Promising lives: First placegetters in the Queensland Scholarship examination 1873-1962

Mackenzie, Marion Elizabeth (2007). Promising lives: First placegetters in the Queensland Scholarship examination 1873-1962 PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, University of Queensland.

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Author Mackenzie, Marion Elizabeth
Thesis Title Promising lives: First placegetters in the Queensland Scholarship examination 1873-1962
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2007
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor Rodney Fisher
Total pages 333
Collection year 2007
Language eng
Subjects 13 Education
Formatted abstract
The Scholarship was an external examination held at the end of primary school when students were generally aged thirteen or fourteen. It dominated Queensland education for ninety years from 1873 until 1962. For much of that period, passing the examination was the only opportunity for most children to enter secondary education. It was at first a competitive examination for limited places in the early grammar schools, and later a qualifying examination for entrance to any secondary school.

The principal focus of this thesis is the early promise displayed by 186 young Queenslanders who were ranked first in the state in the examination. It draws conclusions about the impact of education on individuals and society through longitudinal research, by examining the influence of family, school, community attitudes, world events and personal choices on the outcomes for those successful students. It investigates how early success was translated into their later lives, how they dealt with the opportunities and barriers they encountered, whether females and males had different outcomes, and in what ways they differed from their peers. It also examines how their lives impacted on the Queensland community and beyond through their professional lives and community activities.

By employing case-study methodology and a biographical approach it was possible to recognise not only commonalities among the Scholarship winners, but patterns of resistance and accommodation to community expectations. The long time-span under investigation made it possible for slow changes to be revealed, particularly in community attitudes to secondary and tertiary education and the education of girls and women. In a complementary case-study the same methods were used to trace the careers of the teachers of students placed first in the Scholarship. This revealed high levels of ambition, dedication and innovation among that group of educators.

Teaching families figured prominently in the backgrounds of the successful students, although they were from a wide range of family circumstances. Their school experiences were varied, but demonstrated little change in curriculum and teaching methods over the ninety years of the examination. Females faced contradictory expectations and attitudes to education, family formation and career development. Although males continued their education in an anti-intellectual climate, their choice of occupations and prospects was much more extensive than for females.

While successive Queensland governments failed to address the educational needs of the state, resulting in very low participation at secondary levels, the majority of Scholarship winners sustained their early success by completing their secondary education and graduating from universities. From there they entered professions and took up leadership positions in the community. It was not always a smooth path to success, particularly for women, who faced what seemed insurmountable difficulties. Men, while less encumbered by social constraints, encountered the dislocation of military service. Those who were unable to proceed through the education system for a range of social, political and economic reasons were frequently able to negotiate alternative routes to fulfilling their early promise.

This study is significant for the growing understanding of the influence of education on those who participated as students and teachers. It demonstrates, in a Queensland context, the consequences for learners with ability when opportunities were provided and restrictions were removed. It also reveals the personal fulfilment of those who were guided by strong and passionate interests and sense of purpose.
Keyword Examinations -- Queensland -- History
Education -- Queensland -- History
Queensland -- Biography.
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 15:38:58 EST