William Wilkins

By 1865 Wilkins had been appointed Secretary of the Board of National Education. He brought to that post youth, vigour and far-sighted idealism, attitudes suitable to his new country. He threw himself into improving teacher training. He offered salary incentives to teachers who took courses for improvement of their skills. With great zeal, he pioneered curriculum improvements. The growth in the number of schools under his leadership was remarkable. He insisted that teachers should understand the deep responsibility they bore for the moral, emotional and intellectual strengthening of the children in their care. He wrote: "The educator who is not on fire with the interest of his subject can but half teach. He must glow and he must kindle. The pupil must catch fire. The cold, impassive, dry, lifeless teacher may have his own reward in pay ... He will not find it in interest awakened or minds quickened." These were unusual ideas for the mid-nineteenth century, especially for a colonial public servant. They could be sourced to educational innovators in Switzerland and Germany rather than to England and Ireland. Australia's early public schools, and their pupils and teachers, were the beneficiaries of these radical concepts.