History of Saskatchewan and The Old North West
Chapter L - The Educational System of Saskatchewan


Educational Beginnings in the North West Under Ecclesiastical Auspices—Beginning of Government Assistance, 1878—Oliver's School Bill Introduced, 1883; Passed 1884; in Operation, 1886—First Board of Education—First Inspectors—Religious Disputes and Abolition of Territorial Board of Education— Training of Teachers—Doctor Goggin—Council of Public Instruction Replaced by Department of Education, 1901—System of School Grants—Insufficient Number of Teachers—Creation of High School System—Establishment of Provincial University—Supplementary Revenue Act—Provincial Educational Association—Departmental Changes—Characteristic Features of Saskatchewan School System—Educational Forces Apart from the School System.

In the present chapter it will be our purpose briefly to co-ordinate the various outstanding events in connection with the educational history of Saskatchewan, merely recalling some of these in passing and treating of others more fully than has proved convenient in the preceding pages of this work.

The first schools in the West were established under the initiative of the early missionaries and other clergymen. The Reverend John West founded the Mission School at St. John for the children of Selkirk Settlers and employees of the Hudson's Bay Company soon after his arrival in 1820. In course of time the Scottish settlers established another school to which the Reverend John Black gave such enthusiastic support that out of it may be said to have grown Manitoba College, which was founded in 1870 at Kildonan, but later removed to Winnipeg. Even before the arrival of the Reverend John West a Roman Catholic Mission School had been founded at Saint Boniface (1819). From these centres the institutions of elementary education gradually spread over the West with the slow advance of settlement. As early as 1850 the Methodist Church had mission schools in operation in the far North West and in 1866 the Presbyterian Church organized such a school at Prince Albert under the charge of Air. Adam MacBeth.

Writing in 1873 Chief Factor Christie mentions visits he had paid to Anglican and Roman Catholic Mission Schools at Fort Simpson and at Providence and Isle a la Crosse, respectively. Four years later the University of Manitoba was founded by Lieutenant-Governor Morris as the pioneer western institution of higher learning.

It will be remembered that some of the most interesting business that came before Air. Laird's Council at its first session of 1877 arose out of a petition for the granting of aid to a school at St. Laurent. The Council, however, regretfully confessed its inability to act in this matter, and referred the subject to Hon. David Mills, Minister of the Interior. In January of the following year that gentleman replied, agreeing that the North West Council had no authority to impose direct taxation. He suggested the inclusion of a school allowance in the estimates and recommended the early establishment of local school corporations with the right of self-taxation. Upon the first of these proposals action was taken in 1878, when provision was made for a grant of two thousand dollars in aid of public schools for the fiscal year 1879-1880. Mr. Laird pointed out to the Minister, however, that the wording of the North West Territories Act made no provision for the possibility of local taxation except in electoral districts having a thousand inhabitants, and as yet there were no such districts. However, in the course of the year, as we have seen elsewhere, some provisional arrangements were made on the basis of which a few schools received the greatly needed financial assistance of the Government. The first definite action in this regard taken by the civil authorities was embodied in a circular issued by Air. Laird in December of 1880 promising pecuniary aid to schools having a stated attendance. Interesting correspondence in this connection has already been quoted.

The next important step in advance was taken when, on September 13, 1883, Mr. Frank Oliver introduced a Bill for the organization of Public and Separate School Districts in the North West Territories. This measure was printed, distributed and reported by the Committee of the Whole Council and discussed at great length but did not reach its final stage in this session. In his speech from the throne in July, 1884, Lieutenant-Governor Dewdney referred to the wide-spread interest that had been taken in Air. Oliver's Bill and to the increased information now available for the guidance of the Council. In due course Air. Oliver's School Bill, amended with a view to rendering it more workable and to eliminating certain objectionable features, was finally passed on August 6, 1884. upon resolution of Messrs. Rouleau and Macleod. During the following legislative recess sixty-five applications were received for the erection of school districts. Thirty-eight new districts were duly proclaimed before the Council met again, in addition to the twelve that had already been receiving aid under the previous arrangement, and the real establishment of the North West School System dates from 1885,—or rather, from March, 1886, for the necessary expenditures were not provided for until that date.

The early minutes of the Territorial Board of Education provide interesting reading, but our space will permit us to call only a few items. The first meeting was held at Regina on March 11, 1886. Present were: His Honor Lieutenant-Governor Dewdney (Chairman), Father Lacombe, and Messrs. Secord and Marshallsay, together with Mr. James Brown, the secretary. For a long time Air. Brown and a single assistant practically constituted the Education Department, and no other man has been more intimately-associated with the efficient development of our school system than this talented and popular civil servant.

At the first meeting of the Board the following inspectors were appointed:

Mr. Thomas Grover, B.A., for the Protestant Schools of western Assiniboia.

Mr. John Hewgill, for the Protestant Schools of Eastern Assiniboia.

Father Lebret, for the Roman Catholic Schools of Assiniboia.

Rev. Mr. McLean, for the Protestant Schools of the Calgary and Macleod Districts.

Mr. I. W. Costello, for the Roman Catholic Schools of the Calgary and Macleod Districts.

Rev. Mr. A. B. Baird, AI.A., B. D., for the Protestant Schools of Edmonton District.

Father J. A. Lestanc, for the Roman Catholic Schools of Edmonton District.

Mr. P. G. Larie, for the Protestant Schools of Battleford District.

Mr. E. E. Richard, for the Roman Catholic Schools of Battleford District.

Rev. Canon James Flett, B.D., for the Protestant Schools of Prince Albert District.

Father Alexis Andre, for the Roman Catholic Schools of Prince Albert District.

The salaries payable to these gentlemen were fixed at sums varying from twenty-five dollars to five hundred dollars, in addition to travelling expenses. In view of more recent regulations, it may be of interest to note that on October 11, 1886, it was resolved that the expense allowance of each inspector should be five dollars per diem. Twenty dollars per school was made the basis of the regular salary.

The Rev. F. W. Pelley and The Rev. Father J. Hugonnard were constituted the first Board of Examiners for the Territories.

In accordance with the requirements imposed by section fourteen of the North West Territories Act. definite provision was made for state aid to Separate Schools, Protestant and Catholic. Among the teachers whose names are noted in the school records of these times are those of a number of gentlemen who have long been prominent in Saskatchewan affairs. Of these we may mention Mr. H. W. Newlands of Prince Albert, Mr. D. S. McCannel of Regina, and Mr. John Hewgill of Moosomin.

By October, 1886, the Territories had ninety schools and in 1887 the Lieutenant-Governor reported one hundred and thirty-seven with a total enrollment of six hundred and ninety pupils. In this year some effort was made to extend Government assistance to High Schools, but the Privy Council vetoed this proposal in a dispatch dated November 29.

During the period of 1S88 to 1891 the vexed question of the relations between the ecclesiastical and educational authorities was the subject of much controversy. The central Board of Education consisted of a Protestant and a Catholic department, each of which exercised a very free control of the schools belonging to citizens of its faith. This caused inevitable embarrassment, especially in districts where the population was not homogeneous as regards religion, consequently the Board in 1892 was abolished and the educational affairs of the Territories were placed directly in the hands of the Lieutenant-Governor's Executive Council. In this capacity that body was known as the Council of Public Instruction and with it sat two Protestant and two Catholic appointees, who, however, had no votes.

In its report for 1886 and 1887 the Board of Education had called attention to the need of some central training school for the professional instruction of teachers, but the demands on the public purse were many and several years elapsed before a Normal school was established. In March, 1889, the Board passed a resolution requiring every union school—that is every graded school having classes above the ordinary public school grades—upon requisition of the Territorial Board to maintain a Normal Department. Mr. A. H. Smith, B. A., of Moosomin delivered lectures to teachers in training under this arrangement in 1889 and 1890. In September of the latter year the Territorial Board directed the establishment of Normal departments at Regina and Moosomin to be conducted by the Inspectors. No candidates presented themselves at Regina, however, but at Moosomin six teachers were trained by Inspector Hewgill. In the following year there were no Teacher Training Classes held in the Territories, but in 1892 and 1893 the work was continued at the previously mentioned centres by Inspectors John Hewgill and William Rothwell, B. A., of Regina. The Board also offered to conduct such a class in Alberta, but no students were forthcoming. In the three years preceding the establishment of Regina Normal School fifty-five students were trained by inspectors.

In 1893 Doctor Goggin, formerly Principal of Manitoba Normal School, was appointed Superintendent of Education for the Territories, and Principal of the new Normal School at Regina. For the next decade Doctor Goggin was the guiding spirit in educational affairs. To the energy, tact, administrative capacity and broad knowledge of educational problems which he possessed, Saskatchewan of today is largely indebted for its advanced educational system and for the absence of friction which to a large extent has marked its working. Those who are familiar with school administration need not be reminded that in actual practice peace and efficiency depend quite as largely upon the judicious framing and enforcement of Departmental regulations as upon the Ordinances passed by the Legislature. This work-was so well performed by Doctor Goggin and his associates that until the time of his resignation in 1902 the Territorial School System experienced a quiet and unostentatious development into the forefront of Canadian Educational Systems. During that time Regina Normal School trained an average of about ninety students per annum. More than twenty-five per cent, of these came from Ontario.

In 1901 a beginning was made in the manual training movement. Centres were established at Calgary and Regina with Air. L. H. Bennett as director, and summer courses in manual training were offered for teachers.

During the same year the Council of Public Instruction was replaced by a Department of Education with the Hon. F. W. G. Haultain as Commissioner. The School Ordinance which came into force the beginning of 1901 based the system of school grants upon (1) the assessable area of the school district; (2) the number of days the school was in operation; (3) the certificate of the teacher; (4) the regularity of the pupils' attendance; and (5) the equipment and general efficiency of the school. This system has had a very valuable effect in improving the schools, as the various grants derivable from the Government rose or fell more or less in accordance with the interest shown by the local authorities.

With the first decade of the century the difficulty of supplying a sufficient number of adequately trained teachers commenced to become increasingly onerous. In 1903 one hundred and fifty students received Normal training in the Territories, fifty-five per cent, of these coming from the East; and two hundred and twelve other teachers were brought from outside points. Nevertheless, it proved necessary to increase to eighty-two the number of "permits" or provisional certificates granted. There were this year within what is now the Province of Saskatchewan alone four hundred and seventy-seven school rooms and in 1904 and 1905 this number increased to six hundred and thirty-three and eight hundred and twenty-one. On September 1 there were eight hundred and ninety-six school districts. Some of these of course had no schools as yet.

Shortly after the passing of the Saskatchewan Act D. P. McColl, B. A., who had succeeded Principal Goggin in the Normal School in 1902, became

Deputy Commissioner of Education and the oversight of Regina Normal School passed to Mr. T. E. Perrett, B. A.

In the following year Principal Perrett provided that a short professional course for third class teachers should precede their admission for training for the higher certificates. Every effort was made to encourage as many as possible to take advantage of this brief professional course and classes were organized from year to year at various centres under the immediate management of the Inspectoral staff. Nevertheless, the number of untrained teachers in the schools has steadily increased. Inspector A. H. Ball in his report for 1906 comments on the fact that more than twenty per centum of the teachers in his inspectorate were teaching on permits. In 1912, to meet the ever increasing demand a second Normal School for Saskatchewan was established at Saskatoon under Principal J. A. Snell. In spite of all measures that have been taken, however, the proportion of non-certificated teachers has continued to increase. In the first quarter of the year 1913 there were approximately three thousand schools in the Province, and during the preceding twelve months the Department of Education found it necessary in some fourteen hundred cases to grant permission to trustees to employ teachers holding no certificates valid in this Province. Here lies one of the most important problems confronting the Educational authorities of Saskatchewan.

A number of very important statutes bearing upon education have been passed since the inauguration of the Province. Early in 1907 the Honorable James A. Calder, Commissioner of Education, and his deputy, Mr. McColl, held meetings through the Province to consider the creation of High Schools. The curriculum characteristic of such institutions had hitherto been incorporated with that of the Public Schools in the work outlined for what were called Standards VI, VII and Mil.1 The result of these conferences was the passing of the Secondary Education Act at the next session of the Legislature. Before the end of the year six high school districts had been created— at Regina, Moosomin, Prince Albert, Moose Jaw, Weyburn and Qu'Appelle.

A University Act was also passed in April, J907. In 1883 at the instance of Bishop McLean the Dominion Parliament passed an Act providing for the creation of a University of Saskatchewan, but this measure proved a dead letter. In November of 1903 the North West Legislature also passed an Ordinance to incorporate and establish a University, but the time was not yet ripe, and the proposal came to nothing. The Provincial Legislature was now, however, working under different conditions and a live Provincial University was soon in active operation at Saskatoon. Of the organization of this important institution under President Murray we have spoken elsewhere.

Closely connected with the Secondary Education Act and the University Act was the Supplementary Revenue Act which was passed in the same session. As we have already considered its provision when dealing with the political history of this period it need be but mentioned in passing.

The year 1907 was also notable for the promulgation of a new course of studies for the Public Schools. An eight grade system was inaugurated in accordance with prevailing practice elsewhere.

In 1898 the sub-examiners when assembled to read papers in connection with the departmental examinations organized the North West Teachers' Association. One of the most noteworthy enterprises undertaken by this body was the creation of a Teachers' Bureau which, in the course of time, became an independent institution, and which has been of great service in securing for the schools of the Province Teachers from older settled communities,—Ontario in particular. In 1908 the chief functions of the former association were taken over by a new organization, the Saskatchewan Educational Association, which has rapidly developed in membership and influence so that its annual conventions arc events of the first importance in the educational life of the Province. At the gathering in Easter, 1913, held at Regina, more than one thousand teachers and trustees were in attendance.

During the first six years of Saskatchewan history as a Province the minister responsible for educational affairs was the Honorable J. A. Calder. In 1912, however, a re-adjustmcnt of departmental folios occurred, under which the Premier himself, Hon. Walter Scott, became Minister of Education. Shortly previous to this (March 1, 19T2) the former deputy, Mr. D. P. McColl, was appointed to the newly created office of Superintendent of Education, which since the time of Dr. Goggin had been discontinued. Mr. Augustus H. Ball, M. A., LL. B., previously of the inspectoral staff and latterly of Regina Normal School, then became Deputy Minister of Education. In 1912 Mr. T. E. Perrett, the veteran inspector and Normal School Principal, entered the service of Regina School Board as City Superintendent, and in December he was succeeded in the Normal School by R. A. Wilson, M. A., Ph. D.

It may be well now to summarize briefly the outstanding features of the system of public education in the Province of Saskatchewan. Rural school districts are as a rule about five miles long and four miles wide. They are erected whenever within the area concerned there are twelve children between the ages of six and fourteen, and school grants continue to be paid in undiminished amount as long as there are half this number in actual average attendance. Very generous Government grants are paid to all schools and special provisions exist for the assistance of new or weak school districts. As a general rule the organization of school districts is left to local initiative, but when this is not sufficiently active, as sometimes in communities of non-English speaking immigrants, this duty is performed by members of a special staff of school organizers acting under the direction of the central department of education.

In view of the liberal provision made for the schools out of the public funds, the department exercises through its inspectors a strict oversight upon the elementary and secondary schools. It prescribes the curriculum which is uniform throughout the Province, alike for urban and rural schools, thus facilitating the transfer of children from one school to another as family circumstances may require. The Department also prescribes a uniform system of text books and retains under its sole control the certificating of teachers.

The local management of the school, including the employment and dismissal of teachers, is vested in Boards of Trustees elected by the local ratepayers. The system may thus be said to combine the maximum of supervision by the central authorities with the compatible maximum of control by the local citizens most concerned in rendering the school efficient.

In the cities public kindergartens exist and provision is made for special instruction in music, art, domestic science and manual training. In most cities a special superintendent is employed by the School Board to guide the general management of the school and keep the trustees in touch with the best modern methods.

The Public Schools are free to all pupils residing in the district; on the contrary the High Schools are by statute free only to students from rural districts, This curious distinction results from the fact that a small percentage of the funds derived from the supplementary revenue tax on rural lands is applied for the support of High Schools and Collegiate Institutes. The latter are simply High Schools reaching a certain grade as regards equipment, efficiency and the qualifications of the teachers. In actual practice all High Schools and Collegiate Institutes are, as a rule, by law, free to all comers having the necessary qualifications for admission.

The course of study in the High Schools and Collegiate Institutes ordinarly covers four years. Provision is made for the large number of students who simply desire an introduction to the elements of general culture, or. preparation to commercial life. Other courses are offered for those desiring to enter the professions or to prepare for Universities and for those looking forward to service as teachers. Academic work is thus practically excluded from the Normal Schools of Saskatchewan, which devote themselves exclusively to educational history and training in the theory and practice of the High School, students may pass directly into the Provincial University, entering either the classes of the first or of the second year, according to whether they have taken the junior or the senior matriculation examinations upon leaving the High School.

A word must be said regarding separate schools as they exist in Saskatchewan. These are few in number and differ in little but name from ordinary Public Schools. They are subject to the same general laws and regulations as regards curriculum, et cetera, and are supervised by the same inspectors as our Public Schools. Special religious training is by law confined to the last half hour of the school day.

The amazing growth of the school system of Saskatchewan is striking!} reflected in the following statistical return. The total grants for education in the whole North West Territories was $25,000 in 18S6. For the financial year 1913-1914 the estimates for Saskatchewan alone amount to $740,250, exclusive of the funds derived from the Supplementary Revenue fund, which bring the total expenditure for education considerably over $1,100,000.

Various private and denominational schools exist especially to meet the needs of students who have lacked early advantages or who desire special training, particularly in music. Such institutions, however, receive no governance from the school system proper, important educational functions are performed by various societies. Prominent among these is the Regina Society for the Advancement of Art, Literature and Science organized chiefly on the initiative of Magistrate Trant, who for a quarter of a century had been a leader in almost every movement of a literary or scientific character As this organization is the pioneer in its field, it deserves some special mention. It was organized in the season of 1909 and 1910 to constitute a bond of union among the studiously inclined, to facilitate systematic study in any direction desired by a sufficient number of its members and to secure the advantage of hearing scholars and artists from other parts. Independent societies of kindred aims may affiliate on terms approved by the board of Directors. The annual Art Exhibits held under the auspices of this society have been the most noteworthy events of this kind that have occurred in Saskatchewan. Courses are offered annually totalling between sixty and seventy lectures, covering work in Art and Architecture; Psycholop and Child Study; Astronomy; Literature; History and Economics and Music

Another association the establishment of which likewise indicates lie development of the Province along aesthetic lines is the Saskatchewan Musical Association which, chiefly through the initiative of Mr. F. W. Chisholm of Indian Head and Air. F. Laubach of Regina, was organized in May, 1908, with Mr. A. F. Angus of Regina as President and Mr. James Brown as Vice President. Under the auspices of this society the Saskatchewan Musical Festival has become an annual event to which the whole Province looks with interest. In 1909 there were forty-four entries in connection with the various contests, and by 1912 entries had risen to one hundred and thirty-five. The musicians actually participating in the festival for this year numbered about seven hundred and fifty. It would be hard to exaggerate the importance of the effect produced under the encouragement of this flourishing society.

Many other societies more or less similar in aims have contributed to the higher education of Saskatchewan, but these two organizations, by virtue of the scope of the work undertaken, are specially significant and at the same time typical of the rest.


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