THE AIMS OF THE BRITISH COLUMBIA EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
The first directive set forth in the terms of reference was to inquire into the adequacy of the basic educational philosophy of the British Columbia educational system "in light of the world conditions." This was approached in several ways. The approach that was adopted by those who submitted briefs on this topic invariably took the form of a statement of educational aims and objectives rather than any speculative theories of education.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE INDIVIDUAL AND OF CITIZENSHIP
The Provincial Department of Education provided a statement of the aims of education. The "Aims of Education in British Columbia,"
The people of this Province have established schools for the primary purposes of developing the character of our young people, training them to be good citizens, and teaching them the fundamental skills of learning necessary for further education and adult life.
The school, however, is not the only agency responsible for the education of children. Worthy influences of the home, the church, and the community must also be considered, since these are a vital part of the child's development. The school must add to and strengthen the influence of these agencies, but it should not attempt to take their place. The home, the church, the community, and the school work together to provide strong and worthy guidance for our children.
The education given in the school, unlike other forms of education, can be readily planned and directed. For this reason, it is possible for the school to bring together all those educational forces that will contribute to the best development of the child. The school should support influences that are good and oppose those which are harmful. Above all it should do its own special task so well that it earns the confidence and respect of the people of the province.
A good school programme develops children in two ways--as individual persons and as citizens. Since this development begins long before the child comes to school, the programme must build upon a foundation already well defined. It should be so planned that it helps the child to become and individual who has confidence in himself because of what he is and what he knows. At the same time it should guide him into becoming a person who is respected and trusted by his fellow man. A school programme which neglects the child in either of these respects fails to fulfil its responsibilities.
In order that these general aims may be achieved, certain objectives must be established for those areas of learning in which the school is best qualified to serve. If these defined objectives are attained to a desirable degree, the school can make its special contribution to the complete education of every child. They may be summarized as follows:
- To ensure that all pupils master the fundamental skills of learning to the limit of their abilities.
- To help all pupils to develop healthy minds and bodies.
- To help pupils become familiar with that which is great and valuable in history, science and the arts.
- To guide pupils in the development of such qualities of character and citizenship as good personal habits, willingness to work with others, honesty, obedience, and self-control.
- To co-operate with parents in guiding the growth and development of their children.
- To teach each pupil to do his best work by maintaining high standards of performance in all phases of the school programme.
- To instill in all pupils respect for high standards of work and an appreciation for the efforts of others.
- To develop in all pupils an understanding of the responsibilities and privileges of life in a democracy.
- To encourage self-discipline in pupils by requiring acceptable standards of performance and behaviour in all phases of the school programme.
- To teach pupils some common manual skills as a means of helping them to become practical and useful citizens.
- To give pupils some guidance in the choice of career and some opportunity to begin preparation for occupational life.
- To seek out and develop pupils' special talents and potentialities and to assist them in developing their strengths and overcoming or adjusting to handicaps or weaknesses.
Young people grow up in a pre-established social order, and their development must follow a pattern that is appropriate for living in the modern world. Thus children today should not be permitted to grow up to be illiterate as was the common level a century or more ago. It follows that any adequate programme of education must merge the interests of the community with the development of the individual.
THE GENERALITY OF THE AIMS OF EDUCATION
Aims are effective only in so far as they can be brought to bear upon actual practices. Although a statement of broad aims may be fully acceptable, it may lead to vastly different outcomes in its actual application. An effective aim needs to be closely focused upon the type of activity that ensues. This is not always easy to achieve. Several of the briefs stated that the principal aim of the schools should be to teach the pupil to think. In order to direct pupils' activity in schools, thinking has to be described in terms of the actual ways of thinking that are to be learned.
THE AIMS OF EDUCATION AND SCHOOL SUBJECTS
Broad statements of the aims of education permit an almost unlimited range of subjects to be brought within the scope of the school programme. While no objection can be taken to the general aims as set forth by the Department of Education, some priority should be stated that will distinguish the responsibilities of the public schools form those of other community agencies that are likewise concerned with the upbringing of children and young people. Any particular aim that is given priority should not be so narrow that it excludes any of the activities that have been traditionally carried out in the school.
DEFINING THE MAJOR AIM OF EDUCATION
Because of the diversified nature of the activities of the schools, any major aim of education should take the form of "a purpose which directs a course of action," rather than of a prescript to be adhered to, or even an objective to be reached. Hard and fast rules can stifle initiative, and school instruction can have a variety of specific objectives.
THE COMMISSION RECOMMENDS THAT THE PRIMARY OR GENERAL AIM OF THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM OF BRITISH COLUMBIA SHOULD BE THAT OF PROMOTING THE INTELLECTUAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE PUPILS, AND THAT THIS SHOULD BE THE MAJOR EMPHASIS THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE SCHOOL PROGRAMME.
Intellectual development is chosen as the primary aim because, in the first place, it is essential for human survival, and the future of both the individual and the race depends upon it. Second, intellectual development has been traditionally accepted as a primary concern of the schools.
Intellectual development implies many things, including the acquisition of skill to use the basic methods for dealing with intellectual matters--namely, the accurate use of words and numbers. In the modern world, illiteracy is a severe handicap to intellectual development and a persistent hindrance to participation in modern affairs. Moreover, an illiterate population lowers the general standard of living and impedes the progress of any community.
The ability to think effectively is dependent on intellectual development. Modern thinking requires a much greater accumulation of knowledge upon which to draw than did primitive thinking. All of this must be learned, very largely in school.
THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND OTHER COMMUNITY AGENCIES
Having as their primary aim the promotion of intellectual development serves to distinguish the schools from other community agencies that are jointly concerned with fostering the development of youth.
In addition to the home, there are other community agencies that have certain responsibilities regarding the development of the young. The church has a special responsibility with reference to religious instruction. It follows that the public schools system as an institution designed to serve the whole community cannot attempt to fulfil the functions of the church, because no comprehensive programme of religious instruction could be devised that would be acceptable to all faiths.
THE COMMISSION RECOMMENDS THAT RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION IN THE SCHOOLS BE NOT EXTENDED BEYOND THE PRESENT PROVISIONS.
It should be borne in mind that young people acquire moral values in many ways. The school is one important source, but the school is always a partner with the home, the church, and the community. Other influences include the powerful media of mass communication--namely, the press, radio, television, and motion pictures. The child who attends school for twelve years will spend one-fifth of his waking hours in school and about four-fifths of them outside the school. When powerful forces outside the school undermine the moral principles which the schools are endeavouring to impart, the efforts of the schools are likely to be defeated.
THE SCOPE AND THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
The child's learning naturally covers a much wider scope than that which can be included in any school programme. No school system can encompass the whole of a person's education. A child's development can be directed in ways that contribute to the learning of separate forms of activity without in any way impairing the unity of the child's life. Such differentiation allows for concentration upon worth-while and desirable forms of activity rather than permitting the child's behaviour to become so disordered that it leads to confusion. The Commission points this out because certain statements about "teaching the whole child" have led to some misunderstanding regarding the aims of education, and have confused the functions of the school.
No effective method of instruction ever deals with a child's whole repertoire of activity, but is directed toward the learning of particular forms of activity. Nevertheless, the whole resources of the child must be taken into account in order to achieve the best results from instructions. The child must be motivated to learn; irrelevant and distracting activities must be overcome; his attitudes and emotions must be taken into consideration; his health must be a matter of concern; and his relationships to others may either aid or hinder his learning. Nevertheless, granting that it is the whole child who comes to school does not imply that everything the child does comes within the scope of his schooling.
Another catch phrase that has been overused by some educationalists is that "teachers teach children, not subjects." Such general statements, unless carefully interpreted, can be very misleading. Learning largely occurs in specific forms rather than in a child's over-all or general activity, and teachers must teach children the particular things they should learn in school.
When too great a variety of subjects is taught in the schools, the instruction tends to become spread to widely that only superficial learning ensues, and the lesson time that is devoted to any one subject become too curtailed. Too wide a variety of unrelated courses tends to divert attention from the main function of the schools. The Commissioners observed, when visiting the schools throughout the Province, that the pupils are being kept busy, but their busyness must be well directed and pertinent to the main educational purpose, otherwise their activities become scattered and fragmentary.
The public schools undertake to educate pupils who display widely different levels of ability as well as a variety of interest. Consequently, the pupils' intellectual development may be fostered in several ways. Learning manual skills may encourage the intellectual development of some pupils, whereas for some others it may be a waste time. Intellectual development implies versatility, and some instruction in Art, Drama, and Music, along with participation in physical activities, contributes to this.
Some subjects will be central in the curriculum, others will be in an inner circle, some will occupy an outer position, and some will be completely outside its scope.
It may be taken for granted that no system of education can ever fully achieve its aims. The very nature of an aim implies that it is something to strive for, and each step forward brings into view further avenues of progress. Any aim of this sort continually takes on new meanings as knowledge grows and as the conditions of life become altered.
Today in practically every field of learning, a pupil's needs are greater than ever before. Never before has the human intellect ranged as widely as it does today. Within a single lifetime even the stars have become regions to explore, rather than distant objects of wonder. In the course of this century there has been an immense increase in our knowledge of man and of the world in which he lives. The rapid development that has taken place in the fields of science and technology is but one example of this. Such intellectual progress has no finality, and as it brings changes so much the school programme change; otherwise education loses touch with the realities of life and becomes outmoded. But even beyond this, education is the principal means of progress. It does not merely move forward in the current of progress, but it actively provides in large measure the source and the direction of progress.
Education is not a static institution that can be neatly tidied up and preserved in some finished form. While it has certain broad bases that have endures for ages, many of its features are being constantly changed and adapted to new methods and new circumstances. It can never turn back and revive the past. This is one reason why education is so open to criticism. It must change, and in doing so it diverges from what it was during the school days of any adult generation. Some people quite understandably deplore this, and advocate a return to the practices that prevailed in their youth. The age of youth is often recalled as a golden age, and it is not unusual for people to think of their school years as a period of great learnings, as indeed they were. Adults have been critical of the educational system provided for their children since the earliest periods of recorded history, and their attention tends to be focused more upon what happens in the schools to their own and other people's children than upon any broad principles of educational philosophy.