UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The historical development of the teaching of geography in British Columbia. Topping, William


Geography, as it presently exists in the British Columbia school system, is the result of many changes and revisions that have taken place in the curriculum since the public school system was first introduced in 1849. The development of the present course is traced through an examination of course outlines and former textbooks. At the same time, the position accorded to geographic instruction is assessed. Trends are noted and these are compared with those found in other countries, particularly Great Britain and the United States. During the Colonial Period, the choice of textbooks and selection of content were left to the individual teachers, most of whom had been recruited from Great Britain. Geography ranked as one of the five core subjects. Following Confederation, in 1871, the British influence was modified by prescribing textbooks produced in Ontario. The books were little more than gazetteers of place names and glossaries of terms to be memorized. The limited course outlines that appeared toward the end of the century had little effect on teaching methods. The amount of time devoted to historical study increased and at the same time the study of geography became the map on which historical narrative was unfolded. The major revision of 1900 established the general pattern of courses for the next half-century. In the primary grades, the British influence continued. The child studied the home region which was gradually expanded to include studies of selected areas in various parts of the world. In the intermediate grades, world regional geography was studied with regional selection based on Herbertson's "Major Natural Regions". In later courses, the climatic regions of Koppen and others influenced the regional selection. Physical geography formed the basis of the Secondary courses but by 1921 all geography courses at this level had been dropped. The emphasis in Geography during the first half of the 20th century shifted from memorization to understanding and course content became centered on man in relation to his environment. The Putman-Weir Survey of 1925 reflected the American influence as did the resulting Junior High School Social Studies and General Science. The new interest-centered courses allowed for the inclusion of a limited amount of general geography as part of the Social Studies of the Secondary schools. "Pride of Empire" dominated the new courses and the resulting textbooks were interspersed with interesting stories of Empire sandwiched between gazetteer-like paragraphs on places and products. The textbooks were often unsuited to the teaching methods suggested in the lengthy course outlines in which understanding and use of regional development were stressed. The major revision of 1936-37 re-introduced geography into the High School in the form, of two optional courses and this marked the beginning of the revival of interest in the teaching of geography. Following the Second World War geography was reintroduced at almost all levels with physical geography, formerly the mainstay of geography courses, becoming a part of the General Science. The post-war courses were transitional and some were based on outdated methods while others followed modern trends. The recommendations of the 1960 Royal Commission on Education advocated that greater emphasis be placed on geography instruction and that more stress be given to factual content.

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