UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The impact of progressive education on Roman Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Vancouver : 1924-1960 Gemmell, Katie


Between the early 1920s and 1960, Catholic schools in the Vancouver Archdiocese grew considerably from an assortment of independently operated private and parochial schools to a centralized diocesan system with over three-dozen schools. In the same time period, public education underwent significant changes with the introduction of progressive education, first with the Survey of the School System (Putman Weir Report) (1925) and later with the provincial curriculum revisions of 1936 and 1937. In 1960, the provincial Report of the Royal Commission on Education signalled a change in direction toward a new discipline-based approach to education. Very few historical studies have examined Catholic schooling in British Columbia, nor its relation to broader educational trends. This study used archival research to examine the influence of progressive education on the curriculum, pedagogy, and philosophy in Vancouver’s Catholic schools. Without government funding, Catholic educational leaders in this period were seeking to raise academic standards and demonstrate the legitimacy and necessity of Catholic schooling. The vast majority of Catholic schoolteachers were religious sisters who had devoted their lives to the spread of Catholic Christianity and the education of children. While they were willing to implement progressive methods and curriculum, Catholic schoolteachers and administrators were unwilling to compromise their philosophy of education, which was rooted in an understanding of the human person as both material and spiritual. Perhaps ironically, Catholic educators’ embrace of progressive education was most evident in the archdiocesan religion course. The Catholic school community’s relationship with progressive educational trends can be characterized as one of independence and experimentation.

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