Definitions of “Technical Education” and “Industrial Workers”.

 (An interesting definition of technical education given in the Technical Instruction Act 1889).

“The expression ‘technical education’ shall mean instruction in the principles of science and art applicable to industries, and in the application of special branches of science and art to specific industries or employments. It shall not include teaching the practice of any trade or industry or employment, but, save as foresaid, shall include instruction in the branches of science and art with respect to which grants are for them time being made by the Department of Science and Art (DoSA), and any other form of instruction (including modern languages and commercial and agricultural subjects), which may for the time being be sanctioned by that Department by a minute laid before Parliament and made on the representation of a local authority that such a form of instruction is required by the circumstances of its district.”


Reference: Extract from the Technical instruction Act 1889.

Samuelson stated in 1890 technical education was “everything which prepares a man and woman for then walk of life which he or she intends to pursue”.

These definitions even accepting their limitations was used extensively into the 20th century.

For example Millis stated in 1925 “that the objectives of technical education were to provide instruction in the principles of art and science applicable to industry and in the application of special branches of art and science to specific industries and employment”.

These definitions did not identify the relationship between theory and practice within technical education. In addition the dividing line between technical and vocational remained unclear. Clearly the teaching of technical education is equally applicable to the teaching for the professions and services. These definitions did not identify the problems and challenges of the appropriate learning environment and the differences between education and training.

As this history highlights the balance between the teaching of the general principles and practical and specific skills continues to be a problem and at times a very contentious issue across all the educational sectors.

An early definition of  recognised categories of  Industrial Workers.

The Department of Science and Art (DoSA) defined in its 1870 Science and Art Directory categories of persons who could be regarded as industrial students as follows:

  1. Artisans or operatives in receipt of weekly wages.
  2. Coast-guards, policemen, and others, who, though in receipt of weekly wages, do not support themselves by manual labour.
  3. Teachers in elementary schools in connection with the Education Department.
  4. Persons in receipt of salaries not large enough to render them liable to income tax, as some descriptions of clerks, shopmen, etc.
  5. Small shopkeepers employing no one but members of their own family, and not assessed to income tax.
  6. Tradesmen and manufacturers on their own account, supporting themselves by their own manual labour, not employing apprentices, journeymen, etc., and not assessed to income tax.
  7. The children (not earning their own livelihood) of all such persons above mentioned.

Further definitions:

Technology: the scientific study of the practical or industrial arts.

Craft: skill, art, ability in planning or construction; a calling requiring special skill and knowledge; especially a manual art, a handicraft.

We can, somewhat simplistically, identify two kinds of education and training namely technological and technical to the broad classes of occupations e.g.

  1. Unskilled occupations
  2. Semi-skilled occupations
  3. Skilled craftsmen and technicians
  4. Professional and managerial occupations – scientists, technologists, managers and executives.

“Technical” education and training is largely concerned with (c) and with (b) whilst “Technological education and training” is concerned with group (d). Clearly these are very crude mappings and distinctions as ultimately demand depends critically on the advancing nature of science and technology and its impact on industry and working practices in the future.

The increasing introduction of robotics and information communication technologies into the workplace will fundamentally change the nature of work in the future. These changes will in turn significantly impact on the technical and technological education and training systems.



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