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An account of the changes in biology education in Ontario high schools (1871-1978) Taylor, Stanley James


This study traces biology education in Ontario High schools from 1871 to 1978, and is the first major study of the development of Ontario biology in forty years. The author examines a variety of data sources for information about the biology curricula in regard to aims, content, methods and evaluation. For convenience in organizing the data, the century studied is divided into three periods: (a) a period of education for a minority (1871-1920) (b) a period of expanding enrolment (1921-1960) and (c) a period of educational flux (1961-1978). Over the three- periods the following changes were noted: (i) The topics covered changed considerably over the hundred years starting with taxonomy and proceeding through morphology and related physiology, applications of biology, genetics, ecology and cell biology. (ii) The educational emphasis and authorship of the textbooks changed. In the first period, the authors were university biologists and stressed the structure of biology; in the second period, the authors were teachers and emphazized the topics of pupil interest; while in the third, the authors were teams of biologists and teachers and stressed both biological structure and student interest, (iii) The physical facilities changed throughout the period reflecting the curricular concept currently in vogue, (iv) Over most of the hundred years Ontario secondary teachers of biology had high academic and professional qualifications. However, there were times of teacher shortages in which qualifications declined, (v) The opportunities for the "average" high school pupil to learn biology increased greatly over the hundred years as the proportion of pupils attending high school increased eighteen-fold. Pupils enrolled in agriculture much later than in biology and the proportion of pupils studying agriculture varied with the community's need for farmers. The biology programs are related to the four curricular ideologies or concepts outlined by Michael Schiro (1978); the scholar academic ideology, the child study ideology, the social efficiency ideology and the social reconstruction ideology. The author found that the scholar academic concept was dominant throughout but declined during the second period; the social efficiency concept appeared in the first period but was declining by the third; the child study approach provided a competing ideology in the second and third periods; and the social reconstruction concept emerged during the third.

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