Junior High School, 1927/1928

Introduction by Megan Cameron and Kelsey Diaczuk

With the introduction of Progressivism following the turn of the century, education began to take on a new identity. This new method of education was a revolt against traditional, formal schooling that was driven by new, complex ideas, and the new discipline of psychology, which brought science to education.

Out of this changing ideology came the Putman-Weir survey, a Royal Commission on schooling in British Columbia, headed by Dr. J. H. Putman, Senior Inspector of Schools for Ottawa, Ontario, and Dr. G. M. Weir, head of the Department of Education of The University of British Columbia. The Putman-Weir Report of 1925 criticized the limitations of the curriculum of BC schools, particularly the emphasis on formal, academic discipline. Instead, Putman and Weir advocated a child-centred, activity-oriented curriculum involving the implementation of new progressive programs. These programs were: manual training, domestic science/home economics, elementary agricultural education, health and hygiene, physical training, improved teacher training, consolidation of small school districts, and scientific testing.

Also in their report, Putman and Weir considered the feasibility of the establishment of a Junior High school system in British Columbia for children in grades seven, eight, and nine. An explanation was provided regarding the underlying principle, probable costs, and the possible problems of both organization and management.

Financial concerns were considerable. Parents and communities worried that the establishment of this program would increase educational costs. However, Putman and Weir stated that while the establishment of these schools would not decrease the amount being spent on education, any possible financial difficulties would be outweighed by the increased opportunities for the students. It was proposed that any problems in organization and management could be lessened through the use of the departmental method and rotary organization. These were intended to increase efficiency and to better meet the students' needs. Also, the problem of implementation in small schools was addressed and the solution of the combining of middle and high schools in one building was suggested.

In the previous system, pupils transferred directly from elementary school to high school. However, this ignored the fragility of the adolescent stage of life. The new system recommended that the pupil should be promoted to middle school regardless of achievement because of the need of these children to be among peers of their own age. Following from this, it was suggested that there should be no exclusionary entrance exams in the middle school.

Taking into account the many findings of the Survey of the School System regarding the Programme of the Intermediate School, the following recommendations were made:

  1. That one or more "opportunity" classes be organized in every large elementary school for the purpose of accelerating retarded pupils who are approaching the period of early adolescence.
  2. That the public school system of British Columbia provide elementary schools for children from six to twelve years of age, middle schools for pupils from twelve to fifteen years of age, and high schools for pupils who remain at school after reaching fifteen years.
  3. That the middle schools be organized where possible distinct from either elementary or high schools, but combined with one or the other of these where the number of pupils makes such an organization necessary.
  4. That wherever the number of teachers employed in a middle school makes it possible, optional courses be provided for pupils.
  5. That graduation diplomas be given to all pupils who complete a three-year middle school course.
  6. That a uniform provincial card-index system for pupils be established and the cards supplied by the Department of Education.

A point-form summary of their recommendations was included in Putman and Weir's Survey of the School System (1925) under the heading, Programme of the Intermediate School.

The province quickly took up these recommendations for the Junior High school, and the aims of this institution were outlined in the Foreword to the first Junior High Syllabus in 1927/28.

The goals of the middle schools were multiple. First was the provision of a suitable educational environment for children in the early adolescent period through a broadened curriculum, integration of education, the development of facilities designed to suit the progressive and individual needs of the pupil, and the provision of an environment conducive to the learning of leadership, co-operation and citizenship. Also included were: the provision of a more gradual transition to secondary education, the ensurance of equality of education, and the provision of more favorable learning conditions along with the elimination of wasted educational resources. These aims represent an ideal, which is further enhanced by the proposed learning outcomes of the new Social Studies curriculum. These outcomes are outlined in the syllabus of the Social Studies curriculum for the Junior High School Programme of studies.

Social Studies first appeared officially in 1927 as a unified course in geography, history, and citizenship. It served several societal needs including the need for the assimilation of immigrant and minority groups, the encouragement of patriotism and citizenship, and the provision of a common education. To achieve these ends, two general objectives were laid out. The first objective was the establishment of power, skill, and the right habits of study. Involved in this were the abilities to problem solve, analyze and connect material, and to make observations and interpretations. The second objective was the development of the right ideals and attitudes through imperialism, appreciation of historical figures, tolerance, submission to democratic wills, and nationalism.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, Progressivism was the New Education. An examination of the Putman-Weir Report reveals the reiteration of characteristic progressive principles, as outlined by the Progressive Educators' Association (1919). In turn, these principles influenced the creation of the curriculum for the new Junior High Schools in British Columbia. This influence is obvious in the Foreword to the first Junior High School Syllabus, and in the Syllabus of the Social Studies Curriculum for the Junior High Schools in B. C. This influence continues in certain school districts around the province today.

Researched and written by Megan Cameron and Kelsey Diaczuk, History 349, Malaspina University-College, March 2001

British Columbia. Annual Reports of the Public Schools, 1923/24 - 1926/27.
British Columbia. Survey of the School System, 1925. J. H. Putman & G. M. Weir. Victoria: C.F. Banfield, 1925.
British Columbia. Programme of Studies for the Junior High Schools of British Columbia, 1927-28. 1927.
Dawson, E. "The introduction and historical development of social studies in the curriculum of the public schools of British Columbia," University of British Columbia, M. A. thesis, 1982.
Dobbins, C.S. "The Development of the Junior High School in British Columbia," University of Washington, M. A. thesis, 1929.
MacKenzie, D.B. 'The Junior High School Movement in Canada,' University of British Columbia, M.A. thesis, 1937.