Curriculum Development

In the nineteenth century, courses of study for British Columbia's common schools and high schools were established by the Superintendent of Education, in conjunction with the Board of Education and the Council of Public Instruction. Course syllabi were developed and amended from time to time by the Superintendent with the assistance of high school principals, school inspectors and (after 1901) Normal School staff.

The common school curriculum — that is, the curriculum for elementary schools — was fairly basic. In 1890 the Course of Study for Common Schools consisted of the 3 Rs and Geography. By the turn of the century, it included vocal music and, for pupils at advanced levels, natural history (i.e. botany and biology) and book-keeping. Object lessons and moral duties were also important features of the curriculum.

For the convenience of teachers, a summary of the curriculum was printed inside the front covers of standard-issue "roll books" or attendance registers. In the late 1890s, the subject of "Homework" was also mentioned in the Programme of Course Study printed in attendance registers:

The work assigned for home preparation varies with the class in which the pupil is placed. In the first and second classes, the lessons are designed to occupy half-an-hour every evening; in the third and fourth, from an hour to an hour-and-a-half; and in the fifth, from an hour-and-a-half to two hours. Parents are expected to see that their children attend to their work at home.

In the early 1900s, curriculum guides were published in the Manual of School Law and in the Annual Reports of the Public Schools. From 1919 onwards, curriculum guides were issued as separate publications — under the general title Programmes of Study — by the Department of Education. Initially, all school grades were covered in a single volume, but after 1926 separate Programmes of Study were issued for elementary schools, junior and senior high schools, and Normal Schools.

The provincial curriculum was revised substantially and infused with the philosophy of progressivism in the 1930s. The revision was initiated by the province's progressive Minister of Education, Dr. G. M. Weir, and overseen by the minister's "technical advisor," H. B. King.

Herbert Baxter King was appointed Technical Adviser to the Minister of Education by Order-in-Council in June 1934. Formerly principal of Kitsilano High School in Vancouver, King served as consultant for the British Columbia Commission on School Finance. When the commission's work was concluded — King's Report on School Finance was published in March 1935 — he was retained as curriculum adviser, responsible for developing and implementing a revised programme of studies for the public schools.

The work was carried out by a Central Revision Committee, by three general committees (each responsible for elementary, junior high, and high school programmes), and by several subject committees. The committees comprised senior departmental officials, faculty from The University of British Columbia and the Provincial Normal Schools, school inspectors and school teachers. The process of revision was completed in 1938, at which time Dr. King (he received his Ph. D. from the University of Washington in 1936) was appointed Chief Inspector of Schools.

Curriculum guides, course outlines, and programmes of study for the years 1919-1969 are available at the British Columbia Archives and on microfilm in several provincial universities and university colleges. Check The Homeroom Consolidated Inventory of Curriculum Guides for details.