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Sir Joshua Girling Fitch (1824-1903), English educationist, second son of Thomas Fitch, of a Colchester family, was born in Southwark, London.

His parents were poor but intellectually inclined, and at an early age Fitch started work as an assistant master in the British and Foreign School Society's elementary school in the Borough Road, founded by Thomas Lancaster. But he continued to educate himself by assiduous reading and attending classes at University College London; he was made headmaster of another school at Kingsland; and in 1850 he took his BA degree at the University of London, proceeding MA two years later.

In 1852 he was appointed by the British and Foreign School Society to a tutorship at their Training College in the Borough Road, soon becoming vice-principal and in 1856 principal. He had previously done some occasional teaching there, and he was thoroughly imbued with the Lancasterian system. In 1863 he was appointed a government inspector of schools for the York district, from which, after intervals in which he was detached for work as an assistant commissioner (1865-1867) on the School's Inquiry Commission, as special commissioner (1869), and as an assistant commissioner under the Endowed Schools Act (1870–1877), he was transferred in 1877 to East Lambeth. In 1883 he was made a chief inspector, to superintend the eastern counties, and in 1885 chief inspector of training colleges, a post he held until he retired in 1894.

In the course of an extraordinarily active career, he acquired a unique acquaintance with all branches of education, and became a recognized authority on the subject, his official reports, lectures and books having a great influence on the development of education in England. He was a strong advocate and supporter of the movement for the higher education of women, and he was constantly looked to for counsel and direction on every sort of educational subject; his wide knowledge, safe judgment and amiable character made his co-operation of exceptional value, and after he retired from official life his services were in active request in inquiries and on boards and committees.

In 1896 he was knighted; and besides receiving such academic distinctions as the LL.D. degree from St. Andrew's University, the French Third Republic made him a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur in 1889. He was a constant contributor to the leading reviews; he published an important series of Lectures on Teaching (1881), Educational Aims and Methods, Notes on American Schools and Colleges (1887), and an authoritative criticism of Thomas and Matthew Arnold, and their Influence on English Education in 1901; and he wrote the article on education in the supplementary volumes (10th edition) of the Encyclopædia Britannica (1902). He died on the 14th of July 1903 in London. A civil list pension was given to his widow, whom, as Miss Emma Wilks, he had married in 1856.




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