THE SCOPE AND METHODS OF THE COMMISSION
On January 17th, 1958, the Minister of Education for the Province of British Columbia, the Honourable L.R. Peterson, announced the appointment of the Royal Commission on Education for the Province of British Columbia with responsibilities as set forth in the following Proclamation:--
PROVINCE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
ELIZABETH THE SECOND, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of The Faith.
In the Matter of the "Public Inquiries Act"
SPERRIN N. F. CHANT
JOHN E. LIERSCH, and
RILEY PAUL WALROD
WHEREAS in and by Chapter 162 of the Revised Statues of British Columbia, 1948, entitled the "Public Inquiries Act," it is enacted that whenever the Lieutenant-Governor in Council deems it expedient to cause inquiry to be made into and concerning any matter connected with the good government of the Province, or the conduct of any part of the public business thereof, the Lieutenant-Governor in Council may by a Commission intituled in the matter of that Act and issued under the Great Seal, appoint Commissioners or a sole Commissioner to inquire into such matters:
AND WHEREAS the Lieutenant-Governor in Council hath deemed it desirable and in the public interest to cause an inquiry to be made into the various phases of the provincial educational system with particular attention into programmes of study and pupil achievement:
AND WHEREAS His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor, by and with the advice of his Executive Council, hath deemed it expedient to appoint Sperrin N. F. Chant, John E. Liersch and Riley Paul Walrod to be Commissioners to inquire into, and report upon the provincial educational system to university level, and without derogating from the generality thereof, including,
(1) in the light of world conditions the adequacy of the basic educational philosophy of the British Columbia educational system; the curriculum and courses of study; the text-books and school library facilities; the school and departmental examination procedures and reporting to parents; the standards of pupil achievement and discipline; pupil and parent responsibilities;
(2)the general system and scheme of education, its organization, administration and supervision involving elementary, secondary, vocational technical, and special education in all schools under the jurisdiction of local or provincial authority; including school buildings, the utilization of school facilities, instructional aids and such ancillary services as guidance, counselling, health; acceleration and retardation of pupils; the length of elementary and secondary school programmes, the length of the academic day and year, and extra-curricular programmes;
(3) teacher supply and the academic, professional and in-service training of teachers, the certification and work-load including pupil-teacher load;
(4) the economics of education in regard to the above and any other related factors, with possible savings which could be made without impairing efficiency, but exclusive of the means by which funds for school purposes are raised or distributed;
AND KNOW YE THEREFORE, that reposing every trust and confidence in your loyalty, integrity and ability, We do by these presents under and virtue of the powers contained in the "Public Inquires Act," and in accordance with an Order of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council, dated the 17th day of January, 1958, appoint you
Commissioners to inquire into the matters aforesaid, and to report your findings and to make recommendations to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council which in your discretion you consider proper and advisable, and further to designate you, Sperrin N. F. Chant, as Chairman.
SPERRIN N.F. CHANT
JOHN E. LIERSCH, and
RILEY PAUL WALROD
IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, We have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent, and the Great Seal of the Province to be hereunto affixed.
WITNESS, His Honour FRANK MACKENZIE ROSS, Lieutenant-Governor of Our said Province of British Columbia, in our City of Victoria, in Our said Province, this seventeenth day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and fifty-eight, and in the sixth year of Our Reign.
Appointed on the statutory authority of the Public Inquiries Act, the Commission operates as a wholly independent investigating body within the terms of reference as set forth. The appointment of the Commission did not arise from any widespread or exceptional discontent with the existing educational system, or from any concerted public demand for drastic changes. It seemed an appropriate time for an independent review and assessment of the educational system with an aim of improving its effectiveness "in light of world conditions" and provide guidance for future development. It was the opinion that the Canadian educational system was not yielding results that were equal to those being obtained in some other countries.
There is also a widespread upsurge of public interest in education that occurred during the past decade. The appointment of the Commission provides an appropriate means for making a channel of communication, readily available to the general public, whereby the views of the public can be made known to the Provincial educational authorities. The Commission received a large number of briefs submitted from various organizations, groups, and individuals. The Commission was to make recommendations regarding the educational system of the Province whether or not such recommendations might incur additional expense, but at the same time having due regard for possible economies that would in no way impair the effectiveness of the educational system in achieving its aims.
The members of the Commission were not restrained by any undue concern about the immediate practicability of some of the recommendations. Such a concern would be too prescriptive for the rapidly changing times. The recommendations should be far reaching in their intention to provide the best possible education for the youth of the Province regardless of any other consideration. In making the recommendations, the Commissioners had in mind the fact that in the modern world that which appears to be impossible today often becomes feasible in the near future, and hence considered that their vision should not be obscured by too close a focus upon existing circumstances.
Any short-sighted view of education is not suited to the modern world, and the Commission adopted an outlook that inevitably focused on the future rather than upon the past. Several years earlier, the possibility of launching earth satellites was a fantastic dream, but due to the vigorous approach of modern science they are now commonplace. "In light of world conditions," modern education must adopt a similar vigorous approach: one that does not let obstacles stand in the way of implementing worth-while proposals that may seem beyond immediate reach.
The members of the Commission affirmed their conviction that nothing is more important for the future of civilization than the education of the rising generation. If Canada is to be strong, Canadian education must be strong, and if Canadian education is to be second to none in the world of today and of tomorrow, far-reaching proposals must not be rejected because they will cost money or because they are difficult to put into effect.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION
One of the major purposes of the Commission is to obtain and study as full an expression as possible of the views of interested citizens. Ads and announcements in local newspapers invited all organizations, independent groups and individuals to submit a brief dealing with the terms of reference that were set forth for the Commission. Hundreds of copies of the terms of reference and instructions for submitting briefs were distributed throughout the Province. A total of 366 briefs were received. All briefs were held in confidence and provided a wealth of information that was carefully studied.
The Commission held thirty-four public hearings around the Province starting in Lillooet on May 26, 1958 and ending in Prince Rupert on May 6, 1959. The hearings provided an opportunity for those who submitted briefs to express their views on education directly to the Commission. The meetings were informal so that participants would feel free to express their views without hesitation. The hearings were not conducted as open forums and the Commissioners expressed no opinions of their own, nor did they enter into debate with the public. They asked questions in order to elicit further information on some of the matters covered in the briefs.
In the course of their journeys to the various districts for the purpose of holding hearings, and on other occasions, the Commissioners visited 116 rural and urban schools. These visits provided opportunities for the Commissioners to observe the instruction that was given, to discuss the work of the schools with the principals and teachers, and to observe the conduct and activities of the pupils during school hours. On some occasions, without prior warning, the Commissioners took over a class for the full period without any teachers being present and gave the pupils some tasks to perform.
School buildings, grounds and facilities were also inspected and particular attention was given to the classroom, laboratories, offices, libraries, activity rooms, gymnasiums, auditoriums, shops, and any special rooms.
In a number of centres, the members of the Commission discussed educational problems with groups of school trustees, teachers, and other interested parties. Other meetings and conferences were set up in Vancouver and Victoria to confer with school trustees, Department of Education officials, district superintendents of schools, school principals, teachers, and others.
The Commission also required a great deal of factual information to supplement the briefs and hearings. Statistical data and detailed information about the school system was provided by the Department of Education in Victoria and several research projects carried out by various groups and organizations, including Dr. E. I. Signori, of the University of British Columbia.
SPECIAL REPORTS AND LITERATURE
Several reports were also procured from a number of sources, including a survey of education in the U.S.S.R., the English school system, and a variety of school system reports from different parts of Canada and the United States.