The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Pearson, Hon. Charles Henry

Pearson, Hon. Charles Henry, M.A., LL.D., son of Rev. John Norman Pearson, M.A., by his marriage with Harriet, daughter of Richard Puller, and younger brother of the late Sir John Pearson, Judge of the High Court of Justice, was born on Sept 7th, 1830, at Islington. He was educated at Rugby, King's College, London, and at Oxford University, where he matriculated on June 14th, 1849. He was scholar of Exeter College from 1850 to 1853; B.A. in 1853; Fellow of Oriel College from 1854 to 1873; M.A. in 1856; Honorary Fellow of King's College, London, and Professor of Modern History from 1855 to 1865; Lecturer on Modern History at Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1869 to 1871. He emigrated to South Australia in 1872, and was married at Gawler, Dec. 10th, 1872, to Edith Lucille, eldest surviving daughter of Philip Butler, of Tickford Abbey, Bucks. He removed to Victoria, and became Lecturer in History and M.A. of Melbourne University in 1874. He was head master of the Presbyterian Ladies' College, Melbourne, from 1875 to 1877; in the latter year Dr. Pearson unsuccessfully contested Boroondara in the Liberal interest. He was Royal Commissioner to inquire into the present state of education from 1877 to 1878, in which year he was elected to the Legislative Assembly for Castlemaine, and was selected to accompany Mr. (now Sir) Graham Berry to England, to request the intervention of the Home Government in the constitutional crisis then pending between the two Houses. He was absent in England from Dec. 27th, 1878, to June 17th, 1879. Dr. Pearson was member for Castlemaine till 1883, when he was returned for East Bourke Boroughs, for which he sat till the general election in April 1892, when he did not contest the seat. He was minister without portfolio in the third Berry Government from August 3rd, 1880, to July 9th, 1881; Minister of Public Instruction in the Gillies-Deakin Ministry from Feb. 18th, 1886, to Nov. 1890. Dr. Pearson was editor of the National Review 1862-3, and has published "A History of England during the Early and Middle Ages," in two volumes, 1861-8; "Historical Maps of England during the First Thirteen Centuries," 1869, third edition 1884. After he went to Australia Dr. Pearson published "History of England in the Fourteenth Century," and an "English Grammar," the latter written in conjunction with Professor Strong (q.v.), with whom he also collaborated in editing "Juvenal" for the University of Oxford. Since 1877 Dr. Pearson has been a regular contributor to the editorial columns of the Age and Leader, and has written articles for the leading English periodicals. He is an honorary LL.D. of the University of St. Andrews. As Minister of Public Instruction, Dr. Pearson steadily set himself to separate primary from secondary education, in opposition to the general and colonial tendency, which is to run one into the other. He did this by founding two hundred scholarships a year, which admit the scholars of primary schools to high schools; by reducing the limit of compulsory attendance from fifteen years of age to thirteen; by increasing the term of statutory attendance from thirty days a quarter to forty; and by liberally endowing special technical schools, which have increased during his term of office from two to fourteen. He brought over an expert from South Kensington to reorganise the teaching of design; be raised the incomes of the certificated teachers; and reduced the average expense of the school system by employing teachers of slightly inferior qualifications for the very small schools. A teacher is now sent to any place where there is an average attendance of eight scholars. Dr. Pearson is the firm advocate of secular education, as established in the colony of Victoria, as the only system that can be worked with fairness in a country divided between many sects. Before leaving office he was preparing to abolish the system of results, and laboured hard whilst he was Minister of Education, though with very little success, to make the so-called compulsory clauses of the Education Act a reality, as they are in Switzerland.