75 years after Canada’s formation and 75 years ago, a dark cloud of war covered much of the world. Children in schools half a world away from the fighting were not spared from the effects of World War II.
There was a shortage of teachers during and after the Second World War. This undermined efforts which had started prior to the war to improve the qualifications of teachers. Changes were happening in the classrooms too. Heavy iron and wood desks that had previously been bolted to the floor in rows were replaced with lighter desks that could be moved around the classroom and laid out in different ways to suit new and different teaching methods.

1940s – The enrollment of students dropped by almost 100,000 in the ten years between 1935 and 1945, from 2,132,000 to 2,039,000.
1945 – World War 2 ended on May 8th
1946 Khaki University was re-established overseas to provide morale and education to soldiers waiting to return home.
1950s – Free public education until the end of highschool had become the norm across Canada.
1950 – There were 2,391,000 enrolled in schools across Canada, 352,000 more than just five years earlier. The biggest jump Canada had seen up to that point.
1951 – As the trend moved towards urban from rural, many rural schools closed and in urban and suburban areas elementary and high school separated.
1955 – Enrollment in schools across Canada jumped again, there were 3,118,000 students enrolled in 1955. That was 727,000 more than in 1950.
1956 – The Elementary School Teacher’s Certificate replaced the 1st Class designation for teachers who had completed grade 13, this designation had been in place since before confederation.
1958 – The enrollment at schools across Canada jumped by another 514,000 in the three years since 1955.
1959 – There were 187,000 more students enrolled than the year before and that was a jump of more than a million and a half since 1950. The “baby boom” would continue into the 60s.
1960s – The end of segregated school systems in Canada.
– Many universities tripled enrollment due to the “baby boom” and 90% of the funding for Canadian universities came from the government.
1960 – Across Canada, there were twenty eight universities that offered graduate level courses.
– More than 70% of educators were women.
1961 – The Elementary School Teacher’s Certificate was divided into four levels: Standard 1 was a one year program, Standard 2 was the one year program plus 5 university credits, Standard 3 was plus ten, and Standard 4 was the original one year program plus completion of a bachelor’s degree.
1965 – Student enrollment across Canada was at 4,918,000. A difference of 1.8 million over a decade before.
1969 – Bill 63 is passed in Quebec requiring children taught in primarily English schools to learn a working knowledge of the French language.
1970s – Graded schools with separate rooms for each grade became the rule for urban and suburban areas, while one room graded education still existed in rural areas.
– Approximately 60% of educators were women.
– Computers were introduced to schools during this decade.
1971 – Toronto Board of Education banned “the Strap” and corporal punishment.
1974 – More than 34% of the staff in the aboriginal education system had native status following control of the education plan being given to band councils and Indian education committees from the government.
– Quebec’s Bill 22 required all immigrants to that province to be enrolled in French language schools.
1975 – According to a publication by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, there were 34 provincial schools and 174 federal schools that provide native language programs in 23 different languages
1976 – There were now forty-seven universities offering graduate level courses in Canada
1977 – Bill 101 made French the official language of Quebec and education in French became mandatory for immigrants including those coming from other Canadian provinces unless there was a “reciprocal agreement” between Quebec and that province.
1979 – 15 residential schools were still running. Following an evaluation, by the Department of Indian Affairs, a plan was enacted to help the administration of these schools to become more culturally aware of the needs of aboriginals.
– Legislation in Newfoundland was changed to say that students with special needs “shall” be accepted, rather than the more exclusionary “may” that it had been before.
– York and North York school boards banned “the Strap”.
1980’s – There was an echo of the Baby Boom between 1980 and 1990, and with it, there was an increase in school populations between the mid-’80s and mid-’90s.
1980 – Equality in education was advancing as teaching was being seen less as “women’s work” and 55% of educators were women.
– Teachers in the Calgary Board of Education went on strike, the strike lasted into the summer for a total of 125 days, 44 of which were school days.
1982 – Computers were becoming a regular part of high school in Ontario, Alberta, and BC. Students using them for subjects such as Math and English.
1989 – Beginning this year and through to 1997, the governments of the Yukon, North West Territories, Nunavut, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Quebec all amended their education acts to ban corporal punishment and “the strap”.
1990’s – With decreasing enrollment, schools began closing and funding for education decreased
1996 – The last federally run residential school in Canada, the Gordon Residential School in Saskatchewan was finally closed.
1997 – From October 27th to November 7th, 126 000 teachers went on strike in Ontario to protest reforms by the Mike Harris provincial government. This was the largest teacher strike in North American history.
– A poll on the knowledge of Canada found that the average Canadian student could only answer 10 of 30 questions about Canada correctly and that only 30% of them could identify the first prime minister of Canada. Do you know who the first prime minister was? (answer at bottom)
1998 – The Government of Canada recognized and apologized for its role in the development and administration of residential schools to those affected by them.
– The last band runs residential school, St. Michael’s Indian Residential Schools, finally closed.
2002 – 21,000 teachers from across Alberta went on strike in what was the largest labor disruption in the province’s history.
-In Quebec, Bill 104 closed the loophole which allowed access to English language schools. This bill was overturned in 2007 at the provincial level and by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2009.
2003 – The Information and Communications Technologies in Schools Survey found that 99% of Canadian schools had computers available to students and teachers and just over 90% of those computers were connected to the Internet.
2004 – The Supreme Court of Canada banned the use of corporal punishment as classroom discipline. This was officially the end of “The Strap” though the practice of corporal punishment had fallen out of favour decades sooner in much of Canada.
2010 – Under pressure from the Canadian Supreme Court to create a law that did not violate the rights in the Canadian Constitution, the Government of Quebec introduced Bill 103 requiring students to receive English education in private schools for three years before accessing the public system in English.
Now – We are beginning to see schools being built with more focus on sustainability and accessibility.
– For the first time, in some areas, Catholic and separate schools share one building.
– There is a growing trend towards technology in the classroom.

Canada as a unified nation is still quite young, and change in some areas has been slow, but the continuing trend is towards a more inclusive and positive educational environment. It will be interesting to see how Canadian education changes in the years to come.

*The first prime minister of Canada was Sir John A. MacDonald.