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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The theory and practice of education in Ontario in the 1860's Miller, Albert Herman


The study hypothesizes that even as the 1860’s were years of significant political, social, and economic change, they can also be identified as the beginning of modern education in Ontario. Primary sources utilized included textbooks for teachers and pupils, letters, family papers, diaries, minutes of the meetings of teachers' associations and school boards, journal articles, books, annual reports, and various other documents. The study is divided into three parts: society and education; theory of education; and practice in education. The first discusses the social environment, the educational level of Ontarians, political-religious issues that affected education, and the extent and quality of public participation in school management. The second investigates concepts of education and of child nature. The third deals with common and grammar schools, teacher-training and certification, teaching techniques, and the Ontario teacher. The 1860's were years of transition as Ontario was changing from a pioneer to a modern society. Educators strove to keep pace with the forward thrust of Ontario life. New concepts and practices co-existed with traditional ones to a degree that the decade is unique as a turning point in Ontario education. Specific examples indicating the pivotal position of the 1860's in education are: the resolution of the separate school question by the Scott Act of 1863 and the British North America Act of 1867; the increasing humanitarian concern for children in and out of school; the growing desire for a more scientific approach to teaching; the changing concepts of pupil discipline and motivation; the extension of free schooling to include over 90% of the province's elementary schools; the broadening of the aims of education and the expansion of the common school curriculum; the change from a predominantly religious to a more secular and nationalistic emphasis in pupil textbooks; the widespread adoption of grading in elementary schools; the revision of the form and function of secondary schools; the large influx of girls into secondary schools, as they were granted the legal right to enroll; the popularity of object and oral teaching; the dramatic rise in the number of women teachers; and the organization of a provincial teachers' association which gave the teachers a united voice and contributed to greater professionalism. The Chief Superintendent of Education, the Rev. Dr. Egerton Ryerson, played a prominent role in nearly every area. New theories and practices in education were being tested and accepted to such an extent that the 1860's mark the beginning of modern education in Ontario.

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