ADULT-SCHOOLS are establish ments for instructing in reading and other branches of knowledge those per sons who have not been educated in their youth. Thirty or forty years since, there were numerous schools for adult instruc tion in reading and writing; but at the present time, and for some years past, the efforts of the friends of education have been directed entirely to the education of the young; and the necessity of schools for adults is probably not so great now as at the period when they were first esta blished. There are a few schools for adults in the colliery districts in the north of England. When the Statistical Society instituted an inquiry into the state of edu cation in Westminster, there was only one adult-schooL But there are adult schools in other parts of London, both for young men and young women, in which reading, writing, and arithmetic are taught. Mechanics' Institutes may be considered as adult-schools for instruction in various branches of knowledge.
The number of adults who are inca pable of writing is still very large. In the three years England of June, 1841, the proportion for d and Wales of persons who signed their marriage re gister with their marks was 33 per cent of the mat, and 49 per cent. of the women: in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, and Mon mouthshire, the proportion for the men exceeded 50 per cent, and in several counties it exceeded 60 for the women ; and for North Wales it was 70 per cent. This test shows the state of education ten or twenty years ago ; and for the last of the three years there was a slight in crease of those who wrote their names.
The first school avowedly established for the purpose of instructing adults was formed in 1811, through the exertions of the Rev. T. Charles, a clergyman in Me rionethshire. Some grown-up persons had previously attended his parish Sun day-school, but they showed a disinclina tion to learn with children, and this cir cumstance led to the adoption of more extended views for their benefit Consi derable success, both in the number and progress of the pupils, and their improved conduct and character, caused the esta blishment of other adull-schools through out Wales.
About the same time, and without any concert or connection with the schools in Wales, a school was established at Bris tol, through the instrumentality of W.
Smith. This person, "who collected the learners, engaged the teachers, and opened the two first schools in England for in structing adults exclusively, in borrowed and with borrowed books," was the door-keeper to a dissenting chapel. He devoted three out of eighteen shillings, his weekly earnings, to defray the ex pense of giving to his brethren the means of studying the Scriptures, and of obtain ing knowledge from other sources. A short time after these first efforts were made, a Society was formed for the fur therance of his benevolent views. In the first Report of this Society, dated April, 1813, it was stated that 222 men and 231 woman were already receiving education. Adult-schools were soon afterwards esta blished in different parts of the kingdom, at Uxbridge, Norwich, Ipswich, Sheffield, Salisbury, Plymouth, and other places. Many instances occurred of persons ac quiring the art of reading in old age, who gladly availed themselves, in the last few months of their existence, of the means afforded them of reading for themselves the hopes and promises held out by the following are the particulars re specting an experiment in adult education tried with success by Dr. Johnstone, at Edgbaston Hall, near Birmingham. This school was established about 1815; and the only expense incurred by the indivi dual with whom the plan originated, was that of providing a room once a week, with fire and candle. It was soon attended by forty members—more than half the labouring population of the parish—of all ages from eighteen to seventy. The teaching was confined to reading and writing ; and the men taught each other. The school assembled once a week, on Sunday evening, for two hours ; kit the men often studied their lessons at home o the week-days. A man who was quite ignorant of reading generally acquired the art of reading with pleasure to himself in the course of six months. The men were generally fonder of writing than of read ing. In many instances the members of the school were enabled to turn their ac quirements, small as they were, to very good acconot.