Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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HIGHER, adj. Sc. educational usages:

1. On a more advanced or difficult level, specif. in reference to a subject in the Senior Leaving Certificate Examination, held at the end of the secondary school course in Scotland. Most subjects provide papers in two grades of difficulty, higher and Lower, q.v., and passes in certain groups or combinations of these are accepted as a certificate of fitness for admission to a University or certain professions. The examination and passes in its various subjects are colloq. known as the Highers; 2. In combs.: (1) †higher class school, a school providing post-elementary academic education, a secondary school (see quots.). The adj. public was added where the school was under the administration of the local School Board; (2) †higher grade school, a similar school specialising in non-academic subjects. 1. Sc. 1888  J. Strong Secondary Education in Scot. (1909) 222:
Three grades of certificates for each subject were issued: an honours grade, the standard for which corresponded to that of the examinations of the Indian Civil Service; a higher grade, up to the standard of examination required for entry upon the three years' course at the University; and a lower grade, corresponding to the standard for the medical preliminary examination.
Sc. 1910  Merchant Maiden (April) 68:
Some were brave enough to attempt Higher English, and even Higher French.
  Ib. (Dec.) 22:
“Honours” is abolished so that there is less inducement for a girl to stay at school when her Higher Leaving is safe.
Sc. 1923  Schola Regia (Easter) 13:
The Scottish Education Department, who saw fit to make this one of the essay subjects in the Highers.
Sc. 1946  N. M. Gunn Drinking Well iv.:
I want him to get his school certificate, the Higher Leaving Certificate.
Sc. 1953  Sc. Educ. Jnl. (10 April) 225:
Broadly speaking, higher English and three other highers, or higher English, two other highers, and two lowers are needed for entry to a Scottish university.
Sc. 1957  Scots Mag. (March) 423:
The other, who serves the same apprenticeship, has already “taken his Highers.”
2. (1) Sc. 1872  J. C. Jessop Education in Angus (1931) 308:
An important feature of the Act [The Education (Scotland) Act, 1872] was the separation of elementary and secondary schools. With respect to burgh schools existing at the passing of this Act, in which the education given did not consist chiefly of elementary instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic, but of instruction in Latin, Greek, modern languages, mathematics, natural science, and generally in the higher branches of knowledge, such schools were to be deemed higher class public schools, and were to be managed by School Boards accordingly, with a view to promoting the higher education of the country.
Sc. 1912  W. J. Gibson Education in Scotland 105:
The examination is shared in not only by the old Higher Class Schools and endowed schools, but also by the Higher Grade schools which are doing secondary work.
(2) Sc. 1910  J. Kerr Sc. Education 276, 323, 402:
The establishment of Higher Grade Schools for pupils who remain up to 16, and whose aim is a commercial rather than a professional career. . . . In 1899, when higher grade schools appear in the code for the first time . . . They are to be of two kinds, predominantly higher grade (science) and higher grade (commercial) schools. . . . The former distinction between “Higher Class” and “Higher Grade” schools was abolished at least as far as nomenclature is concerned [in 1906].

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"Higher adj.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jan 2018 <>



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