovereign states and their dependencies - and without the epithet 'British', which to a sensitive nationalism might convey the idea of possession.

It is certainly true that the Commonwealth as it exists in the middle of the twentieth century is still in process of evolution. It is also regrettably true that many people are more familiar with the concept of the older empire from which it has evolved than they are with the newer commonwealth and the stage which it has now reached. To what extent does a definition help us? The first and perhaps the only official description of the mutual relations of its Member nations was a pronouncement of the Imperial Conference of 1926 that they are 'autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as Members of the British Commonwealth of Nations'. A typically concise and non-technical definition would today limit itself to the statement that the Commonwealth is a free association of sovereign independent states, together with their dependencies, and would go on to list the independent states as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Ghana, the Federation of Malaya and the Federation of Nigeria.

The idea of an association of states is not new. At no period in recorded history has it been unusual for groups of peoples to come together and to form some kind of association, whether temporary or permanent. Indeed every large group, whether tribe or state or nation, was formed at some time by the amalgamation of smaller social groupings which more often than not shared some characteristic, geographical contiguity, common language, common religion, common traditions, or common aspirations. Even in modern European history we do not have to search far for an example of a sovereign national state which was formed by such an accretion of smaller units. The causes which have led to such associations have been many - religious, social, economic, military - and the means by which they have been achieved equally varied, whether essentially by treaty or by military conquest. Of these associations some were formed for a mutually agreed purpose which contained in itself the seeds of further development, others as a result of military conquest which held the weaker states in thrall to their conqueror and was only as enduring as the military supremacy itself. So Britain in the nineteenth century found herself, partly by design but largely by accident, mistress of an empire which was scattered over the whole of the earth, an empire acquired in the search for adventure or trade or personal freedom or

[page 6]

missionary opportunity or military glory and pioneered by soldiers or missionaries or traders, who attempted to settle in uninhabited territories or to come to terms with the inhabitants already there.

In view of persistent attempts to denigrate the conception of empire and imperialism, it is well to recall that many territories have expressed their appreciation of the benefits derived from British rule. To quote Nigeria as only one of many examples, Chief Akintola, then Leader of the Opposition, said in the Nigerian Federal Legislature in 1957: 'I refer to the creation of this country as a unit, I refer to the introduction of liberal education on the British pattern, the establishment of law and order, the establishment of modern communications, the furtherance of public health - all these are part of the goodness that has emerged out of British Imperialism.' And the Prime Minister of the Federation of Nigeria, Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, in his speech at the celebrations on the occasion of Nigeria's attaining independence in October 1960, said: 'Do not mistake our pride for arrogance. It is tempered by feelings of sincere gratitude to all who have shared in the task of developing Nigeria politically, socially and economically. We are grateful to the British officers whom we have known first as masters, then as leaders, finally as partners, and always as friends. ... To all, on behalf of my countrymen, I say "thank you for your devoted services which have helped to build Nigeria as a nation. Today we are reaping the harvest which you sowed, and the quality of the harvest is equalled only by our gratitude to you".'

Britain's early attempts to order her relations with various parts of her empire were not always successful and indeed in one case were so ineptly handled as to result in the loss of the North American Colonies. But valuable lessons were learnt from this disastrous experience, lessons which later could be applied to advantage when, for example, in the 1830s growing discontent in the Canadian Colonies demanded constructive action. Constructive action was indeed forthcoming as a result of Lord Durham's Report issued in 1839. The suggestions put forward in that report not only reinforced an existing policy that was in many respects wise and liberal but also set in motion a trend of constitutional development which still continues to-day. From one point of view Britain was fortunate in that she could apply the lessons of her first bitter experience in North America towards the ordering of her relations with the people of Canada - a people who possessed certain political and social aspirations in common even though many were not of British stock and were devoted to a faith and culture radically different. Such experience has doubtless stood her in good stead when similar problems have arisen with other peoples who had even fewer features in common with her, and so has enabled her, more successfully

[page 7]

than any other colonial power, to retain in voluntary association her former subjects. Many formerly dependent territories have now passed from their dependent status to one of absolute equality, and it is a considerable achievement for Britain that this transformation has been accomplished with so little bitterness and recrimination.

If we consider the list of sovereign states together with their dependencies which constitute the Commonwealth, it is much easier at first glance to see how they differ from each other than to determine what they have in common. Far from being geographically contiguous, as many associations of peoples known in history have been, they are scattered over the face of the earth, representing every type of climate and economy. Far from possessing a common language, they include countries which, even within their own individual boundaries, have no one language. Canada, for example, has two official languages, English and French: of the many languages spoken in India, the constitution specifically mentions by name fourteen, while citing Hindi as the future official language with English continuing as such for a period. Far from having a common religion, the countries of the Commonwealth provide examples of practically every form of religious belief and practice to be found in the world. And finally the Commonwealth includes not only countries of comparatively recent settlement but also countries of ancient cultures and hallowed traditions, older sometimes than those of Britain herself. The ties which so often in history have bound together groups of peoples, common geographical borders, common speech, common culture, are notably absent in the Commonwealth.

What then do these independent peoples of the Commonwealth have in common? First it should be emphasised that the association is a free one: individual Members of the Commonwealth maintain their membership entirely of their own volition and 'not as something thrust by force upon a reluctant people', to quote words used during the second reading of the Burma Independence Bill in the House of Lords in 1947. Whatever the constitutional intricacies of the ties which bound the early Dominions to the United Kingdom, more recent events have shown conclusively that the individual states, on achieving independence, may choose to adhere to the Commonwealth if their fellow Members approve their application or to secede. For example, India was clearly offered the choice in 1947 and chose to adhere, reaffirming this choice in 1950 when she decided to adopt a republican form of constitution. Burma, on achieving independence in 1947, was offered the choice and chose to secede, not in rancour or in asperity, but because she preferred a different kind of friendly relationship. In the following year Eire made a similar choice, though she is not regarded in United Kingdom law as

[page 8]

a foreign country. Therefore all the independent countries of the Commonwealth have in common the fact that, having been part of the British Empire, they duly achieved complete independence and, almost as their first independent act, chose to remain in the Commonwealth.

From another point of view the association is free in that there is no written constitutional instrument which regulates the relationship between Member states nor any formal constitutional machinery to maintain the association. This fact distinguishes the Commonwealth from a Federation on the one hand or from a contractual alliance such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on the other. Even the Imperial Conferences, which used to meet in London every few years for discussion of common problems, were discontinued after 1937, thus making way for less formal methods of discussion and consultation. Each Member is free to play its part in the association as it sees fit, and even free, if other Members do not object, to determine the constitutional position of the Head of the Commonwealth in its own domestic affairs. The Queen is the Head of the Commonwealth and is recognised as such by all its Members, 'a living symbol of unity which cannot be replaced by a formula, still less by a president elected by all the constituent peoples of the Commonwealth', as Lord Attlee wrote in August 1959. But whether an individual state recognises the Queen as Head of its own government is again a matter of free choice, and it is certainly not surprising that some peoples of the Commonwealth because of their origins and traditions have displayed a stronger feeling of loyalty to the monarchy than others. As it is, the Queen is head of each of the Commonwealth governments except for India, Pakistan, and Ghana, which are republics, and the Federation of Malaya, which has its own monarchy; as a result of a recent referendum, the South African government will in due course introduce legislation with a view to setting up a republican form of government.

It may seem that it is much easier to talk about the Commonwealth in negative terms as an association of states possessing none of the common attributes that historically have been almost essential for any permanent association of peoples; the Member states adhere to the association not according to the prescribed terms of a written document but merely as circumstances prompt and convenience dictates. But the binding ties which hold this association together, though much less tangible, are none the less real and effective. Mr. Nehru, at a banquet in 1950, said of the Commonwealth that 'somehow it has found some kind of invisible link by seeing that practically there is no link and by giving complete independence and freedom to every part of it.' Certainly the parts of the Empire which first achieved independence wished to retain this invisible link largely because of the emotional ties which sprang from

[page 9]

similar family stock, common loyalty to the throne, shared experiences in times of peace and war. In earlier days, too, there were economic advantages, perhaps more decisive than there are now, in being a member of the Commonwealth - though this is not to decry the benefits derived at the present time from the imperial preference arrangements and from the sterling area, of which, with the exception of Canada, all Commonwealth countries are members. But in more recent years the link has largely been forged because Member nations have taken from Britain so much of their own way of life. From Britain they have adopted and adapted their various systems of parliamentary democracy and the institutions associated with it, such as free speech, adult suffrage and the secret ballot. From Britain they have derived their various judicial systems. Influenced by Britain's example, each Member has developed its own educational system with aims and objectives sufficiently alike as to render possible the unique pooling of educational resources envisaged by the Commonwealth Education Conference of 1959, which has already given a tremendous impetus to the interchange of teachers and students between Member countries.

Despite the absence of a common universally spoken language in the Commonwealth, the great majority of those who play a leading part in the development of their own countries are in fact able to call upon an effective command of English in their dealings with other Commonwealth representatives. But this is not the only kind of language which they have in common. Despite differences and often fundamental differences in religion, race and tradition, they share a kind of political language which expresses in a variety of ways common views and common aspirations about the place of the individual in society. This political language, taught partly by precept and more often by example as the British ordered their affairs in the colonies, is a legacy which derives from the colonial period and which, on achieving independence, most have been determined in some form or another and often in the face of extreme difficulties to retain. The link which binds them may be invisible but it is not for that reason mysterious or incomprehensible. Like draws to like: and it is not mysterious or incomprehensible that a variety of peoples, differing profoundly in most characteristics, should so resemble each other in some fundamental ways that they choose to associate closely with each other and to cherish a sense of belonging to and being involved in this wider community.

In addition to this common political language, the states of the Commonwealth share a friendly goodwill one to another, springing from a former and different kind of association, expressed in the choice to remain in the Commonwealth, and fostered by many mutual interests. The practical essence of this goodwill is to be found in the wish of

[page 10]

Member states to have no secrets - or at least a minimum - one from another, and by means of frequent and informal discussion and exchange of views and information to keep each fully informed about what the others are thinking and doing. There is, for example, continual and intimate consultation between Commonwealth Prime Ministers by radiotelephone, between the Commonwealth Secretary and the High Commissioners in London, and between the High Commissioners in Commonwealth capitals, and such consultation is continually reinforced by the interchange of confidential telegrams. There is in addition a great deal of collaboration between non-governmental agencies. It is impossible to describe in a short compass the various informal means which are adopted in the absence of any formal and definitive constitutional machinery, but mention may be made of the Commonwealth Relations Office as the channel through which information is passed on and received, the High Commissioners who represent the governments of the Commonwealth countries in the capitals of the Commonwealth countries, ad hoc conferences, ministerial visits, and a variety of organisations and standing committees ranging from the Commonwealth Economic Committee to the Association of Universities of the Commonwealth. The meeting in London in 1960 of Commonwealth Prime Ministers was a significant contribution towards the development of Commonwealth relations.

Such frequent and intimate consultation is not expected to result in a common foreign policy or a common defence policy or a common economic policy, but it does result in an ever-deepening understanding of each Member's situation and point of view; and this in a major world crisis would be invaluable. No longer, for example, as it did in 1914, does Britain's declaration of war automatically involve the rest of the Commonwealth. In 1939 Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa each made its own decision to declare war on Germany; indeed South Africa did so only after the question of neutrality had been debated in her own Parliament and her complete autonomy in the matter established. Eire, at that time still a Member of the Commonwealth, chose to remain neutral and to maintain diplomatic relations with the enemy countries. So too in matters of defence and trade each Member is free to order her affairs as best suits her economic interests, her geographical situation or her other international responsibilities. But as a result of close consultation and exchange of views Member states formulate their own policies with a full knowledge and understanding of the points of view of the other parts of the Commonwealth and with a goodwill which seeks to avoid causing embarrassment or difficulty to friends. One significant result of this multilateral consultation and exchange of information is the growing friendship between

[page 11]

such Members as Canada and India, or Australia and Malaya.

We ought at this stage to remind ourselves that the Commonwealth today includes not only sovereign independent states but also their dependencies, which though mostly possessing various degrees of self-government are not fully independent. The United Kingdom dependencies, ranging in size from the trust territory of Tanganyika, almost four times the size of the United Kingdom, to Gibraltar, covering a little over two square miles, are scattered over the world and comprise a total population of about 44 million people. Gibraltar is in fact the most northerly and Graham Land stretches to the South Pole, but most of the dependencies lie within the tropics, thus presenting an exotic variety of racial groups, of religions and customs, and of natural and artificial products. It is important that we should study these countries because, until they become independent, their affairs are the direct and special responsibility of the United Kingdom. Fortunately for the teacher there is probably no group of countries which has more to offer the curious and enquiring mind or which provides so rich a vein of interest to the historian or geographer, to the anthropologist or to the antiquarian, or indeed to anyone concerned with peoples and places different from his own.

Britain's policy towards these dependent territories has been clearly stated on many occasions by successive British Governments. It is to help them to attain self-government within the Commonwealth and, what is equally important, to pursue their economic and social development so that it keeps pace with their political advance. Implicit in this policy has been the view that since Britain has acquired authority over these territories, whether by settlement as in Bermuda, or by conquest as in British Guiana, whether by treaty as in Hong Kong, or at the request of the people or their ruler as in Malta or Sarawak, or under the international trustee system continued by the United Nations, as in the former German colonies of Tanganyika and the Cameroons, she should exercise that authority for the benefit of the dependent peoples until such time as they were able to take over responsibility themselves. One important instrument of this policy has been a series of Colonial Development and Welfare Acts which have made available to many colonies financial assistance from the United Kingdom Government for specific projects to further their economic or social progress. For the period 1946-65 a total of 315 million has been made available in this way from United Kingdom revenues.

Britain has links with and obligations to other countries outside the Commonwealth, which are often more tangible than the Commonwealth ties since they are determined by treaty, or more obviously purposeful since they result in trade or defence agreements. For this reason these

[page 12]

other links are perhaps more easily understood and appreciated by the ordinary citizen. Nevertheless the ties which bind the countries of the Commonwealth together, intangible and perhaps difficult to appreciate as they are, have their roots in the history of the past two hundred years and continue to exert a most profound influence in world affairs and to foster mutual friendliness and goodwill amongst a variety of peoples who together number about one quarter of the world's population and cover approximately one quarter of its land surface. The Commonwealth ties may not serve any obvious or immediate self-interest, but they endure because they represent a common adherence to the Rule of Law, a respect for the essential freedoms, and a likemindedness about the basic principles of human society. It is the responsibility of every citizen of the Commonwealth to seek to understand something of the ties which bind his country to these other countries and something of the other peoples who share those ties with him, in order that this likemindedness may be fostered and endure.

[page 13]


The Significance of the Commonwealth for Education

THE nature and significance of the Commonwealth, indeed its very existence, offer a challenge to schools which no thoughtful teacher can afford to ignore. At the same time, in any attempt to meet the challenge several problems arise. In the preparation of any school curriculum there is bound to be selection among competing claims for inclusion. From the infants' class to the sixth form teachers are faced with a series of choices: what to teach and when and how to teach it, in the particular circumstances in which they find themselves. School traditions, personal preferences and prejudices, external pressures and the climate of public opinion will all play their part; but the decision is left to individual schools and to individual teachers. This inevitably results in much diversity of practice, and it may mean that schools are sometimes slow to follow changes in educational thought or contemporary outlook.

But, while selection is inevitable, it confers both opportunities and responsibilities which have to be exercised in a situation in which there is less and less room for manoeuvre. Probably the most striking of all changes in the last half-century has been the shrinking of the confines of the world. Twentieth century communications have annihilated distance and overcome frontiers, until we are all near neighbours and are made vividly aware of each other's interests, achievements and problems: we are all compelled to advance our frontiers of knowledge, to grasp the unfamiliar, to reckon with the hitherto unknown, and to assess the effect upon ourselves of policies and events occurring thousands of miles away. This is as true of economic and social events as it is of political controversy or international diplomacy: we can no longer afford to be ignorant about our neighbour or to misunderstand his interests and problems, though he may live on the other side of the earth and his circumstances be remote from our experience.

In this situation it is not surprising to find many who claim that, in view of the position of the United States of America in the world today, some knowledge of her history, political philosophy and economic structure is an essential ingredient to any sound general education. Some argue, with equal conviction, in favour of a similar knowledge of Russia or China, while others proclaim that the prosperity of the Indian peasant or of the African farmer are of comparable concern and

[page 14]

significance. The truth is that, since scientific advance takes no account of national boundaries, we must all expect to have to acquire some working knowledge of the world as a whole. All this confronts the conscientious teacher with a most difficult choice. He may feel that he must aim at a smattering of knowledge which will make at least a little sense of the world and of its problems, or he may prefer to concentrate on understanding and revealing the position of his own country, hoping that the exploration of other countries and of wider horizons will more readily follow. In this dilemma there can be no one answer which is certain to win universal approval, and there are a number of factors which deserve consideration.

To begin with, it is certainly true that a knowledge of British history confined to these islands and to their association with the continent of Europe is no longer sufficient for an understanding of our position in the world today. In order to appreciate the status of Great Britain in world affairs, it is essential to know something about the Commonwealth, its origins, development and present significance. For, since the beginning of the seventeenth century, the story of British participation in world affairs has been as closely concerned with events beyond the continent of Europe as with European affairs. British political philosophy and practice today cannot be fully understood without some knowledge of their development in and through the Commonwealth; and no estimate of British influence in the twentieth century would be complete which ignored the ties and influences which spring from our Commonwealth associations.

Yet it must be recognised that there are formidable difficulties in the way of teaching about the Commonwealth. To many teachers, for instance, one of the most perplexing is the fact that the Commonwealth story has not been one of unbroken idealism or progress, or even of consistent policy. There have been failures of omission, of intention and of administration, and there are events and policies in our imperial and colonial history which, in the light of twentieth century values, we are unable to justify. There are, therefore, many people who fight shy of the Commonwealth altogether; they miss the broad sweep of Commonwealth development, because it has sometimes involved policies and practices of which they disapprove. Yet despite the lack of any continuous, clearly-formulated policy, and with all the admitted failures, withdrawals and contradictions, Britain's part in the development of the Commonwealth is one in which even the most censorious can take pride.

There are, of course, many other reasons why a consistent study of the Commonwealth does not generally form a part of school curricula. It is natural that teachers should feel an affinity towards those subjects

[page 15]

which they themselves have studied in depth, and it is significant that only a very small minority of history teachers have themselves studied Commonwealth history at the university, while too few training college courses pay much attention to the Commonwealth. In any case, Commonwealth history is not itself a unified and coherent subject, and it is not an easy task to frame a historical course which is not to consist merely of a series of small, separate and disjointed histories, given unity only by the relations of the various parts with Britain. Moreover, the available textbooks are limited in their appeal, are often too narrowly concerned with constitutional advance, and almost wholly ignore the past achievements and present policies of Commonwealth countries other than Great Britain herself. Again, it is broadly true that the majority of those who study history in our secondary schools, despite the best intentions of those who frame and use the syllabuses, are seldom confronted with the contemporary world, and often reach only the later nineteenth century. Yet the full Commonwealth picture only begins to unfold in all its variety and fulfilment in the twentieth century. For this situation external examinations at school level are not to blame; most of the examining bodies for the General Certificate of Education offer Commonwealth history in one form or other as an optional subject at ordinary level and several at advanced level also. The response is disappointing, however, and it is clear that the reasons lie outside the regulations of the examining bodies.

Probably the main reason for this state of affairs is the pressure of traditions and of timetables, combined with an unfamiliarity with the sources of information and material available, and a general ignorance of what the Commonwealth means, how it has been achieved, and what it represents. Yet it is beyond dispute that the Commonwealth offers an abundance of teaching material within the framework of existing curricula. There is certainly no need to contemplate the invasion of the timetable by a new subject - 'The Commonwealth'. History, geography, economics, social studies and current affairs no doubt offer the most obvious and fruitful avenues for the introduction of Commonwealth themes and topics; but English, science, music, and art - to name some others - will be found to provide exciting possibilities for teachers of enterprise and imagination. One has only to think, for example, of the contemporary literature of Australia or the West Indies or South Africa, the war against the mosquito, the locust and the tsetse fly, the music of Ghana or Malaya, the dancing of India, the arts and crafts of many parts of Africa and Asia, the agricultural research or the industrial developments of Canada, to be reminded of the very real contribution which the countries of the Commonwealth have made and are increasingly making to human progress. From many of these spheres of

[page 16]

experience the content of our teaching can be enriched.

And so, among all the many pressures which are brought to bear upon the schools, it can certainly be strongly argued that a knowledge of the Commonwealth should be given some reasonable priority. This would aim at ensuring that every British boy and girl is aware not only of our Commonwealth heritage, but also of the responsibilities and policies which govern our position in the world today, most of which are rooted in the Commonwealth. But at this stage it is important to make one point clear beyond the possibility of doubt. To suggest that there are strong reasons for studying the Commonwealth does riot imply that there are two kinds of history or geography: one 'pure' history or geography, and the other history and geography 'for international understanding' or 'for an appreciation of the Commonwealth'. Choice and selection do not involve tampering with the evidence, or require that we should stress the facts convenient to our thesis and ignore or play down the rest. All our teaching should still be as scrupulously grounded in the truth as we see it as before. But the content of education has always varied from age to age and from civilisation to civilisation, in accordance with what has seemed appropriate to the moment. The times now call for a reassessment, and it is suggested that as a result of this, fearlessly conducted, a knowledge of the Commonwealth is bound to find a more prominent place in the class and lecture room.

At first sight this view may seem strange when 'imperial' and 'colonial' have become terms of reproach in the current political idiom. Our extensive experience of political and constitutional problems, gained from all the four corners of the world and yet firmly rooted in our own long history of parliamentary government and the rule of law, is rudely denigrated and assailed. Moreover, it is often allowed to go by default, even by ourselves, because we have not grasped its importance and significance. Consider two of the most crucial problems which confront the world today. The first is how independent peoples can learn to live together in harmony despite enormous differences of outlook, creed, culture and colour. The second is the situation created by the great number of still under-developed or partially-developed countries who are seeking political stability, economic prosperity and social progress. In these two contexts one has only to think of Africa and Asia today. No other organisation or association of powers has so pertinent a lesson for a divided world as have the cohesion and vitality of the Commonwealth. No other country can rival the experience of the United Kingdom in leading her one-time dependent peoples to maturity and independence, without any sense of inferiority or of unwelcome obligation, so that the revolutionary leaders of yesterday become the Prime Ministers of today, and independence serves, paradoxically,

[page 17]

only to cement relationships which were recently regarded as an intolerable burden. There is no political question, no constitutional problem, no social, economic or educational situation which has not, at one time or another, confronted British administration in some corner of the Commonwealth.

In a world in which technical 'know-how' and the expert are daily of increasing importance, there are the strongest possible reasons for recognising our own unique resources of experience and expertise in the field of Commonwealth affairs. They are not only of absorbing interest in themselves, but they are at the service of men of goodwill who genuinely seek a solution of the world's ills. 'If only we knew what we were about', said Abraham Lincoln, 'perhaps we should get about it better.' We should ensure that our Commonwealth traditions - the principles, practices and ideals which lie behind our Commonwealth associations - are more widely known and understood, our contributions more generally accepted, and our continuing responsibilities more clearly appreciated.

These Commonwealth associations, contributions and responsibilities are deeply rooted in the conception of personal freedom under the law, which is still one of the most dynamic of political ideas and is one of our greatest contributions to human progress. They are closely linked, too, with the resources of the English language, with all its inherited riches and traditions, which is daily becoming of greater and greater significance as a means of world communication, and is sometimes more deeply appreciated in the universities of Asia or Africa or the Caribbean than in those of Great Britain itself. Our love of sport and games, too, has spread from these islands to every corner of the Commonwealth, and is still a potent, if informal and intangible, source of community and strength. We should not be afraid to recognise that, in the realm of ideas and ideals and of practical experience in the conduct of human affairs, the United Kingdom can still make to the world an unrivalled contribution, which is independent of physical strength or of material power. In the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, we should be willing to learn more thoroughly what we have been about in the past, so that we may strive to get about it better in the present and in the future.

In Chapter I it was suggested that many of us know far less about other countries in the Commonwealth than they know about us, although it is equally true that they, in their turn, often know very little about each other. Surely the time is ripe for us to study not only what we in Great Britain have contributed to the development of the Commonwealth, but also the riches of the cultural heritage which each member brings to our common association. In political philosophy, social advancement and economic progress we have much to learn from

[page 18]

and to teach to each other. The adaptation of British traditions and practices, and even the moulding of the English language, to different circumstances and conditions all over the world is one of the most intriguing stories in human history. At this stage in its story the Commonwealth stands as a source of strength and hope and flexibility in a world divided by fear, greed, jealousy, ignorance, prejudice and suspicion. Its dynamic philosophy and flexible structure, its rich diversity and enormous variety, and - perhaps above all else - its unique character, commend it to the study of those who, with Pandit Nehru, would 'bring a touch of healing to an embittered world'.

[page 19]


The Present Position in the Schools

THE preceding chapter has discussed the view that the Commonwealth as it exists today offers stimulating opportunities to schools and teachers. The aim of this chapter is to describe in very general terms to what extent and in what ways the schools and the teachers use these opportunities at the present time.


There are very few primary schools which fail to make reference in many aspects of their work to countries of the Commonwealth. Often at an early stage the pupils in the infant school hear stories about children in other Commonwealth countries; they learn how these children of other lands live, they see and help to construct models of their homes, and they study pictures of boys and girls of different races with differently coloured skins and different clothing. In talks about the food which they themselves eat and the clothes which they wear, they begin to learn about the food and raw materials which come to us from various parts of the Commonwealth. By the time pupils reach the junior stage, many of them are becoming familiar with stories about some of the great men and women who have played an important part in building the Commonwealth. They are beginning to know a little about the geography of the Commonwealth and to understand how people live, for example, on the Canadian prairies or on an African cocoa farm. But though the work of most primary schools contains such references to the Commonwealth, there is perhaps in comparatively few any deliberate intention to make the Commonwealth more interesting and comprehensible to the children.

Even at the primary stage, however, some schools have found that a special study of some part of the Commonwealth has brought valuable results in the interest the children have shown and the knowledge and vision they have acquired. Sometimes such a study is deliberately planned. In one junior school of six classes each class studied for some weeks a different part of the Commonwealth and the whole project was timed to reach a climax on Commonwealth Day, when a service was held, attended by a large number of parents. Some of the older children conducted it, others formed a choir, yet others came dressed in typical costumes of the countries they had studied, or as explorers and climbers. Other schools have had their interest aroused spon-

[page 20]

taneously. In a two-class village school, the teacher's retelling of a Bushranger story coincided with the visit which one of the children paid to a large port from which ships set out for Australia. Skilful encouragement brought the participation of all the junior children in one way or another in building up a lively interest in Australia. Local sheep-farmers and employees from woollen mills in the nearest industrial area made their contributions, and a former pupil of the school persuaded an Australian visitor to spend some hours in the school. In another school in a country town, contact was maintained with a local teacher who emigrated to Canada. Ultimately a correspondence developed between the English school and a little school for Red Indian children on the Fraser River. The letters have been the basis for studies of each other's areas which have aroused interest and a mutual understanding which could have been achieved otherwise only with the greatest difficulty. In another all-age rural school a teacher encourages his class of juniors to exchange with a school in Africa not only letters and journals but also tape-recordings which the children themselves help to plan and make.

For many schools, a project which originates with the teacher but is developed by the children has offered a rewarding experience. One such project was carried through very successfully by a fourth-year class in a junior school situated in a big fishing port. The teacher took the opportunity of a broadcast talk on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway, given some months before the official opening, to show a film of the Canadian winter, and as a result a plan for a class study of the Seaway was taken up with enthusiasm by his pupils. Six groups spent some time in collecting and assembling material for study, with only an occasional lesson in school given to such work as preparing the reference table and making the topic folders. Then three whole days, followed later by four more, brought most of the work to completion. Finally, the work was assembled into an exhibition which, coinciding with the official opening of the Seaway, was shown to the headmaster, to parents and to the children of the other classes.

In almost all these examples of intensive studies of Commonwealth topics, not only has there been a considerable element of history and geography, but the English work of the schools has been shown to have purpose, the discouragement of copied work has fostered reading with understanding, discussion has required clear speaking, and written work and the making of pictures, models and costumes has been stimulated. Poetry and drama have also played a part in many schools. The children have often responded with enthusiasm and have worked purposefully; and often they have obtained a useful knowledge of some part of the Commonwealth, which provides a foundation on which a

[page 21]

more coordinated and coherent body of knowledge and understanding can later be built.


In secondary schools or classes which are free or comparatively free from the pressure of external examinations, some reference is almost invariably made to individual countries within the Commonwealth in history, geography or social studies. In history lessons the pupils usually learn about the foundation and to some extent the expansion of the Commonwealth. They usually hear, for example, about the Elizabethan voyages of discovery, the founding of the American Colonies, the beginnings of trade with India, the conquest of Canada, and so on. As a rule, however, little attention is given to the smaller countries and little more than incidental reference is made to the less spectacular but equally important subsequent progress of the different parts of the Commonwealth and in particular to the evolution of their relations with one another. In their geography lessons the pupils almost always study various countries of the Commonwealth, but rather because they form part of a wider geographical region than because they are part of the Commonwealth. So again the smaller countries tend to receive scant attention, and in any case such regional studies, however valuable in themselves, do not help the pupils to get a better grasp of the Commonwealth as a whole or of the stage it has now reached in its evolution.

In classes where the schemes of work are affected by the requirements imposed by external examination, most teachers of history and geography would probably maintain that the most they can do about Commonwealth studies is to direct attention to the Commonwealth as it arises incidentally in the normal syllabus, i.e. the syllabus in history or geography leading to the examination for the General Certificate of Education. Most of the nine boards which conduct examinations for this certificate include questions on British Imperial and Commonwealth history as sections of the main papers in history, while several of them offer specific papers at ordinary or at advanced level. In geography syllabuses most Commonwealth countries appear as parts of geographical regions but here the problem is a rather different one, since the geographers are naturally interested not in the Commonwealth for its own sake but in regions which form a useful basis for work in human, economic or political geography. So most candidates for the General Certificate of Education in history and geography have adequate opportunities of turning to account in these examinations such, knowledge of the Commonwealth as they possess. Further, it is always possible for a school which wishes to lay more emphasis on Common-

[page 22]

wealth studies to submit a syllabus of its own to an examining body. But the fact remains that schools tend to adhere to the traditional studies of British and European history, referring only incidentally to the earlier stages of the British Empire or to nineteenth century experiments in constitutional advance. Discussion of the contemporary situation in the Commonwealth is generally restricted to the sixth form either as part of a general course or as an occasional topic in a weekly lesson on current affairs. The attitude of the geographer seems to be that the Commonwealth is so varied and diversified an area from several points of view that it is not convenient to study it as a whole, though all the major countries of the Commonwealth are likely to be dealt with at some time during the course.

This somewhat fragmentary pattern of Commonwealth studies in secondary schools has been varied in a stimulating and sometimes exciting way by a number of individual schools in England and more particularly in Wales, where useful experiments have been carried out during the past three years with the guidance and encouragement of the United Kingdom National Commission for UNESCO. These experiments, designed to discover the value of teaching about international understanding and how best it can be done, had as their principal aim to teach about the work of the World Agencies and not about the evolution of the Commonwealth. Nevertheless, the areas studied included several Commonwealth countries, and the methods used, including cooperation between the teachers of history and geography and often of other subjects as well, the use of all kinds of printed material, visual aids, visiting speakers, and the arrangement of an exhibition, have proved so effective that many schools are continuing to use them. When a Commonwealth country, such as India, or Pakistan, or the West Indies, has been the subject of study, the pupils concerned have gained a reasonably detailed knowledge, culled in an interesting and stimulating way, of at least one part of the Commonwealth and its problems and opportunities. That is one important step towards understanding the significance of the Commonwealth in the modern world.

Nor is this the only encouraging feature, though it is perhaps the most spectacular. In both primary and secondary schools external events from time to time prompt a special study of one aspect of the Commonwealth. In particular, the royal tours made in recent years have offered a very strong stimulus to work of this kind, and in most schools at least one class has taken a special interest in the area being visited. The observance of Commonwealth Day in the schools may be made the occasion for some special work. A permanent impression is often made on a group of children by a visiting exchange teacher or by a teacher

[page 23]

with personal experience of life overseas, and personal contacts thus established may develop an interest which will last long after the end of compulsory education. Lectures and talks given by visitors to the school and often illustrated by attractive slides not only add a valuable background to work already done in the classroom but also provide a stimulus for further study. A number of schools undertake on a large scale correspondence with children from other Commonwealth countries, even sometimes when little attention is given to such studies in the classroom. At least one local education authority has organised an impressive exhibition, which remained open for a week, of work carried out in connection with Commonwealth studies in all types of schools. The various bodies which from time to time offer prizes for special studies on a Commonwealth topic never suffer from any shortage of entrants from the schools.

Opportunities for young people to see other Commonwealth countries for themselves are not easily come by, since unfortunately most of them are so far away. One result is that, though many young people come from Commonwealth countries to the United Kingdom to study or to work, there is little traffic in the opposite direction. Before the last war some maintained schools undertook journeys to the Commonwealth overseas but at the present time considerations of expense make such undertakings almost impossible. Nevertheless it is gratifying that a number of enterprises are making it increasingly possible for young men and women to visit Commonwealth countries and to get to know them and their peoples at first hand. Several Commonwealth governments have awarded travel scholarships to young people of school age; certain trust funds have been endowed for the purpose of sending young people for a period to other Commonwealth countries; under the wing of the British Council, groups of young men with a year to spare before entering the university have been able to visit at least one other Commonwealth country; the extending scope of Voluntary Service Overseas enables a number of young men and women, immediately after finishing their school career and perhaps before going up to a university, to spend a year in some form of voluntary service in a part of the Commonwealth overseas. The Royal Over-Seas League hopes to offer competitive travelling scholarships to enable young people leaving school to visit Commonwealth countries. It is difficult to overestimate the value of such opportunities.


The formal study of Commonwealth themes receives no more attention, and perhaps less, in the training colleges than in the secondary schools, and syllabuses in history and geography seldom refer to them directly.

[page 24]

Sometimes a history syllabus includes a general survey of world history together with the study of a special period, so that some Commonwealth countries are likely to receive attention. A typical geography syllabus lays stress on the study of a special geographical region of continental proportions, and there are few such regions which do not include at least one Commonwealth country. Further, a Commonwealth country may enter into some special study undertaken either in history or geography. Nevertheless, such references as are made to the Commonwealth tend to be incidental and are not necessarily concerned with imparting an understanding of its nature as a whole. And in any case by no means all students elect to study history or geography.

The Commonwealth is certainly not overlooked in the more informal work of the training colleges. Many of the societies which flourish in the colleges, notably historical, geographical or education societies, often include in their programmes lectures on Commonwealth themes and invite distinguished authorities to address them. Day and weekend conferences about some aspect of the Commonwealth, arranged by the colleges in collaboration with outside bodies, are of increasingly common occurrence, while a number of colleges have on their staff a principal or tutor with experience of life and work abroad. Students preparing for teaching practice sometimes find that they must study some part of the Commonwealth so that they can teach about it, either because they have chosen to do so or because it is part of the school syllabus.

In getting to know something about the Commonwealth the training colleges possess a certain advantage which only a handful of schools can boast of. An increasing number of them have amongst their students representatives from other parts of the Commonwealth. In 1958-59 there were 351 students from 36 Commonwealth countries in training colleges in England and Wales, many of them in ones and twos at colleges in all parts of the country, though at least ten colleges had each more than ten Commonwealth students. As the recommendations of the 1959 Commonwealth Education Conference are implemented, these numbers are significantly increasing. In addition, there are two training colleges in this country maintained by the Malayan Government for Malayan students. All these overseas students engage in teaching practice in schools in England and Wales for several weeks each year and can hardly fail at such times to awaken their pupils' interest in the countries from which they come and to give them much first-hand knowledge; and all this in addition to the part which they play both in college life and amidst the wider community in arousing and in informing interest in their own countries. It is also worth noting that the various Institutes of Education, forging as they do links between colleges and universities, help to bring training college students into

[page 25]

contact with some of the seven thousand students from 38 Commonwealth countries who were enrolled in the universities in 1958-59, not only in the university departments of education but in other faculties as well.


The educational facilities offered in technical colleges, the youth service and adult education are, strictly speaking, outside the scope of this pamphlet but are mentioned here to complete the picture. Commonwealth studies in technical colleges are found, as might be expected, only as incidental parts of certain courses, for example in commerce, though the growth of liberal studies presents opportunities for some study of Commonwealth themes. On the other hand, there are many Commonwealth students in technical colleges in England and Wales - no fewer than 6,600 from 34 countries in 1958-59, with 4,000 additional places to be made available over the next decade as a result of the 1959 Commonwealth Education Conference. These students by their very participation in the life and work of the colleges and in particular by their attendance at the college international clubs cannot fail to impart a useful knowledge of Commonwealth people and problems to their fellow students. Many youth organisations have a lively interest in the Commonwealth and maintain active Commonwealth connections, as reflected for example in their magazines and in the visits paid by the national leaders of these organisations to one another's countries. As schools observe Commonwealth Day, so also do youth organisations mark Commonwealth Youth Sunday, and the Commonwealth Youth Council was founded in 1952 to strengthen links between young people in the Commonwealth. In formal classes provided for adults, courses dealing primarily with some aspect of the Commonwealth are rare, but many courses in history, geography, international or current affairs, or social science may include references to Commonwealth matters, especially when problems of topical interest, whether it be race relations or economic assistance to underdeveloped countries, have a bearing on some part of the Commonwealth. Women's organisations include in their activities lectures on other countries and Townswomen's Guilds, themselves of Canadian origin, often undertake quite detailed studies of other parts of the Commonwealth.


Television and sound radio are rich sources of information about the Commonwealth, both for school children and for adult listeners. In the winter of 1958, for example, the British Broadcasting Corporation Further Education Unit produced a series of seven documentary

[page 26]

television programmes entitled 'The Inheritors'. This series was designed not only for the general viewing public but also for specially convened groups varying from university extra-mural classes to local residents' associations: its aim was a factual, unsentimental enquiry into the extent of British influence in Commonwealth countries today, and an assessment of the heritage resulting from British rule. Again, the first year's programme of B.B.C. school television included a series of 32 broadcasts entitled 'Living in the Commonwealth'; this series dealt with Africa, Australia, Canada, the Indian subcontinent, Malaya, New Zealand and the West Indies, and schools were provided with pamphlets giving background notes for teachers and suggestions for follow-up work by pupils. Similarly, the earliest school programmes of Associated Rediffusion Ltd. for independent television included a series entitled 'People Among Us', which introduced children to some of the many visitors from abroad now living in Britain, and showed something of everyday life in the countries from which they came. Commonwealth countries, notably India and the West Indies, were included in this series. Recent B.B.C. sound broadcasts to schools have also dealt to some extent with the Commonwealth. In the primary school series 'Peoples, Places and Things' eight broadcasts were devoted to life in India and Australia; nine Commonwealth countries figured in the 1959-60 'Travel Talks' series, and nine in the Modern History series. Current Affairs programmes, on both television and sound radio, deal frequently with people and situations within the Commonwealth. A continuing flow of information of all these kinds seems to be assured as a result of the planned future policy of the broadcasting authorities.


Passing reference has already been made to outside bodies which, in addition to organising their own educational work, extend a willing and helpful hand to schools; fuller details will be found in Appendix I to this pamphlet. The varied services of the Commonwealth Institute are invaluable to those who are making a study of the Commonwealth. A service of lectures is included in the activities of the Royal Commonwealth Society, and several other bodies, notably the School of Oriental and African Studies and the Council for Education in World Citizenship, though not concerned primarily with the Commonwealth, organise lectures and conferences on Commonwealth themes. The British Society for International Understanding publishes a very useful series of books and papers about individual countries of the Commonwealth, while the Institute of Race Relations has been responsible for a number of publications on aspects of race relations within the Commonwealth. As already mentioned, some schools have found the means of awakening

[page 27]

an interest in the Commonwealth by exchanging letters or tape recordings with schools overseas; others, with the help of the British Ship Adoption Society or the Association of Agriculture, have achieved the same object by adopting a ship or an overseas farm. The Ministry of Education has helped to arouse and maintain interest in the Commonwealth by a series of short courses for teachers, which are often attended by visitors from Commonwealth countries.


This survey reveals that it is exceptional to find schools where the Commonwealth is studied with any marked consistency or to any considerable depth. It is certainly true that much more attention is being given to the Commonwealth at all educational levels than is commonly evident in formal schemes of work, since much of what is being done is often incidental to or illustrative of other themes. Further, the methods used are often unusual and for that reason stimulating and effective. But it is equally true that the somewhat fragmentary study of this vast topic, with its concentration on the bigger rather than the smaller countries of the Commonwealth, is not sufficiently concerned to impart an understanding of the Commonwealth as a whole and of the relationship which exists between its constituent parts. Remembering the vastness of the Commonwealth as a theme for study and the complexity of the underlying ideas which impart unity to this diversity, we turn in the following chapter to consider ways and means of making a study of the Commonwealth more systematic and comprehensive, interested in the whole as well as in the separate parts, and likely to help pupils to realise what the Commonwealth essentially is in this twentieth century.

[page 28]


Possible Developments

THE preceding chapter has attempted to describe in general outline the kind of attention that is given to the Commonwealth either by direct or by incidental teaching. The purpose of this chapter is to suggest, by no means exhaustively, ways in which this teaching about the Commonwealth might be extended.


When a teacher selects areas for study in geography lessons for primary classes, he has presumably in his own mind some idea of the total world pattern to which these studies will contribute; he will be thinking, for example, of the world distribution of climates, of vegetation, of high mountains and the life of their inhabitants, of natural regions, of different types of agriculture, of different types of industry, of dense and sparse population, of schemes of irrigation, of varying political associations. He might also bear in mind the total pattern of the Commonwealth towards an understanding of which the isolated studies of regions or themes within the Commonwealth will ultimately contribute. Thus there will be descriptive studies taken from such tropical dependencies as British Guiana and Sarawak, from Canada and New Zealand or other independent Members of the Commonwealth in areas of white settlement, and from some of the newer independent nations like Ceylon and Ghana composed of non-white peoples. Such studies will help to form the basis on which later judgments on problems of race, of federation, of nationalism and of economic development can be formulated. Since the major problems of the Commonwealth are primarily human ones, it is clearly important that these descriptions should not be merely material. For example, 'Tea in India', 'Wool in Australia' are admirable starting points; but tea is grown by persons, and it is these persons who create the problems that have eventually to be resolved.

The contribution of history at the primary stage is mainly in the sphere of stories. Fortunately there is no lack of good adventure stories to kindle the young children's imagination, stories of seamen like Drake and Frobisher, of explorers like Raleigh and Mungo Park, of missionaries like Livingstone, Chalmers and Mary SIessor, of soldiers like Clive and Wolfe and Gordon, of merchants like Willoughby and the servants of the East India Company. One might add such a colourful buccaneer

[page 29]

as Morgan of Jamaica, such a visionary as the Emperor Akbar or Cecil Rhodes, or such an enthusiast as Raffles of Singapore. To what extent children should be taught about men like Gandhi and Nkrumah, as well as men like Clive or Cook, must be left to individual teachers. The children will be too young to handle the abstract ideas which such men illustrate. On the other hand, the older amongst them will react with interest and some understanding to the concept of a 'family of nations'. And, of course, stories will be told or read not only in the history lesson; the mythology of India, Polynesian folk-lore or the West Indian tales of Anancy, to mention only a few examples, will add variety and richness to several other subjects.

It is important that we should not convey the idea that all people living in countries still not fully developed are 'primitive'. We tend to teach of pygmies and their bows and arrows, but make little reference to the Kariba Dam or Achimota; we have pictures of the Indian peasant with his wooden plough, but not of the Taj Mahal nor of the port of Bombay nor of Mr. Nehru presiding at a World Conference in Delhi. The teacher, as well as bearing in mind some of the ultimate patterns towards which all these studies are likely to contribute, must also be constantly aware that there is rapid change. Part of central Labrador is no longer a barren waste but a hive of mining industry. Ghana is completely independent and entirely free to enter into political relations with other states. Synthetic wool and synthetic coffee affect sheep farming in Australia and coffee plantations in the Nilgiri Hills. Textbooks are so quickly out-of-date that the teacher must rely increasingly for his own background knowledge on the press and on broadcasting as well as on the various agencies and publications which are detailed in Appendix I of this pamphlet.


The part played by Commonwealth studies in secondary schools can be different and often very significantly different according to whether the pupils are preparing for external examinations or not. But it should be remembered that even so the teachers concerned in the work should, as in the primary school, have the total picture of the Commonwealth very clear in their own minds and should make frequent comparisons between its various parts. Only in this way can we expect that the individual Commonwealth topics chosen for study will contribute to the coherent picture which should eventually unfold itself to the pupil. It is also worth making the general point that Commonwealth topics can often be effectively introduced into history courses where they are relevant to other themes. There is, for example, much fascinating study to be done about the East and West Indies and the coast of Africa in

[page 30]

connection with sailing ships and trading stations at the time of the voyages of discovery and in the eighteenth century. And the Canadian story can be taken alongside that of American Independence. Such themes are not entirely neglected, but when attempted they are seldom given enough time and attention. But however we tackle Commonwealth affairs, it is essential, though not easy, that an attempt be made to see them from the point of view of the Indian, the Malayan, the Australian, the South African, as well as of the Englishman. We still await a Malay or an Indonesian History of South-East Asia; we still pay more attention to Captain Cook and Captain Phillips and the Act of Federation than to the courageous settlers in the Australian back blocks; and it is not easy for us in this country to think of Indonesia as 'The Near North'.

Pupils preparing for external examinations are taught almost entirely through the medium of separate subjects, and the two subjects mainly concerned with the Commonwealth are obviously history and geography. As regards history, it may be suggested that the development of the Commonwealth in the world today; as of the U.S.A., the U.S.S.R. and China, constrains us to rethink our criteria for judging what is the most significant material for modern history in schools. Further, some of the broad truths and principles which a study of the Commonwealth would bring to light are more worthy of attention than much of the party political, the diplomatic and the dynastic history which still looms so large. Certainly more attention can be devoted to Commonwealth affairs where they impinge on British and European history, and in addition at some time during the first four years the routine progression through English History can be broken and some time devoted to Commonwealth History. If this were to occur in the early years of the course, then a theme like 'Discovery' would be appropriate, e.g., the voyages of the sixteenth century; the opening up of Africa, Canada, Australia; Raffles; Lugard. Such an opportunity however is more likely to arise at a point when the general history course has reached the eighteenth century and before detailed preparation for Ordinary level has begun, probably in the third year of the course; it was at this stage that the UNESCO experiments referred to in Chapter IV were often found to be most appropriate and most convenient. The themes might then be more exacting, e.g. the history of South Africa, Canada, Australia, or an account of the development of some parts of the old 'Colonial Empire'. But whatever the theme, it is essential to trace its development right up to modern times.

The Commonwealth impinges on both systematic and regional geography. In the inevitable process of selection, other things being equal, preference can be given to the Commonwealth - and it is not unimportant that material, such as large scale maps, is generally more

[page 31]

easily available from Commonwealth countries. For example, in discussing the world distribution of both physical and human phenomena one has to be selective in topics for detailed study. And the Commonwealth provides instances of every kind: volcanic activity in New Zealand, hot deserts in Pakistan or South West Africa; equatorial forests in Ghana or Malaya; plantation agriculture in the West Indies or Ceylon; the lure of gold in South Africa or Canada; the movement into cities in Australia or Africa. Further, in regional geography there is generally a choice of continents to be studied. In this connection, it is regrettable that teachers have been known to choose South America rather than South East Asia or Africa solely because they think the former is 'easier'. What is happening in India, Malaya and Africa today is of as much importance to the whole world as the development of South America: it is sad if we, in the heart of the Commonwealth, avoid studying it because it is difficult. It is important, too, as with history, that in studying the human geography of parts of the Commonwealth an attempt should be made not merely to draw maps showing the distribution of sheep or rubber, but to try to enter into the very feelings and aspirations of the people themselves - to understand the loneliness and the courage of those who first pushed into the Prairies or the High Veld, to realise that Rama and Krishna as well as rice and power stations still influence the thinking of the Hindu peasant. If there were time, this understanding should be reinforced by art and music and literature: but at present this must be left to those who are not studying for an external examination or to activities outside the classroom.

Greater and more exciting opportunities await the teachers and pupils who are free from the demands of external syllabuses, whether in the first five years of a secondary course or as part of the general education increasingly offered in the sixth form. Often without the restrictions and complications caused by subject divisions, different parts of the Commonwealth can be studied fully through all the richness of their history, art, literature and music as well as their present landscape, and themes can be pursued which affect the Commonwealth as a whole. By such means not only are history and geography interwoven, but teachers of art and literature and religion and other subjects can all be drawn in to create a full picture of a living member of the Commonwealth - and to create it so vividly that the pupils can begin to see problems and opportunities through the eyes of the people themselves. For pupils who will leave school at the age of fifteen or sixteen without taking an external examination, the most opportune time for some serious study of the Commonwealth is probably towards the latter stages of the course, when recent history and world affairs tend to find their place, though they will not have been neglected in earlier years.

[page 32]

Here again the syllabus of work to be undertaken must of necessity be selective and it will very often be better to plan a reasonably detailed study of one or two aspects of the Commonwealth, taking care to stress their relations with the whole and with each other, rather than to attempt to cover everything equally thoroughly.

If a Commonwealth country is to be studied in some detail, the following suggestions, necessarily somewhat sketchy in a pamphlet of this length, may provide helpful examples of planned studies. All are based on the assumption that the fundamental geographical features and factors are regarded as an essential part of the course. If, for example, the West Indies are chosen for study, reference should be made to the state of the Caribbean islands before they were discovered by Europeans, in order to understand Columbus, the sixteenth century explorers and invaders, the buccaneers, and European acquisition in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The development of the Slave Trade and the introduction of Indian and Chinese indentured labour will lead naturally to a study of plantation agriculture with particular reference to sugar. When attention is turned to the rapid progress made by the West Indies in the twentieth century, reference should be made to such topics as (a) the development of sea and air transport, (b) the importance of oil, bauxite and asphalt, (c) the place of cricket, calypsos and steel bands, (d) the growth of education and in particular of a new literature with its roots in the dark past but looking hopefully to the future, (e) the dominance of Jamaica and Trinidad, (f) migration to the United Kingdom, (g) political advance through federation to eventual independence, and (h) the meaning of federation in the West Indies compared with Australia or Central Africa.

If India is chosen as a country for detailed study, account should be taken of her ancient customs and civilisations, first the pre-Aryan civilisations as revealed at Mohenjo-Daro and elsewhere, then the Aryan-speaking peoples and the development of Hinduism with its rich mythology, its new conception of society and its abundant contributions to art, science and philosophy, with Buddhism, and finally with the Muslim invasions and the legacy of the Mogul Empire, the last leading naturally to a study of the Muslim influences and problems which helped to bring about partition between India and Pakistan in 1947. As a background to the study of India in our own time it will be necessary to understand the diversity of peoples and languages, and the position of the princely states before 1947, to assess the extent of the political, economic and social progress made by India under British rule, and to consider the achievement of independence. Topics of contemporary interest will include (a) the position of the English language, (b) economic prospects and the Five-year Plans, (c) scientific, educational

[page 33]

and technological advance, (d) the working of a parliamentary democracy with still a considerable measure of illiteracy, and (e) the influence of India in Asia, in the Commonwealth and in the world.

If Canada is the topic chosen, the study must begin with the story of early European exploration and settlement. This will lead to the struggle between the English and French in the eighteenth century and to the constitutional progress which followed the American War of Independence and the Durham Report. Consideration of Canada's recent rapid economic development must include references to (a) agriculture, especially wheat and fruit, (b) mineral resources, including iron ore, bauxite, uranium and oil, (c) furs, forestry and fishing, and (d) the St. Lawrence Seaway. The position of Canada as a world power involves the consideration of her relations with the Commonwealth, the U.S.A., and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, while the growth of Canadian literature, ballet, drama, art and music all offer topics for fruitful study.

As an alternative to the study of particular countries, there are many general themes which offer abundant interest and opportunity. There is the excitement and adventure of the long story of Commonwealth migration and settlement, including topics such as the Gold Rush in Canada or Australia, the Great Trek and the discovery of diamonds in South Africa, slavery in the West Indies, indentured labour in Malaya, Fiji or Natal, the movement of peoples within the Commonwealth and the tremendous expansion of populations in the twentieth century as people of British stock moved to Kenya and Rhodesia, Central Europeans to Canada and Italians to Queensland, and, most recently of all, educational interchange within the Commonwealth. There is the challenge of the struggle to combat diseases like malaria, sleeping sickness, leprosy, plague and cholera, and the patient adventuring of agricultural research into the growing of wheat, cotton, rubber, cocoa, coffee and the locust-bean, and the rearing of sheep and cattle. The wealth of interest to be found in the smaller countries of the Commonwealth has already been referred to in Chapter II and the study of islands, and fortresses such as Malta, Gibraltar, St. Helena, Pitcairn, Mauritius, Hong Kong, Aden, St. Lucia, can provide an unusually stimulating topic.

There are sometimes, but increasingly rarely, pupils in the sixth form working for one year only towards no set examination. But of growing importance is a general course to the whole of the sixth form within the loose framework of 'Western Civilisation' or 'World History' or 'World Affairs' - or even with no clear framework but adjusted continually to the expertise of the staff available to conduct it. In such courses the Commonwealth does not often find an important place,

[page 34]

perhaps because it is sometimes associated with lantern lectures and travel talks, and hence not worthy of serious attention. But there are certain themes, of a more exacting nature than those suggested in the preceding paragraph, which might well contribute greatly to such a course and which might be the more profitable because they deal with problems transcending the boundaries of the Commonwealth in their application. and reminding us that the Commonwealth is only part of a world-wide society. For example, the many problems of race relationships can well be studied in a Commonwealth setting, whether in Malaya, Central Africa, South Africa, Kenya, the West Indies, New Zealand or Canada. A study of the evolution from Empire to Commonwealth and a comparison with the Empires of Rome, Spain, Holland, France and the U.S.S.R. offer challenging possibilities. A consideration of nineteenth century nationalism in Europe and twentieth century nationalism in the Commonwealth presents opportunities for stimulating and illuminating comparison and contrast. Among contemporary issues that deserve attention may be mentioned the problem of trusteeship, whether political as in Basutoland, or economic, as under the Colombo Plan, and economic systems within the Commonwealth such as the Indian five year plans, Commonwealth preference, the sterling area, and economic connections with Europe. Those who are reluctant to abandon their specialist interest, whether it be literature, history, geography, music and the arts, or science, can well be reminded of the possibility of applying this interest to a Commonwealth example and sharing the results of their study with specialists in other fields, possibly in the form of a symposium to which other specialists also contribute.


If the various suggestions made in the paragraphs immediately preceding gain acceptance, then the training colleges will clearly have an important part to play. In particular, it will be part of their function to turn out teachers who are well aware of the variety of teaching material within the Commonwealth, knowledgeable as to where it can be found, and conscious of the need to ensure that it is up-to-date. But even more important, the teachers must have some appreciation of the Commonwealth as a whole and of its major problems and opportunities, as well as some appreciation of the total world pattern of which the Commonwealth is but a part. All this means that the colleges themselves should pay greater attention to Commonwealth studies, not only along the lines already suggested in this chapter but also by using the opportunities for greater breadth of reading and for special studies in depth offered by the three-year course, in order to add to the students' knowledge and understanding of the Commonwealth. The increasing numbers of

[page 35]

students from overseas who are to be expected in the colleges and the closer links with countries and even colleges overseas which may often result should give increased point and reality to such studies and even in some cases render them so fascinating as to encourage sustained and continuing reading.


To sum up, the following six very general suggestions, capable of development in various directions, are offered to help schools make the Commonwealth more interesting and more comprehensible to their pupils. In the first place, some priority should be given to Commonwealth studies. Syllabuses in history, geography, social studies and current affairs at all levels should be selective with this aim in view, so that parts of the Commonwealth should be studied whenever possible either as themes in themselves or as illustrative of other themes. Secondly, the selection of Commonwealth topics should be as systematic as possible so that each topic dealt with may add to a gradually emerging picture of the Commonwealth as a whole. The nature of the Commonwealth cannot be understood merely through a detailed study of its separate parts; on the other hand, the detailed study of even a very limited part can add greatly to the understanding of the Commonwealth as a whole if its relations with the whole are sufficiently examined and if frequent comparisons are made with other parts. Thirdly, special studies of Commonwealth themes can often be planned for short concentrated courses, for example as a special project with younger pupils or as an activity to fill in the break after examinations. In particular, such a theme might well occupy the attention of older pupils or students from both the arts and the science sides and so bridge a possible gap between their specialised interests and make a significant contribution to their general education. Fourthly, though history, geography and allied subjects have been most often mentioned, it is important to remember that the richness and variety of Commonwealth accomplishment in the arts and in the sciences provide a wide range of example and illustration for teachers and students in every subject of the curriculum. Fifthly, in order to add a greater measure of reality and of human interest, the fullest possible use should be made of the contributions from those with experience of life overseas, whether they be teachers permanently or temporarily on the staff, pupils or students from overseas or representatives of Commonwealth countries on a formal or informal visit to the school. And, finally, every encouragement should be given to young people to extend their knowledge of the Commonwealth in their more informal pursuits and interests outside the classroom.

[page 36]



Two important problems remain to be considered. In the first place, there is in educational opinion in Britain a deep distrust of anything which savours of propaganda. Illustrations and examples from all fields of knowledge must be presented to the young, and what is worthwhile, we believe, will declare itself by its very excellence; information must not be selected by authority and emphasised to the exclusion of what authority thinks to be less important. For example, while in the Soviet Union Marxist political economy is taught to every student and no other ideology may be ventilated, in our own sixth forms John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx and Machiavelli may all be read with equal seriousness and judged on their merits. Similarly there is considerable distrust of emphasising the glories of our own national history. It is true that as a result of the process of selection much history teaching does in fact extol our heritage, but in general we shrink more than many other countries from positive attempts to bolster nationalism or to foster citizenship. The deep feelings for our country are born not of indoctrination, but of the gradual absorption into our thinking and feeling of our Island's story, its memorable incidents, its customs, and its very landscape. Sensitive as we are about fostering nationalism and good citizenship by indoctrination, we are well content to believe that indoctrination is quite unnecessary, for our nationalism has grown chiefly through our living together in an island and sharing common experience. In the same way, positive teaching about the Commonwealth because we think it has virtues and potentialities for good and because we are intimately a part of it and proud to be so, tends to be against our traditions.

To be suspicious of propaganda in all its guises is eminently healthy. In a rational world good would triumph automatically without its support. But particularly in the mid-twentieth century events do not justify such optimism. The very values of western civilisation are being sedulously challenged and we are being driven more positively to comprehend and to disseminate them in order that we may defend them. Similarly, with the critical cry of 'colonialism' coming not only from the east and south but even from across the Atlantic, we are faced with the necessity of understanding more fully and of teaching more positively the nature of this Commonwealth of which we are still so important a member and for whose creation and continued development

[page 37]

we still have so large a responsibility. But that is not all. In the last century events in the Commonwealth moved at a leisurely pace; amongst other reasons, the very time taken in communication with Westminster provided a brake on precipitate change, and the absence of mass media for the spread of information and propaganda made the clamour for such change less insistent. In the middle of the twentieth century the picture is different. Several new independent states have been created within the Commonwealth since the end of the war, and several more are nearing independence. Certain parts of the Commonwealth in Africa have provided and will continue to provide headlines for the press and concern in the minds of thoughtful people for some time to come, and independence is not always achieved without anxiety and distress, if not worse. We in Britain retain a tremendous responsibility for giving all possible help to see that these rapid developments cause the least pain and ultimately produce happy results. Further, the interdependence of individual Members of the Commonwealth and their possible contribution, both individually and collectively, to world progress pose many vital and complex problems, which require our informed interest.

In these circumstances, it is not enough that we regard the Commonwealth merely as an interesting and even essential part of world studies and for this reason worthy of a place in our curricula. Some schools may well be given credit for what they have already achieved in teaching about the Commonwealth, but at the same time all should reflect that their pupils will not be fully equipped for their future responsibilities as citizens unless they leave school knowing more, and in certain cases much more, about the Commonwealth than is at present usual. Present and future events in the Commonwealth, likely to affect profoundly the lives and welfare of many peoples who in large measure share our institutions, our affections, and our very heritage, demand an interest and attention, as informed as possible, from each one of us, and the schools have here a vital part to play. It is no question of imparting propaganda but of equipping the future citizens of this country with an understanding of the Commonwealth essential for the exercise of their political obligations.

From this point of view the second important problem arises directly. If the schools are to play their part effectively, then they must make available more time and opportunity than most of them do at present for their pupils to study the Commonwealth. It is true that timetables are under great pressure with the growth of new subjects and the expanding content of old ones. But there have always been difficulties in intruding new subjects and new ideas into an already overburdened curriculum, and yet such intrusion has gone on unceasingly. In the

[page 38]

nineteenth century, first modern languages, then science, then history all broke through the framework of a curriculum which was thought to have no room for them. In our own century the pressure of world events has already been so forceful in its implications that it has caused another break with the past and made it now common for most able pupils in secondary schools to read science for four or five years and for facilities to be increasingly provided for some to learn Russian.

It is a notable feature of our educational tradition that every school has a quite exceptional freedom to modify its curriculum in order to meet changing circumstances and emerging needs. It is not therefore for the writers of this pamphlet, or indeed any authority outside the schools to pronounce where the extra time needed for Commonwealth studies is to come from or what must be omitted from the curriculum or from existing syllabuses to make room for them. They can only conclude by reiterating their view that the citizens of this country, in order adequately to discharge their duties to the Commonwealth and indeed to the rest of the world in the second half of the twentieth century, must be equipped with an understanding of the problems and opportunities of the Commonwealth, commensurate with their responsibilities.

[page 39]

Appendix I


A. Book list published by the National Book League

A list of books about the Commonwealth, its constituent countries and their problems is available from the National Book League, 7 Albemarle Street, London, W.1, price 2s. post free.

B. London offices of Commonwealth countries

Many of the countries of the Commonwealth have offices in London which can provide schools or teachers with information, and in some instances have library facilities, which can be made available to students, or lists of standard reference works. The addresses are as follows:

CANADA. High Commissioner's Office, Canada House, Trafalgar Square, S.W.1.

Alberta. Agent General, Alberta House, 37 Hill Street, W.1.
British Columbia. Agent General, 1 Regent Street, S.W.1.
Manitoba. Agent General, 83 Cannon Street, E.C.4.
Ontario. Agent General, 13 Charles II Street, S.W.1.
Saskatchewan. Agent General, 28 Chester Street, S.W.1.
AUSTRALIA. High Commissioner's Office, Australia House, Strand, W.C.2.
New South Wales. Agent General, 56 Strand, W.C.2.
Queensland. Agent General, 409 Strand, W.C.2.
South Australia. Agent General, 50 Strand, W.C.2.
Tasmania. Agent General, 457 Strand, W.C.2.
Victoria. Agent General, Victoria House, Melbourne Place, W.C.2.
Western Australia. Government Offices, Savoy House, 115 Strand, W.C.2.
NEW ZEALAND, High Commissioner's Office, 415 Strand, W.C.2.

UNION OF SOUTH AFRICA. High Commissioner's Office, South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, W.C.2.

INDIA. High Commissioner's Office, India House, Aldwych, W.C.2.

PAKISTAN. High Commissioner's Office, 35 Lowndes Square, S.W.1.

CEYLON. High Commissioner's Office, 13 Hyde Park Gardens, W.2.

GHANA. High Commissioner's Office, 13 Belgrave Square, S.W.1.

FEDERATION OF MALAYA. High Commissioner's Office, 45 Portland Place, W.1.

[page 40]

FEDERATION OF NIGERIA. High Commissioner's Office, Nigeria House, 9 Northumberland Avenue, W.C.2.

Office of the Commissioner for the Eastern Region of Nigeria, Nigeria House, 9 Northumberland Avenue, W.C.2.
Office of the Commissioner for the Northern Region of Nigeria, Nigeria House, 9 Northumberland Avenue, W.C.2.
Office of the Commissioner for the Western Region of Nigeria, 178-202 Great Portland Street, W.1.
FEDERATION OF RHODESIA AND NYASALAND. High Commissioner's Office, 429 Strand, W.C.2.

BAHAMAS Government Information Bureau, 21 Berkeley Square, W.1.

BERMUDA Travel Information Office, 6 Lower Regent Street, S.W.1.

BRUNEI Government Agent, 304 Grand Buildings, Trafalgar Square, W.C.2.

EAST AFRICA Office, Grand Buildings, Trafalgar Square, W.C.2.

HONG KONG Government Office, Grand Buildings, Trafalgar Square, W.C.2.

KENYA Public Relations Office, 113 Grand Buildings, Trafalgar Square, W.C.2.

MAL T A Government Office, Malta House, Haymarket, S.W.1. MAURITIUS House, 16 Upper Montagu Street, W.1.

Office of the Commissioner for NORTHERN RHODESIA, 57 Haymarket, S.W.1.

SIERRA LEONE AND GAMBIA Office, 29 Weymouth Street, W.1.

Office of the Trade Commissioner for SINGAPORE, 16 Northumberland Avenue, W.C.2.

Office of the Commissioner for THE WEST INDIES, BRITISH GUIANA AND BRITISH HONDURAS, 6-10 Bruton Street, W.1.

C. The Commonwealth Institute, South Kensington, London, S.W.7

A particularly useful organisation for all who are making a study of the Commonwealth is the Commonwealth Institute. The Institute has extensive exhibition galleries with comprehensive and colourful displays for all the countries and territories of the Commonwealth, illustrative of their scenery, natural resources and the day-to-day activities of their peoples. In terms of human geography presented visually these permanent exhibitions provide, under one roof, a diverse study which is of exceptional interest.

Special facilities have been provided for the reception and instruction of visiting college and school parties; assistance from qualified teaching staff is available, if required. There is also a cinema, which offers several performances daily of Commonwealth films, and an art gallery

[page 41]

which houses a series of temporary exhibitions of the work of Commonwealth artists. A reference library is in process of formation. It will contain the important books dealing with the history, geography and contemporary affairs of the Commonwealth in general and of its constituent members. At present only a limited service can be offered, but teachers and pupils (individuals or small groups) are welcome to use it. The exhibitions and other facilities provided for visitors and school parties will be greatly improved when the new building, which is at present under construction, is completed.

A number of supplementary services are maintained, some of which are intended specially for the benefit of schools out of easy reach of London. The chief of these services, available free or at a moderate cost, are conferences and courses for secondary schools and training colleges, lectures in schools, display material, a very wide range of maps, books and leaflets, classroom dioramas, filmstrips and slides, study kits and specimens of economic products. For teachers planning study projects, the Institute is happy to assist with both suggestions and material. Those concerned with adult education will find useful information in the Institute's pamphlet entitled 'Commonwealth Talks for Adult Groups and Societies', which is available from the Lectures Department free of charge.

The lists issued by the Institute include not only material prepared by the Institute but also a careful selection of that available from official and commercial sources. The following leaflets are descriptive of the Institute's services:

(1) The Institute and the teacher.
(2) School visits.
(3) Commonwealth lectures for schools and colleges.
(4) List of Commonwealth maps, posters, wall charts and other display materials.
(5) List of Commonwealth booklets and leaflets.
(6) Visual geography: classroom dioramas.
(7) Commonwealth filmstrips and slides.
(8) Study kits (although intended primarily for classroom use these have been designed to provide small self-contained exhibitions suitable for special occasions. Additional material, e.g. specimens of craft work, is sometimes available on loan to augment the display).
(9) Economic products of Commonwealth origin. List of specimens available for school geography museums.
These lists and leaflets and the cinema programme can be obtained from the Information Officer, Commonwealth Institute, South Kensington, London, S.W.7.

[page 42]

D. The Central Office of Information

The Central Office of Information produces, on behalf of the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office, a 32-page pictorial magazine entitled Commonwealth Today. This magazine, which contains four pages of photographs in full colour, deals with the Commonwealth as a whole, covering alike the self-governing countries and the colonies and the role of the United Kingdom in the Commonwealth partnership. It depicts the richly varied everyday life of the people of the Commonwealth, their art and crafts, their industries and their sports, their customs and traditions, their economic resources and social progress. Commonwealth Today is published eight times a year and is available from H.M. Stationery Office on an annual subscription of 10s. 6d. Specimen copies can be obtained from Circulation Section (H), Central Office of Information, Hercules Road, Westminster Bridge Road, London, S.E.1. A recently published book The Commonwealth We Live In is also available at a cost of 2s. 6d.

From the same address can be obtained The Colonies, a free 32-page guide to material and information services. It contains details of many publications of interest to schools, including books, pamphlets, filmstrips, periodicals, picture sets, posters and maps published by H.M. Stationery Office. Films available from the Central Film Library are also listed.

The Central Film Library of the Central Office of Information distributes on hire some hundreds of documentary and informational films on most member countries and territories within the Commonwealth, covering geographical features, fauna and flora and dealing with many aspects of the life and problems of the peoples. A comprehensive illustrated catalogue giving full details of Commonwealth and over a thousand other films is available at 3s. 6d. post free. Certain of the films can be purchased and there are also a number of filmstrips available (on sale only). A Commonwealth Films Coupon Scheme is in operation whereby users of Commonwealth films may, by the use of special coupons, obtain the films at reduced hire charges. Details of this scheme can be obtained and the catalogue purchased direct from The Central Film Library, Government Buildings, Bromyard Avenue, Acton, London, W.3.

The Reference Division of the Central Office of Information has recently made available in this country some of the literature prepared for overseas distribution. This material includes a 128-page compendium booklet entitled The Commonwealth in Brief (price 3s.) and also a number of reference pamphlets on Commonwealth affairs, on sale at H.M. Stationery Office. Also available is a series of fact sheets giving

[page 43]

outline descriptions of each of the self-governing and other territories of the Commonwealth or describing specific subjects or activities within the Commonwealth. A list of titles and prices may be obtained from the Reference Division, Central Office of Information, Hercules Road, Westminster Bridge Road, London, S.E.1.

The Central Office of Information maintains on behalf of the Commonwealth Relations Office a mailing list of organisations interested in documentation on the Colombo Plan for South and South-East Asia. Those on this list receive free of charge a monthly bulletin and occasional booklets prepared by the Colombo Plan Bureau. Application for inclusion in this list should be made to one of the Central Office of Information Regional Offices whose addresses are given below.

The Central Office of Information has also produced a special series of picture sets about Commonwealth territories for the use of schools, colleges and youth clubs. Each set consists of six panels, containing a map and up to 25 photographs, simply and factually captioned, to assist both teacher and pupil. The titles are: Nigeria, Cyprus, Malaya Ghana, Kenya, West Indies, North Borneo, Hong Kong, Aden, British Pacific Islands, Mauritius and Seychelles, Tanganyika, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Gambia, Gibraltar, the British South Atlantic Islands, and British Guiana. The sets are available on loan from the Central Office of Information Regional Offices, the addresses of which are:

NORTHERN REGION. Prudhoe House, Prudhoe Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1. (Telephone Newcastle 28543).

EAST AND WEST RIDINGS REGION. Cabinet Chambers, Lower Basinghall Street, Leeds, 1. (Telephone Leeds 30474).

NORTH MIDLAND REGION. Sherwood Buildings, South Sherwood Street, Nottingham. (Telephone Nottingham 46221/2/3/4).

LONDON AND SOUTH EASTERN REGION. Hercules Road, Westminster Road, London, S.E.1. (Telephone Waterloo 2345)

SOUTHERN REGION. Government Building No.3, Whiteknights, Reading. (Telephone Reading 61122)

EASTERN REGION. Block D, Government Buildings, Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge. (Telephone Cambridge 58951).

SOUTH WESTERN REGION. 30 Tyndalls Park Road, Bristol, 8. (Telephone Bristol 37026/7)

MIDLAND REGION. King Edward Building, 205 Corporation Street, Birmingham 4. (Telephone Central 7234/9)

NORTH WESTERN REGION. Coronation House, 1 New Brown Street, Manchester, 4. (Telephone Blackfriars 2286)

WELSH OFFICE. 42 Park Place, Cardiff. (Telephone Cardiff 30441)

[page 44]

E. The Royal Commonwealth Society, 18 Northumberland Avenue, London, W.C.2

The Information Bureau has a loan service of visual aids on the Commonwealth, including filmstrips, charts, maps and photographs produced by official and commercial organisations, which may be borrowed on payment of postage both ways. A catalogue is available on request. Advice can be given on films of the Commonwealth but the Bureau itself does not hold any stock of these. General information on the Commonwealth will be supplied to teachers and the Librarian will assist with bibliographical enquiries.

The Commonwealth Studies Committee has a panel of lecturers on Commonwealth subjects, and organises a summer school in Oxford or Cambridge each year, for which a certain number of bursaries are awarded to enable teachers to attend. An annual study conference for sixth form boys and girls from grammar schools in the London area is held during the Christmas holidays, and the two-day programme includes lectures, discussion groups, films and an exhibition. The Committee also organises a Commonwealth-wide essay competition for boys and girls up to the age of 19 years. Subjects are set according to three age-groups - Class A 16-19 years; Class B 14-16 years; and Class C under 14 years - and book prizes are awarded in each class. The regulations governing the competition, and also details of summer Schools and study conferences can be obtained from the Secretary, Commonwealth Studies Committee.

F. Educational Foundation for Visual Aids

The Educational Foundation for Visual Aids is the national organisation established by the local education authorities and Ministry of Education to provide a service for schools. It maintains a library of films and filmstrips which cover the subjects of the normal school curriculum at all age levels. This Foundation Film Library provides films for hire or for sale; a free preview service is provided for filmstrips which are available for sale. Details of these projected aids are given in the eight parts of the E.F.V.A. Catalogue of Films and Filmstrips (price 2s. 6d. each part, plus 6d. postage). All the films and filmstrips which are suitable for classroom teaching about the Commonwealth are included in these catalogues.

Other publications include: the E.F.V.A. Catalogue of Wallcharts; Visual Education, a monthly magazine which amongst other features lists in every issue the latest additions to the Foundation Film Library; a Catalogue of Equipment for Visual Aids; and other booklets and leaflets providing information on audio-visual methods of presentation.

The Technical Department of the E.F.V.A. advises on, and supplies

[page 45]

and maintains all the equipment associated with aural and visual aids. An advisory service is available on all aspects of teaching with projected and non-projected material including the production of such aids, and details are maintained of sources from which supplementary material may be obtained.

G. The British Council

Colleges, schools and other educational institutions may wish, as part of some Commonwealth study, to invite a young citizen of the area being studied to visit them and contribute to their discussions. The relevant Area Officers of the British Council will be prepared to receive enquiries and to do their best to arrange suitable contacts. The addresses of the area officers of the British Council are as follows:

Headquarters. 65 Davies Street, London, W.1. (Telephone Grosvenor 8011)
Overseas Student's Centre. 3 Hanover Street, London, W.1. (Telephone Grosvenor 8011)

BIRMINGHAM. Georgian House, 9/10 Easy Row, Birmingham, 1. (Telephone Central 3630)

BRISTOL. 7 Priory Road, Tyndall's Park, Bristol, 8. (Telephone Bristol 38466/7)

CAMBRIDGE. 1 Portugal Place, Cambridge (Telephone Cambridge 5832l)

CARDIFF. 46 Caroline Street, Cardiff. (Telephone Cardiff 27456)

EXETER. Brookfield, New North Road, Exeter. (Telephone Exeter 77394/5)

HULL. Oakdene, 7 Newland Park, Kingston upon Hull. (Telephone Hull 43265)

LEEDS. 1 St. Mark's Avenue, Leeds, 2. (Telephone Leeds 2-0931) LIVERPOOL. 4th Floor, 80/86 Lord Street, Liverpool, 2. (Telephone Royal 4133)

MANCHESTER. Woodstock, 139 Barlow Moor Road, West Didsbury, Manchester 20. (Telephone Didsbury 2764/2163)

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE. 5 Windsor Crescent, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne. (Telephone Newcastle 81-4366/7)

NOTTINGHAM. 8 Sherwood Rise, Nottingham. (Telephone Nottingham 61939/69734)

OXFORD. 1 Wellington Square, Oxford. (Telephone Oxford 57236/7)

SHEFFIELD. Beechfield House, 25 Broomhall Road, Sheffield, 10. (Telephone Sheffield 65969)

SOUTHAMPTON. 6 Northlands Road, Southampton. (Telephone Southampton 22688/9)

[page 46]

STRATFORD-UPON-AVON. Hall's Croft, Old Town, Stratford-upon-Avon. (Telephone Stratford 3137).

H. School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, W.C.1

The School provides short courses, one-day conferences and lectures on cultural, political, economic and religious subjects relating to the various regions and countries of Asia and Africa, as follows;

(a) 3½-day non-residential courses for school teachers, business executives and government officials are organised at the School at the rate of three per annum in each of the university vacations on the Middle East, South Asia, South East Asia, the Far East, West Africa, and East and Central Africa, The fee is 5 5s. 0d. per head.

(b) One-day conferences, consisting of two or three lectures and a brains trust, can be arranged for groups of sixth formers from grammar and independent schools on a regional basis, either in London or at convenient centres in the provinces. A number of these conferences will in future be held in conjunction with the Commonwealth Institute.

(c) Members of the Academic Staff of the School who have recently returned from overseas research leave in Asia and Africa have visited since 1952 individual schools in the southern half of England to give lectures to fifth and sixth formers. No fee is charged and the College pays the travelling expenses of the speakers.

Full details of the above may be obtained from the Organiser of Special Courses.

Information about courses for degrees, including history, and the careers that are open to boys and girls in the field of Oriental and African Studies, are fully set out in the Scholarships Pamphlet, copies of which may be obtained from the Registrar.

I. Council for Education in World Citizenship, 25 Charles Street, London, W.1

The study of Commonwealth topics is frequently included within the scope of the work of the Council and encouraged through the various services which C.E.W.C. offers to schools. Special attention is given to the work of the United Nations and its Specialised Agencies in the emergent areas of the Commonwealth; to African and West Indian affairs in the context of the study of race relations; and to the Asian countries of the Commonwealth within the terms of UNESCO'S Major Project in the mutual appreciation of Eastern and Western cultural

[page 47]

values. In the development of this Project in British schools C.E.W.C. plays a leading part.

The lists of visual aids - films, filmstrips, photographic exhibitions - available from the Council contain several titles devoted to members of the Commonwealth and their problems. C.E.W.C. will provide speakers from Commonwealth countries, and arranges many inter-school conferences on subjects related to Commonwealth studies.

C.E.W.C. acts as agent for UNESCO for the development of the UNESCO Gift Coupon Scheme in schools in the United Kingdom. Several of the projects within this scheme provide opportunities for schools to 'adopt' schools, mass education groups, and other educational and social efforts in Commonwealth countries; and thus to establish personal links of mutual benefit.

J. Other useful addresses

The Victoria League, 38 Chesham Place, Belgrave Square, London, S.W.1.

The Commonwealth Day Movement, 18 Northumberland Avenue, London W.C.2.

The Commonwealth Youth Sunday Committee, c/o The National Council of Social Service (Inc.), 26 Bedford Square, London, W.C.1.

The Institute of Race Relations, 6 Duke of York Street, London, S.W.1.

The Secretary, Voluntary Service Overseas, c/o The Royal Commonwealth Society, 18 Northumberland Avenue, London, W.C.2.

The Royal Over-Seas League, Over-Seas House, Park Place, St. James's Street, London, S.W.1.

The British Society for International Understanding, 36 Craven Street, London, W.C.2.

The British Ship Adoption Society, The Wellington, Victoria Embankment, London, W.C.2.

The Association of Agriculture, 53 Victoria Street, London, S.W.1.

The British Recording Club, 145 Fleet Street, London, E.C.4.

The Royal India, Pakistan and Ceylon Society, 191 Temple Chambers, Temple Avenue, London, E.C.1.


[This map was presented as a foldout sheet at the back of the pamphlet]

[click on the image for a larger version]