UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Growing up British in British Columbia : boys in private school, 1900-1950 Barman, Jean


During the years 1900-50 about fifty non-Catholic private boys' schools existed in British Columbia. Most were small private ventures, a few large incorporations. Some survived only a few years, five endure to the present day. Virtually all the schools were premised on the principles and practices of private education in Britain. Three factors coalesced to bring these schools into being. British Columbia possessed from the mid-nineteenth century a heritage of private education. While acquiescing in the necessity for common schooling for the mass of the population, some families continued to educate their own offspring privately in the province, in Britain, or elsewhere in Canada. The second circumstance behind the creation of boys' schools in British Columbia was the tremendous popularity in late-Victorian Britain of a form of class-based private education particularly amenable to replication, the "public" school and its counterpart for younger boys, the preparatory school. Thirdly, British Columbia society fundamentally altered as a consequence of the national immigration policy initiated in 1896. Over the three decades 1891-1921, about 175,000 British immigrants settled in the province, including upwards to 24,000 of suitable social background to have been supporters of private education. Boys' schools on the British model were founded by enterprising .British immigrants primarily to educate the offspring of fellow settlers. However, schools' clientele gradually extended to encompass established British Columbia families of high socio-economic status. Such families were themselves responsible for the incorporation in Vancouver in the early 1930s of the province's last major boys' school, now its largest. The significance of British Columbia's boys' schools extends beyond their clientele, which did not much surpass 7,500 over the years 1900-50. Families supporting private education were already a distinctive element in the society. Educating offspring apart from vast bulk of their contemporaries helped perpetuate that separate identity from generation to generation. Socio-economic divisions in the society were in effect consolidated and maintained from the top down.

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