TATE, Frank (1863-1939)

TATE, Frank (1863-1939)
son of Henry Tate, a country storekeeper, was born at Castlemaine, Victoria, on 18 June 1863. He was educated at the Castlemaine state school, the model school, Melbourne, and the university of Melbourne, where he graduated B.A. in 1888 and M.A. in 1894. He entered the teachers' training college in 1883 and gained the trained teacher's certificate with first and second honours. His first charge was a small school near East Kew on the outskirts of Melbourne. He quickly made an impression as an able and stimulating young teacher and many students were sent to his school for teaching experience. In 1889 he was appointed a junior lecturer in the training college and became much interested in teaching methods. At the end of 1893, following the great financial crisis, the college was closed, but Tate was given charge of classes in Melbourne for the training of pupil teachers. In 1895 he was appointed an inspector for the Charlton district, and spent four years inspecting its 136 schools and incidentally learning a great deal about the problems of small rural schools and their teachers. He became a well-known speaker at teachers' congresses and enhanced his reputation as an educationist when giving evidence before the technical education commission. He was appointed principal of the teachers' training college when it was re-opened in September 1899, and vigorously set to work to make up as far as possible the ground lost while the college was closed. He kept the subject of English in his own hands, considering it to be the basic subject of education, and steadily brought before his students the opportunities for service to the community possessed by enlightened teachers. In March 1902 when it was announced that he had been appointed as the first director of education in Victoria he was only 38 years old. Many men of much longer service had been passed over, but it appears to have been generally recognized that he was the fit man for the position.
When Tate took up his charge education in Victoria had long been starved and neglected. The state had been going through a period of lean years, but the new director felt that money spent on education would more than repay itself. He felt too that well-educated and capable men and women could not be attracted to an ill-paid profession with little prospect of promotion. He set out to do away with pupil-teachers, to improve the training of teachers, to obtain better pay for them, to encourage school committees, and to suggest to each community that the local state school was not merely a state school—it was their school. New methods of instruction were brought in, the chief object being the development of a child's mind instead of merely cramming it with facts. Tate felt too that secondary and technical education was being neglected and in June 1904 presented a report on "Some Aspects of Education in New Zealand" in which he showed how far behind Victoria was lagging in this work.
In 1905 a bill was introduced in parliament for the registration of teachers and schools not administered by the education department. This was passed and had much effect in raising the qualifications and status of secondary school teachers. When it was determined that Tate should attend the conference on education held in London in May 1907 he took the opportunity of making a special study of these problems in Europe and the United States of America. Soon after his return he published in 1908 a Preliminary Report upon Observations made during an Official Visit to Europe and America. In this report he showed that a "ladder of education" was required. Primary schools formed a necessary basis, but on these must be imposed higher elementary schools, secondary schools and agricultural high schools, all leading on to the university or agricultural college. Technical colleges for young people engaged in industry must also be much more encouraged. In a striking diagram he showed that of the money spent by the state of Victoria on education 93.1 per cent was for primary education and less than one per cent for secondary education. In another diagram he demonstrated that New Zealand, whose population was a fifth less than that of Victoria, was spending three times as much on technical education and more than 10 times as much on secondary education. Tate never wavered in his fight for a better state of things and gradually imposed his views on parliament. In the education act of 1910 which Tate drafted, provision was made for the constitution of a council of public education. It consisted of representatives of the university, the education department, technical schools, public and private schools, and industrial interests. Its duties were to report to the minister upon public education in other countries, and matters in connexion with public education referred to it by the minister. It also took over the duties of the teachers and schools registration board. The discussions of this council have proved of great value in the consideration of problems of public education in Victoria. Tate was chairman of this committee, and he also kept in touch with the university as a member of its council.
When Tate retired from the education department in 1928 no fewer than 128 higher elementary schools and 36 high schools had been established in Victoria, and there had been an increase of 50 per cent in the number of technical schools. Tate had also paid two visits to London and had sat on commissions dealing with education in New Zealand, Fiji, and Southern Rhodesia. After his retirement he became chairman of the Australian council for educational research and never lost his interest in educational problems. He died at Melbourne on 28 June 1939. He married in 1888 Ada Hodgkiss, who died in 1932, and was survived by two sons and a daughter. The Imperial Service Order was conferred on him in 1903 and he was created C.M.G. in 1919. In addition to the reports mentioned Tate edited in 1916 As You Like It in the Australasian Shakespeare, and in 1920 published as a pamphlet, Continued Education, Our Opportunity and our Obligation. He was a good popular lecturer on Shakespearian and other subjects. An excellent portrait painted about the time of his retirement by W. B. McInnes (q.v.) is at the national gallery, Melbourne.
Tate was a tall man of good presence, rugged of feature, somewhat informal in manner. He liked a good story and could tell one. He had great power in getting work from his subordinates and had loyal lieutenants including M. P. Hansen and J. McCrae who in succession followed him in the office of director. He had great force of character, and once having made up his mind kept his eyes steadily on the object and did not cease working for it until it was achieved. He did much in raising the status of the teachers in the education department and even more in creating interest in the individual schools, but his great work was the immense increase in secondary education which was brought about during his period as director.
The Argus, Melbourne, 29 June 1939; J. R. L., Education Gazette and Teachers' Aid, 17 July 1939; E. Sweetman, Long, and Smyth, A History of State Education in Victoria; private information; personal knowledge.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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