Course of Study for Common Schools

The course of study prescribed for Common Schools embraces the following subjects: -

  1. Reading. – From Primer to Fifth Reader, inclusive.  Special attention should be given to correct pronunciation, distinct articulation, and proper expression.

Declamation of selections from prose and poetry committed to memory tends to awaken a taste for good language, as well as aids in the development of a natural and easy delivery.

  1. Writing. – The systems of penmanship authorized are Gage’s copy-books, and Payson, Dunton, and Scribner’s series.  If the teacher prefer, he can use plain copy-books, setting the headlines.

Particular attention should be given to the proper manner of holding the pen, and correct position at the desk.

  1. Spelling. – Gage’s Speller is the authorized text-book.  It should be used by all pupils in the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Readers.

Instruction should be both oral and written.

Dictation should commence with the ability of the child to write legibly, and should continue through the entire course.

  1. Written Arithmetic. – Principles and methods should be thoroughly explained.

After accuracy in work, quickness in calculation is most desirable.  To attain this, frequent practice of the simple rules is essential.

Practical examples – those that the pupil is liable to meet in every-day life - should be given frequently.

  1. Mental Arithmetic. – Instruction should begin with questions in the simple rules, and should expand according to advancement.

In teaching this branch, the chief object aimed at should be to impress firmly on the mind the facts and processes of arithmetic.

  1. Geography. – Thorough knowledge of the terms used and the explanations given in [the] introductory chapter of text-book is essential.

The wall maps should be used freely.  A globe should be used in teaching the shape of the earth, its motions, the seasons, etc.

  1. English Grammar. – Every pupil in the Third Reader should commence this branch, although oral instruction of an elementary character may be given to advantage at an earlier period.

A good knowledge of the parts of speech and their inflections, together with the rules of syntax, is of primary importance.

Construction of sentences and correction of errors should receive early attention.

The teaching of analysis should proceed slowly and carefully – the simple sentence being thoroughly understood before the complex or the compound sentence is attempted.

Parsing should be regarded by the teacher as a test of thorough knowledge of the accidence and rules of grammar.

  1. English History. – Prescribed lesson should be read in class.

The points of the lesson which are required to be memorized should be written on the blackboard.

Pupils should be taught the relative importance of events; for example, that story of Becket’s parentage is not of equal historical value with the signing of the Magna Charta, or the passing of the Habeas Corpus Act.

Oral reviews should be more frequent than written examinations on the subject. Geographical references should be pointed out on the map: - “Geography and chronology are the two eyes of History.”

  1. Canadian History. – Outlines of method given for English History are applicable to this subject
  1. Composition and Letter Writing. – The slate may be used in teaching this subject, but special care should be taken that its use does not lead the pupil into the habit of scribbling.

Reproduction as an occasional exercise may be used profitably, but the bringing out of originality is of the most permanent value.

Instruction should be given as to the proper method of opening, closing, folding, and addressing a letter.

A good knowledge of the forms used in general correspondence should be given.

  1. Anatomy, Physiology, and Hygiene. – Oral primary instruction in these allied subjects may be given to the whole school, but pupils in the Fourth and Fifth Readers should be required to use the text-book.

The teaching of Physiology and Hygiene affords the teacher the opportunity of imparting practical instructions on many points of vital consequence to the pupil.

In giving instructions in Hygiene, the branch subject of Temperance, with reference to the evil effects of stimulants and narcotics on the human system, should not be overlooked.

The above course of study is considered sufficiently comprehensive to enable the pupil to obtain a good ordinary English Education, which is the chief aim of our school system.

Exceptions have been taken to the number of subjects prescribed, and complaints have been made as to overwork on the part of the pupils.  These cases of overwork can almost invariably be traced to overpressure on the part of the teacher in prescribing lessons, and the same evil might exist were the number of subjects reduced.  It would certainly be a difficult task for a competent judge to decide which one of the above prescribed studies should be eliminated from the course without serious loss to the pupil.

It is proper to state that our course of study is very similar to that prescribed in each of the other provinces.

Source: British Columbia. Public Schools Report, 1890