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By: Ken Horsman
Education in Saskatchewan Before Confederation
Prior to the missionary schools, First Nations followed traditional customs: there were no special educative institutions; the social group as a whole was the school; and the tribal education system involved imitating the adults. Children were seen not as belonging to their parents, but rather as on loan from the Creator; they did not experience corporal punishment, and were rarely punished or scolded. Celebration and spiritual practice were an important part of the education and maturation process for children. Henry Budd, the first Aboriginal person in North America to be ordained in the Anglican Church, established the first school in 1840 at Cumberland House. From then until 1884, when an Ordinance Providing for the Organization of Schools in the North West Territories was passed, education was a combination of First Nations custom, missionary education, and a few schools established by settlers.
Treaty 2, Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 were signed in 1871, 1874, and 1876 respectively and covered about the southern half of what is now Saskatchewan; Treaty 8 and Treaty 10 were signed in 1899 and 1906, and covered most of the northern part of the province. These Treaties contained clauses that committed the federal government to the provision of schools on reserves; this commitment was slowly implemented, but soon was not the preferred direction of the government of Canada in Saskatchewan or elsewhere. The promise of education for First Nations then became a commitment to church-run industrial boarding schools, which were modified in 1923 and became known as Residential Schools. Although the French first established industrial schools in Canada in the early 1700s, it was an 1879 report by Nicholas Flood Davin that is generally credited with the adoption by Sir John A. Macdonald of the policy of supporting the establishment of industrial schools in Canada. Davin’s Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Half-breeds also advocated including the Métis in these federal schools, but this policy was unevenly implemented, and in 1910 the federal government stopped the practice.
Industrial schools were established to provide academic learning, practical everyday skills, socialization, and religious training. The academic skills emphasized the English language; school staff were involved outside of the classroom ensuring that students did not speak their first language. Other academic studies included history, Music, drawing, and arithmetic as well as reading and writing. Practical courses for girls included cooking, cleaning, tailoring, and dairying; for boys, the practical portion of the day taught skills such as carpentry, shoemaking, agriculture, blacksmithing, and printing. English culture was emphasized to the detriment of Aboriginal culture. The role of industrial and residential schools in pulling First Nations children out of their cultural milieu and establishing a process of acculturation and assimilation remained in place and expanded from 1879 until well after 1948. In June of that year, a committee of the Canadian House of Commons and the Senate concluded that First Nations children would receive better care in their parent’s home, and better education in schools with non-Aboriginal children; however, it took another 38 years, until 1986, before the involvement of the federal government in residential schools would end.
The government of Canada policy of using Indian residential schools as a tool for education and assimilation was replaced in 1948 with a policy of integration. The new policy of integrating First Nations children into provincial schools required the establishment of joint school agreements with existing provincial school boards, in which provincial school boards provided educational services to First Nations in return for tuition and capital payments from the federal government. Although the operation of federal on-reserve day schools remained a possibility and the operation of residential schools continued, integration of First Nations students into provincial schools became the preferred approach. The policy of integration into provincial schools was replaced in the 1990s with a program of building schools on reserves.
The British North America Act of 1867 and Education Law to 1905
The British North America Act of 1867 (BNA Act) established Canada as an independent country in the British Empire. With respect to education it did three things. First, it allocated responsibility for First Nations people to the federal government (Section 91); second, the Act made education a provincial responsibility (Section 93); third, it placed limits on provincial laws with respect to denominational, separate, and dissentient schools (those disagreeing with the majority or official view). The BNA Act also gave the Parliament of Canada the power to overturn provincial laws that were seen to violate the right of these schools to exist (Section 93).
Saskatchewan was not one of the founding provinces of Canada, and remained part of federal responsibility until 1905. In 1875, Canada passed the North-West Territories Act, which provided for a territorial government comprised of the North-West Territories Council and a Lieutenant-Governor; the Council and Governor were given responsibility for education. The Act also established electoral districts (but not school districts), provided for the majority of ratepayers to establish schools, for the minority of ratepayers either Catholic or Protestant to establish separate schools, and for ratepayers to make assessments on themselves to operate schools. Teaching could be in English or French according to the wishes of the ratepayers.
In 1881, schools in the North-West Territories with a minimum daily attendance of fifteen students were paid one-half of the teacher’s salary from the Parliament of Canada. This was the first financial support to education from government in the North-West Territories: prior to this time churches, parishes or ratepayers bore all of the costs of education.
The first Territorial school law, called An Ordinance Providing for the Organization of Schools in the North West Territories, was enacted in 1884 and provided for the organization of school districts as unique entities separate from electoral districts. Each school district was to be a minimum of 36 square miles in area, and it was to have a minimum of ten school-age children. The first school districts established in 1884 were Moose Jaw (#1), Qu’Appelle (#2), Prince Albert (#3), and Regina (#4). A Territorial Board of Education was also established, comprised of two sections, one Catholic and the other Protestant. These two sections had respectively the power to administer the Catholic and the Protestant schools in the Territory. This meant that they had power over the administration of the districts, teacher certification, textbooks, and school inspectors; the school district boards hired the teachers and raised taxes. In 1892 the Board of Education was redesigned and renamed the Council of Public Instruction, and in 1901 it was again modified to become the first Department of Education headed by a member of the Territorial Council and supported by the Education Council. By the time Saskatchewan joined Confederation as a province on September 1, 1905, the basic elements of the elementary and secondary education system had been laid. Based largely on the Ontario model, the foundations of the Saskatchewan education system included: education as a provincial responsibility; school districts established for a small geographic area; locally elected boards of trustees who raised taxes, hired teachers and operated the school; and a central professional administrative structure, now called the Department of Learning, the purpose of which was to determine what was taught, provide funding, and maintain an administrative and governance system. During the 1800s the role of schools was to provide a basic education and social influence, and to develop the British culture in Canadians, while acknowledging and in some ways coping with ethnic diversity. Little post-secondary education development had occurred prior to 1905.
Language and Religion in Elementary and Secondary Education
The role of religion and language in school had been a matter for debate since before Canada became a British colony. The nature of the education system in Saskatchewan was strongly influenced by what became known as the Manitoba school question: owing to the nature of the population in Manitoba and the provisions of the British North America Act, the Manitoba Act of 1870 had established the province and granted official status to the French and English languages and to denominational schools. With migration, the population of Manitoba quickly became less Catholic and less French-speaking; this happened so rapidly that by 1890, only twenty years after the province was established, Manitoba abolished separate denominational schools and French as an official language. This action became a national controversy, and a compromise was reached through the involvement of Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier. The compromise provided Catholics with the opportunity to establish separate private schools, but it did not allow for publicly supported separate schools; it provided for instruction in French if ten or more students spoke French, or any language other than English.
Saskatchewan and Alberta prepared to join Confederation in 1905. Because of the Manitoba experience, Catholics made such strong representations to the federal government that the Saskatchewan Act of 1905 provided for separate Catholic and Protestant schools, as had the Ordinance of 1884. The Secondary Education Act of 1907 did not provide for separate schools at high school level, and was not amended in this respect until 1963. With respect to the language of instruction, the passage of the Saskatchewan Act in 1905 retained the right of instruction in a language other than English, but there was no provision for publicly funded, Francophone-governed education. Over time, legislation was changed to be more restrictive of the use of languages other than English in school. By 1918, legislation was passed that made English the sole language of instruction, except for French-speaking students during their first year of attendance at school. It permitted school districts to offer French as a subject, but did not permit any other language as the language of instruction. Additional restrictions came about in 1931, when legislative changes withdrew the right to use French as a language of instruction during the first year of attendance; this legislative arrangement remained in place until 1967, when a series of amendments were introduced between then and 1978. Among other things, the changes provided for French immersion classes and for designated schools, operated by existing school divisions, where French was the language of instruction. The federal Official Languages Act of 1969 and the provision of financial support by the federal government largely precipitated the change. With the financial support of the federal government, enrolments in French immersion programs and designated schools grew rapidly during the 1970s and early 1980s. Instruction in other languages, including Ukrainian and some First Nations languages, began to develop as well. As a consequence of guarantees for minority language rights embedded in the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of the Constitution Act, the government of Saskatchewan undertook to implement a francophone minority school system. In 2005, over 1,000 students were enrolled in twelve schools or programs operated by the Division scolaire francophone.
Elementary and Secondary Education
Prior to 1907 education in Saskatchewan used the terminology of “standard” to indicate the level a student had obtained. The following chart compares today’s grade system with that used in previous years.
During the late 1800s most students completed Standard II or III (Grades 3 to 6). Teachers were classified according to their level of education: third-class teachers had achieved Standard VI (roughly Grade 9), second-class teachers Standard VII (Grade 10), and first-class teachers Standard VIII (Grade 11). The education system in the 1880s was thus largely preoccupied with providing basic education to as many children as possible and using older students as teachers.
The School Ordinance of 1888 was the first to use the term “high school” and to prescribe under what conditions high school education should take place. This Ordinance made grants available to schools that met a number of conditions related to class size, teacher qualifications, and the ability of students to pass the Board of Education entrance examination. It also permitted two adjacent school districts to establish “Union Schools.” The two districts would jointly operate the school: this arrangement would enable the districts to bring together enough students to be eligible to receive the high school grant. The first two Union Schools in the territories were established in Regina and Calgary in 1889.
By 1895 agriculture had become a component of education, and that year the Council of Public Instruction adopted a Programme of Studies that included a course called “Nature Study and Agriculture” for students in Standards I to V. This course included topics from the simple observation of nature, in the lower Standards, to preparation of the soil for seed, feeding and care of animals, destruction of noxious weeds, use of fertilizer, and other practical topics in the upper Standards. A subject called “Manual Training,” offered in a few settings, included woodwork, cardboard or Bristol board cutouts, and clay modeling. By 1901 just over 2% of the school population, or 514 students, were in high school grades. Grants encouraged the provision of high school education, but Saskatchewan was still an agricultural community: the main purpose of high school education was seen to support the preparation of teachers, or to cater for the intellectually gifted or wealthy who might go on to university or professional school. High school enrolments therefore remained low.
School District Consolidation
When schools offered only elementary education, the challenges were manageable and thousands of school districts and thousands of schools sprang up across the province. However, as soon as high school or secondary education became an interest, school district consolidation began. The first mention of high schools was made in the legislation in 1888. That same legislation permitted the establishment of Union Schools, made up of two or more existing school districts and established to facilitate high school education. The Secondary Education Act, passed two years after Saskatchewan became a province, provided grants to aid high schools and collegiate institutes; rural and village schools could provide high school education in continuation rooms, but did not have the status of high schools or collegiate institutes. This organizational arrangement and the grant structure at the time created a disincentive to provide secondary education outside of the larger centres. From 1906 to 1911 the number of school districts in Saskatchewan grew from 1,190 to 2,546, and to 3,873 by 1916. The secondary education legislation, the growth of elementary enrolments, and the Pioneer environment resulted in the percentage of the school population attending high school declining between 1906 and 1911; and even by 1916, less than 6% of the school population was in high school.
In 1917, the School Attendance Act made school attendance compulsory: if children had not graduated from Grade 8, attendance was required for those aged 7 to 12 and living within 2.5 miles of school, and for those aged 13 and 14 and living 3.5 miles from school. In 1964 the age of attendance was raised to 16. A crisis in education occurred before Saskatchewan was a decade old. At that time, throughout North America many held the view that education was not keeping pace with the advancing needs of a modern society; this concern grew, and Saskatchewan Premier Walter Scott declared June 30, 1916, a public holiday so citizens could discuss the issue. The government went on to hire Dr. Harold W. Foght, a specialist in Rural School Practice, Bureau of Education, Washington, DC, to conduct a survey of the Saskatchewan educational system. Foght filed his report on January 20, 1918; it contained 53 recommendations covering all aspects of the elementary-secondary system, including teacher education. The recommendations called for sweeping changes, including a call for the consolidation of school districts on the basis of municipalities rather than school districts, the expansion of high school education to all aspects of the public education system, a reduction in the examination system, and the modification of the curriculum to include vocational education. Foght’s school consolidation recommendations were not immediately acted upon, but the issue did not go away: throughout the 1920s and beyond, teachers pressed for the reorganization of the school districts. The government encouraged school district consolidation through legislation in 1912, 1928, and 1940, but little occurred.
Following the election of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) government, with Woodrow Lloyd (a former Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation president) as Minister of Education, the Larger School Units Act was passed in late 1944. It moved away from a voluntary approach and empowered the Minister of Education to establish larger school units. The basic unit of governance and administration of schools was changed to a larger school unit comprised of several school districts. Although the government softened its position to accommodate exceptions, forty-six larger school units had been formed by 1946, and a map had been drawn that called for the establishment of sixty larger units in rural Saskatchewan. The 1944 Larger School Unit Legislation appeased the calls for consolidation. The baby boom, the growth of the school age population during the 1950s and 1960s, and the greater availability of secondary education turned educational discussion toward other matters for nearly forty years. However, enrolments began to decline in the early 1970s, and calls for changes to the governance of education grew in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The reality of education in Saskatchewan from 1970 to 1990 was one of declining enrolments, and increased expectations and cost; as a consequence, the government appointed Murray Scharf, Dean of Education at the University of Saskatchewan, and Hervé Langlois, deputy director of education, Saskatoon School Division #13 to review school finance and governance.
Their 1991 report recommended greater equity in the school finance system and a reduction in the number of school divisions to about one-third of the 1990 number. The government continued to proceed cautiously, and after extensive consultations it announced in 1996 a restructuring policy that created the expectation that school boards should amalgamate, but this remained voluntary. Under the policy a number of school divisions did amalgamate, and the number of school divisions declined from 120 in 1996 to 82 in 2004. In 2003, the government established the Boughen Commission to examine the high level of property Taxation; it recommended a reduction in property taxes and in the number of school divisions. In May 2004 the Minister of Education announced the intention to restructure school divisions, and established a task force to draw a new map of school division boundaries. The task force, chaired by Fred Herron, filed its report in November 2004; the Minister of Learning accepted its recommendation to reduce the number of school divisions to 34, and set in motion the processes necessary for this to be accomplished by January 1, 2006. Restructuring of the minority faith school (Roman Catholic separate) divisions will likely bring that number to below 30 school divisions by that time.
The 1888 Ordinance that provided grants for Union high schools also permitted Union Schools to set up Normal departments for the training of teachers. Prior to this there was no formal teacher-training program, and the supply of teachers came from outside of the Territories or from upper-level students who were pressed into service. The name Normal School is an adaptation of the French École Normale, a place where students learn the norms necessary to teach. In Saskatchewan, the opportunity to establish Normal departments in Union Schools was actually the opportunity to dedicate a room in the school where students were taught to be teachers. The first such classes were offered as “The Science of Teaching” and “School Law” in 1888. There was a large demand for teachers, and the Board of Education decided in September 1890 to offer Normal School classes, called “Local Sessions,” in any centre where ten or more students requested these classes. Once underway, Local Sessions were typically operated for a couple of months a year, and targeted students entering the third-class certificate program (the lowest level, about equivalent to Grade 9). Often taught by school inspectors, these sessions were offered in nearly a dozen centres throughout the province and served to provide at least some training as the demand for teachers grew. The last local session was offered in 1928. Teacher shortages gave way to teacher surpluses in the 1930s, and the concern with shortages did not return until the 1950s. By the 1960s, teachers were once again being recruited from overseas.
In the fall of 1893, the Normal School in Regina commenced offering classes out of Alexandra School. A new facility was opened in January 1914, by which time the Saskatoon Normal School had already opened (1912). The Moose Jaw Normal School opened in 1927. The Regina Normal School closed in 1944, but opened again in 1957 to absorb the students from Moose Jaw as the latter’s Normal School closed to accommodate the Saskatchewan Technical Institute. In 1953, the Normal Schools in Saskatoon and Moose Jaw were changed to Teachers’ Colleges, and in order to bring a more university-based teacher education system, the Act Respecting the Education and Training of Teachers was passed in 1964. This Act eliminated the term Teachers’ College and integrated all teacher education programs into the University of Saskatchewan College of Education at the Saskatoon and Regina campuses; this remained the situation until First Nation and Métis teacher education programs were developed in 1972.
Many believe that no university existed in Saskatchewan until the University of Saskatchewan was established in Saskatoon in 1907. Technically, this view is not correct: in 1883 the government of Canada had provided Bishop McLean, of the Anglican Archdiocese of Saskatchewan in Prince Albert, with a dominion charter which established the University of Saskatchewan. The Anglican Church also operated Emmanuel College in Prince Albert, which was to be a part of the new University of Saskatchewan; but the charter obtained by Bishop McLean never developed into a university. In 1903, F.W.G. Haultain, Premier of the North-West Territories, proposed the establishment of a single, secular, and state-supported university; he believed that Saskatchewan could only support one university, funded by the government but free from government control. Haultain also held the view that denominational bickering had not helped the cause of scholarship in the predominantly denominational university system of eastern Canada, and was adamant that the University of Saskatchewan be non-denominational. Haultain made the establishment of the University of Saskatchewan an issue in the election of 1905, and although he did not win, Walter Scott, the winner, also made this a priority.
In July 1907 the University Act came into effect, providing for one university with the exclusive right to grant university degrees, except in theology. The exception for theology was to accommodate Emmanuel College in Prince Albert: as the College technically held the charter for the University of Saskatchewan, the Anglican Church and Emmanuel College retained religious degree-granting status while giving up their hold on the charter for the University as a whole. By 1909, Emmanuel College had moved to Saskatoon and become the first theological affiliated college with the new University of Saskatchewan. Some of the first steps in establishing the University were to elect a senate (the first meeting was on November 13, 1907) and choose a president: Walter Murray was appointed and commenced work on August 20, 1908.
Early in its deliberations, the board of governors recognized that the economic base of the province was agriculture and that this should be emphasized; this focus was intense and long lasting. Walter Murray was president during the developmental years from 1908 to 1937. After defining the foundational character of the University, his next task was to determine the location: this was controversial, with Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Indian Head, North Battleford, and Moose Jaw among the contenders. Regina was Walter Murray’s personal choice; but on April 7, 1909, the board of governors chose Saskatoon. The Methodist Church had wanted to enhance its status among the other denominations in the province; this desire, combined with the need for secondary education in Saskatchewan and the bitterness about the University going to Saskatoon, led to the establishment of Regina College by the Methodist Church in 1911. The Saskatchewan Methodist Church proposed such a college at its annual meeting in 1909, and by the fall of 1911 the first students were registered. The basic idea was to provide secondary education to rural Saskatchewan students who did not have such an opportunity. Regina College became noted for its conservatory of music, which made it a musical centre for Regina and the surrounding area.
As the province grew, secondary education became available to more communities. By the early 1920s Regina College, under the leadership of Ernest W. Stapleford, president from 1915 to 1934, realized that there was little future for such a secondary school, and Stapleford developed a plan to transform the College from a secondary school to a university. He reasoned that providing university courses in Regina was a way to keep Regina College open and to meet the need of the people of southern Saskatchewan for a university closer to home. In 1925, Regina College became affiliated with the University of Saskatchewan. The Great Depression of the 1930s brought financial difficulties to both the University of Saskatchewan and Regina College; the College ran out of money, and on July 1, 1934, the University of Saskatchewan took it over. The establishment of a second university in Saskatchewan had been averted; but Regina College continued to offer the first two years of university, the conservatory of music, and a fine arts program. With the growing demand for greater access to university education that followed World War II, the University of Saskatchewan decided in 1959 to implement an arts and science degree at Regina College: on July 1, 1961, Regina College was renamed University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus.
The establishment of a degree program did not dissipate the demands for an independent university in Regina; in fact, the difficulties of managing the Regina Campus from Saskatoon may have exacerbated the problems between the two locations. Those problems grew to such proportions that efforts to create a workable one-university system failed. In 1973 the government established the Hall Commission to find a solution. Retired Chief Justice Emmett Hall filed his report in December 1973, and by the next summer the government had acted on its recommendation for a two-university system. In July 1974, legislation passed that established two universities in Saskatchewan: the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina.
In Regina, Campion College had been established in 1917; it was given Junior College status in 1923 and initially affiliated with St. Boniface College in Manitoba in order to provide degree-granting status; finally, in 1964 Campion College was granted federation with the University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus. Similarly, Luther College, established in 1914 in Melville, began offering University classes in Regina in 1926 through an affiliation with Capital University in Ohio; it became officially affiliated with the University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus in 1968. The affiliation of Campion College and Luther College continued with the University of Regina when it was established in 1974 (see Campion College, University of Regina and Luther College, University of Regina). In 1976, the University of Regina and the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations entered into a federation agreement creating the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC), an independently administered university college. On June 21, 2003, National Aboriginal Day, the College was renamed the First Nations University of Canada; it provides an opportunity for students to learn in an environment of First Nations culture and values.
During the 1990s, the government of Saskatchewan initiated a number of efforts to address matters of quality, accessibility, and accountability at the universities. The Johnson Report of 1993 and the MacKay report of 1996 are particularly noteworthy in the continuing efforts by the universities and government to provide efficient university education in Saskatchewan.
Teachers and Trustees
The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) and the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) have played significant roles in Saskatchewan’s education system (prior to 2003 the SSBA was known as the Saskatchewan School Trustees’ Association or SSTA). Although the provincial government is constitutionally responsible for education, over the years it delegated substantial responsibility to locally elected, fiscally responsible school boards. Because of their important role in education and the expertise they bring, teachers have also had a significant impact on the development of the education system in the province. In many ways the Trustees’ Association and the Teachers’ Federation grew out of a May 1908 conference of teachers, trustees, and department officials that was called to address the issue of the large number of students who could not speak English; this conference became a regular event, and the group became known as the Saskatchewan Education Association. By 1915, out of these meetings the trustees formed the SSTA, which in 1917 held a convention and passed a resolution calling for instruction in English only. Consequently, in 1918 the French-Canadian school trustees broke away from the SSTA and formed their own group, the Association des Commissaires d’Écoles Franco-Canadiens. Similarly, the trustees’ convention of 1920 adopted a resolution calling for the abolition of separate schools. Almost immediately, the Catholic trustees formed the Catholic School Trustees’ Association of Saskatchewan. To some extent, these early divisions continue to be manifested in trustee organizations in 2005.
The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation grew out of a 1914 meeting of Premier Walter Scott with exam markers. He asked them for suggestions on what should be done to improve the education system, and these teachers came up with a number of suggestions, most of which addressed improvements to the working conditions of teachers. This was not what the Premier was looking for; but the teacher examiners, undeterred, called teachers to a meeting at the Normal School in Regina with the intent of establishing a teachers’ organization. At the meeting in July 1914 the Saskatchewan Union of Teachers was formed; starting with less than twenty members, the organization had as its purpose to improve the situation of teachers and upgrade professional standards. Many teachers did not like the term “Union,” so the name was changed to the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Alliance in 1919; this name change, combined with reductions in teachers’ salaries following World War I, provided an environment conducive to the growth of an organization concerned with working conditions, salaries, and benefits for teachers. The status of female teachers was very low during the early 1900s: as a consequence the women teachers of Saskatoon began to meet, and formed the Saskatoon Women Teachers’ Association (SWTA) in 1918. They limited their membership to female grade school teachers, and their aim was to advance the welfare of Saskatoon women teachers. Under the leadership of Victoria Miners, a founding member of the SWTA, they addressed the poor salaries for women as well as the policy, common throughout North America, of discriminating against married women teachers.
The first teacher strike in Saskatchewan occurred in 1921 in Moose Jaw. Although the strike was short, teachers felt it was a symbolic victory for the Alliance because the Board recognized the right of teachers to negotiate with boards through representatives. During the 1920s the Alliance grew in membership and was instrumental in lobbying the government to pass in 1930 the Teachers’ Superannuation Act, which provided pension benefits to teachers. The early 1930s witnessed reductions in teachers’ salaries, and poor working conditions. Teachers in rural parts of the province felt these changes most severely: disenchanted with the Alliance, which they considered dominated by teachers in urban centres, they formed in 1932 a rival teachers’ organization, the Saskatchewan Rural Teachers’ Association. In October 1933, through a series of discussions a group of independent teachers from the Balcarres and Fort Qu’Appelle area called a teachers’ meeting in Regina. At this meeting the concept of one Saskatchewan teachers’ organization was supported, and on January 1, 1934, the two existing teachers organizations combined to form the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF). Over the next year, the STF lobbied government for support and made it an issue in the 1934 election. These efforts were successful, and on February 21, 1935, royal assent was given to An Act Respecting the Teaching Profession, which was the first in the English-speaking world to recognize a teachers’ organization and to make membership in its federation compulsory and a condition of employment.
Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan School Trustees’ Association spent most of the 1920s and 1930s providing administrative and educational services to school districts. The Bryant Public Speaking Contest established in 1920, the School Supply Bureau established in 1925, the development of a co-operative school insurance plan, and support to high school drama competitions were but a few of the activities in which the SSTA was engaged during its first thirty years of existence.
During the 1930s the STF focused its energies on the improvement of teachers’ salaries, but its efforts were unsuccessful. However, in March 1940, with the support of teachers, government, and the SSTA, the School Act was amended to provide for a minimum wage for teachers of $700 per year. Beginning in 1922, teachers had advocated for their employment by the provincial government and for being paid according to a provincial salary schedule. Their efforts to establish a provincial salary schedule were unsuccessful for over seventy years: although during the late 1940s a number of provincial salary schedules were circulated, the use of these schedules was on a voluntary basis. In 1944 the province emerged from the Depression and the government had a mandate for change in education; the Minister of Education, Woodrow Lloyd, was an advocate for larger school units, teacher collective bargaining, payment of teachers according to a salary schedule, and for a co-operative approach to decision-making in education. By the end of the 1940s, the SSTA, the STF and the government had largely agreed to proceed with the Larger School Unit Act of 1944, the distribution of a voluntary provincial salary schedule of 1945, and the passage of the Teachers’ Salary Negotiations Act of 1949. The latter required teachers and trustees to bargain when requested to by either side, and placed the onus on reaching a final agreement with the negotiating parties. In keeping with Woodrow Lloyd’s emphasis on working together, this legislation was agreed to by the teachers and the trustees, and was passed unanimously in the Legislature. In 1952 the Teacher Tenure Act, providing greater job security for teachers, was passed; through it, teachers with two years of service with a school board, if terminated on June 30, could appeal to a non-binding board of conciliation for a review of the circumstance, and the board would have to defend its reasons for the termination.
Teacher supply and teacher qualifications had been a frequent concern, shared by both trustees and teachers, for the province’s schools. Prior to the 1930s teacher shortages were the order of the day, and teacher qualifications and training were very rudimentary. During the 1930s, the economic downturn brought many former teachers back to teaching, and school boards received numerous applications for a single position; salaries dropped, and in many cases teachers were not paid for years. It was not until the 1940s that the issue of teacher qualifications and certification began to re-emerge. This matter became a first order of business in the 1950s as concerns about the quality of education grew and shortages of teachers returned. Discussions between the Department of Education, trustees and teachers about teacher education programs continued until 1964, when An Act Respecting the Education and Training of Teachers was passed.
Teacher bargaining was one area where the relationships between teachers and trustees were strained. Under the Teacher Salary Negotiation Act of 1949 disagreements that required conciliation and mediation steadily increased, until in 1965 the government appointed a committee headed by Judge Ben Moore to recommend a solution. In 1968, the Teachers’ Salary Negotiations Act was replaced by the Teachers’ Salary Agreements Act; the features of this new Act included salary agreements negotiated by teacher and school board area committees that included a number of school units, provision for the Minister to appoint a conciliator, and limiting the scope of agreements to salaries and allowances. The government changed in 1971 and a new Teacher Collective Bargaining Act was passed at the 1973 spring session of the Legislature, providing for bi-level bargaining: at the provincial level, teacher representatives bargained with the trustees and the government representatives on matters of salaries, some allowances, and major benefits; at the school division level, local teacher representatives bargained with local school board representatives. With a small number of changes, this bi-level bargaining process remains in place. With the exception of collective bargaining, the co-operative relationships between teachers and trustees continued to build on the base established by Woodrow Lloyd. In the later part of the 20th century, the superintendents and directors of education (under the auspices of their organization, the League of Educational Administrators, Directors and Superintendents, or LEADS), the school board financial officers (under the auspices of their organization, the Saskatchewan Association of School Business Officials, or SASBO), and the parent association (the Saskatchewan Association of School Councils, or SASC) became part of the semi-official group which had an influence on policy developments in the Kindergarten to Grade 12 education sector. These organizations did not always agree and often engaged in very independent directions, but they remain a force in the educational policy-making process of Saskatchewan.
K-12 Educational programs
In the early years of the 20th century, the Department of Education provided teachers with Courses of Study for the Public Schools of Saskatchewan; the 1913 course of studies for all elementary grades and subjects was thirty-seven pages long. The topics to be covered by teachers included morals and civics, physical culture and hygiene, reading and Literature, composition, arithmetic, history, geography, nature study, writing, drawing, and music. In two or three small paragraphs an outline of the purpose of the subject was provided, and a few pages were devoted to each grade, with a very brief summary of the content to be taught in each subject. The last three pages listed the content of manual training as well as sewing and cookery, and the texts for music. The Department also published a Course of Studies for High Schools and Collegiate Institutes; the 1913 version was twelve pages long. The subjects listed included reading, English composition and rhetoric, history, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, chemistry, biology, physical science, as well as Latin, Greek, French, and German. Separate sections of the course of studies defined the content of “commercial” as including bookkeeping, shorthand, typewriting, and a special agricultural course on soil and its treatment, plant life, farm management, and construction. In 1913, the Department of Education also provided a three-page listing of reference books for teachers and School Libraries; by 1929 this document was eight pages long, the course of study for elementary schools had grown to fifty-six pages, and the secondary course of study was fifty-one pages long. Compared to today’s standards, these teacher support documents were remarkably brief.
By the mid-1920s other supports to education developed. In 1926, the government established the Outpost Correspondence School, through which students in remote areas of the province were supplied with courses via the postal system. During its initial years, C.E. Sheldon-Williams headed the Outpost Correspondence School; this branch of the department soon became the Saskatchewan Government Correspondence School. In 1931 radio broadcasts were instituted to support the School; during the first year, lessons covered English, history, science, Latin, and German. Originally, the lessons were one-half hour long and broadcast at 6:00 P.M. The difficult times of the 1930s caused the cancellation of the programs in 1938, but through the co-operation of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and the four western provincial departments of education, school radio broadcasts were reintroduced in the fall of 1941. These broadcasts remained a mainstay of provincial educational programming until 1982, when they were terminated. Following the reintroduction of radio broadcasts, school broadcasts were expanded to include educational television in the mid-1950s.
During the late 1920s, under the leadership of R.J.D. Williams, petitions were made to government drawing attention to the educational needs of deaf children. At that time, deaf students were sent to Manitoba or Montreal; this caused hardship for the families, and Premier J.T.M. Anderson announced in the fall of 1929 that Saskatoon would be the site of a residential school for the deaf. The school opened in September 1932 with R.J.D. Williams as the Dean of Residence, a position he held until his retirement in 1963. The school, called the R.J.D. Williams Provincial School for the Deaf, provided kindergarten to Grade 12 programming for 3- to 21-year-old deaf or deaf-blind students. During the 1970s and 1980s, as it became more common to integrate deaf students into regular classrooms, enrolments in the school declined and on June 30, 1991, the school ceased to operate.
Toward the end of 1933, the Saskatchewan Book Bureau was established to coordinate the supply and handle the distribution of authorized textbooks, reference books, and library books at a uniform price throughout Saskatchewan; the demand for its services decreased in the late 1990s, and in 2003 it ceased operating. The Correspondence School, school broadcasts, the School for the Deaf, and the Book Bureau are only some of the examples of efforts by the government and the community to meet educational needs. Other programs included: the provision of public library and school library services; the development of a film library; the establishment of SaskMedia in 1974; the development of Western Canadian Curriculum Protocols and of a Pan-Canadian Science Curriculum Framework in the 1990s; the purchase of database licenses; the establishment of a virtual resource centre; the formation of an Educational Technology Consortium; and the establishment of CommunityNet in the first years of the 21st century.
Technical and Vocational Education
Prior to the turn of the century, little post-secondary or adult education existed in Saskatchewan. Some school boards offered what might be called technical vocational programs, such as manual training, bookkeeping, agriculture, and household science. However, the enrolment in these courses was limited, and until the entry of the federal government into the technical vocational education arena very little was accomplished. Although the provincial government was responsible for education, section 91 of the British North America Act of 1867 made the federal government responsible for the economic growth and well-being of Canada: with this mandate, the need to improve agricultural practice, and the pressures of the rapidly industrializing world, Canada passed legislation in 1912 and 1919 that supported education in agriculture and technical education. This legislation made federal money available to provinces for development in these areas. Saskatchewan responded by passing the Vocational Education Act of 1920, which gave school boards the authority to establish schools for the purpose of training youth in industrial programs, and made grants available for the construction of such facilities. The scattered population prevented most school districts from taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the Vocational Education Act, but the legislation led to the construction of three technical schools: Balfour Technical Collegiate, which opened in Regina in 1930; Moose Jaw Technical School, which opened in 1931; and the Technical Collegiate Institute in Saskatoon, which opened in 1932. As with other initiatives, however, little growth occurred in technical and vocational education during the 1930s.
World War II is sometimes considered to mark the beginning of an adult emphasis in technical and vocational education. This emphasis arose in part because of the needs growing out of the war, and in part as a response to the employment issues experienced in the 1930s. In 1944 the Department of Education created the first Adult Education Branch, which within its first year of operation produced several publications and sponsored a number of adult education activities, including Lighted School classes (community-based evening classes covering art, sewing, wood work, and St. John’s Ambulance), Basic English and Citizenship (a precursor to English as a Second Language programs), and Study-Action conferences. In some ways the Branch was a forerunner of the community college system which developed in the 1960s and 1970s, and whose objectives spoke to community life, co-operative citizen action, literacy, and issues confronting society. As the 1940s advanced, the increased industrial activity and the training needs of the returning armed forces caused the federal and provincial government to establish, under the Vocational Training Agreement, vocational training centres in Regina, Moose Jaw, Saskatoon and Prince Albert. However, by 1948 the demand for such programs had declined and all but the Saskatoon program closed; the Canadian Vocational Training School in Saskatoon became the first long-term non-university Saskatchewan facility with a mandate to provide adults with training to improve their technical and vocational employment skills.
Through the Vocational Schools Assistance Act of 1945 the federal government encouraged the construction of a number of composite secondary schools that offered academic courses as well as vocational and technical training. The federal Technical Vocational Training Assistance Act of 1960 provided 75% of the funding for approved provincial expenditures for technical or vocational education at high school level; this led to the construction and equipping of another set of schools placed strategically throughout Saskatchewan: the Comprehensive High Schools, which were to provide a broad range of courses designed to meet the needs of all high school students. Most of these schools were completed and in operation by the late 1960s.
Over the years, federal technical and vocational education initiatives in secondary schools in Saskatchewan led to the establishment of the three secondary technical schools around 1930, of composite schools in the 1940s and 1950s, and of the comprehensive high schools in the1960s. This leadership ended in 1965 when the federal Parliament passed the Adult Occupational Training Act, which terminated all programming for vocational high schools and replaced it with a focus on adult basic skill development, upgrading skills, language development for new Canadians, and apprenticeship training.
Apprenticeship training made little progress until 1944, when the provincial government, in response to the needs that grew out of the war period, established formal training programs for apprentices. The passage of the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship Act in 1945 and the first National Conference on Apprenticeship in Trades and Industries in 1952 provided a stimulus for advances in apprenticeship programs. As a consequence of the conference, the federal government developed a series of occupational analyses that enabled an educational process based on standard curricula and exams for apprenticeship. As individuals met the training and certification standards of the inter-provincial system, they received the Red Seal designation; this national recognition provided for the inter-provincial movement of trained workers.
In Saskatoon, the Canadian Training Vocational School had been operating since the 1940s with a mandate to train and rehabilitate war veterans. To support the province’s technology, industrial and apprenticeship needs, Saskatchewan’s first technical institute, the Saskatchewan Technical Institute, was established in Moose Jaw in 1959. With the increased demand for a skilled Labour force, a number of programs were moved in 1963 from the Canadian Training Vocational School to a new Central Saskatchewan Technical Institute in Saskatoon, which became the Kelsey Institute of Applied Arts and Sciences in 1974. A Regina Institute was added in 1972 with the opening of the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Arts and Sciences (SIAAS), whose initial mandate was to provide Dental Nursing, Diploma Nursing, Psychiatric Nursing, and Nursing Assistant programs. Following the move to new facilities in 1973, the Institute was renamed the Wascana Institute of Applied Arts and Sciences. It took until 1986 before the Northern Institute of Technology in Prince Albert opened its doors, whose mandate was to provide technical education for northern Saskatchewan using a competency-based model; given the popularity with adults of a self-paced, performance-based and learner-driven model, the competency-based model expanded to other programs over the years.
Regional and Community Colleges
During the 1960s, technical and vocational needs were met in the technical institutions in Moose Jaw and Saskatoon; however, in rural Saskatchewan interest grew for training closer to home. The Royal Commission on Agriculture and Rural Life had filed its report in 1956, and one entire volume was devoted to rural education: critical of the adult education services of the government and the university in rural Saskatchewan, the report turned decision-makers’ minds to the question of how rural Saskatchewan could be provided with better adult education services.
In Prince Albert, community members came together in 1964 to discuss post-high school education in basic literacy, trades skill training, technology training, university transfer, and leisure studies. These discussions led to the formation in 1970 of the first Saskatchewan Community College. Established as a nonprofit corporation, the College was operated by a council of community groups including the chamber of commerce, the local teachers’ association, the school boards, city council, a number of agencies of the federal government, and representatives of First Nations and Métis groups.
At the provincial level, the University of Saskatchewan and the Minister of Education established in May 1965 a Joint Committee on Higher Education to examine all aspects of higher education; the committee, chaired by John W.T. Spinks, filed its First Interim Report in 1967. Following an election, the government also created a new Department of Continuing Education in 1972; on the basis of Ron Faris’ 1972 report, the Community Colleges Act was passed in 1973; and by 1976 fourteen regional community colleges had been established, covering adult education for the entire province. The new community colleges were mandated to identify the adult education needs of the community and the local or provincial resources to meet those needs, and to coordinate and facilitate the delivery of programs. In 1988, the Regional Colleges Act was passed, in which the name of the colleges was changed from community to regional colleges. The focus of the colleges was directed away from the provision of leisure and hobby programming and toward occupational, labour market, and employment preparation; the delivery mechanism continued to be achieved by brokering courses through the universities and the institutes. The four urban community colleges and the technical institutes were amalgamated in 1988 to form the new Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (Siast). The establishment of SIAST began the process of moving away from the four independent institutes in Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, Regina, and Prince Albert, and toward one institute with four program centres. During the 1990s the colleges and institutes evolved as they tried to better meet the labour market needs of the province: these needs were growing, and a variety of methods for delivery expanded to include distance education, partnerships with employers, and linkages to the federal government.
Post-Secondary First Nations and Métis Education.
During the 1960s, the move away from residential schools was gaining momentum and the education system was beginning to recognize that treating First Nations and Métis students in the same way as non-Aboriginal students was not equitable. In 1972, the Indian Teacher Education Program (ITEP) at the University of Saskatchewan was established, funded through a contribution agreement between Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and the University of Saskatchewan. Also in 1972, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations established the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre, which serves as a centralized resource centre through which First Nations languages, culture and traditional arts are preserved and revitalized. The Saskatchewan Indian Community College, established in 1976, had a well-defined geographic area: the land made up by all of the reserves and Crown land occupied by First Nations. None of the other colleges entered those land areas without the invitation of the Saskatchewan Indian Community College, and all adult education services were contracted with the College. The Indian Community College grew quickly, and in 1985 its name was changed to the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies (SIIT). Initially, SIIT delivered adult academic upgrading, as well as introductory skills and trades programming, but the program offerings grew to a broad array of vocational and technical training, and on July 1, 2000, the provincial Legislation in Saskatchewan recognized SIIT as a post-secondary institution.
In 1980 the Métis, and those then known as non-registered and Non-Status Indians, established the Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI) and the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP). The provincial government funded the Institute, and SUNTEP established programs providing teacher training for students of Métis ancestry in Saskatoon, Regina, and Prince Albert. By 2005, well over 400 teachers had graduated from the program.
The Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research grew to become the designated official educational arm of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan; it offers accredited educational, vocational, and skills training opportunities in partnership with the Universities of Saskatchewan and of Regina, the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST), and the regional colleges. One of the more innovative developments of the 1970s was the establishment in 1977 of the Northern Teacher Education Program (NORTEP). Based in La Ronge, the program is funded by the Northern Lights School Board and the northern Indian Bands, and provides teacher education to northern students so that they can become teachers in their home communities across the north. It also offers a broad range of classes in Native Studies, Science, English, and the Cree and Dene languages.
When the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College first opened in the fall of 1976, it had nine students. In 2004, after becoming the First Nations University of Canada it had an enrolment of over 1,200, with students from every province and territory in Canada. It offers programs and services on three campuses in Regina, Saskatoon, and Prince Albert, and has ten academic departments, as well as community-based and distance education programs. Saskatchewan is now home to First Nations and Métis educational organizations that are fundamental to the education of students and the retention of Aboriginal culture and languages.
Curriculum and Instruction
In 1944, the appointment of Henry Janzen as the director of curriculum with the Department of Education marked a new beginning for curriculum development in the province. Prior to his appointment, teachers in a classroom might have a textbook in addition to the very general program of studies, but mostly they had to develop materials for their classrooms.
Beginning in the mid-1940s, curriculum began to change: more subject-specific curricula were developed for high schools, with improved textbooks and greater teacher participation in the development process. Enrolments in high school remained low, and about one-quarter of the students reached Grade 12: to improve the situation, programs were expanded to include more supports for teachers and students; these programs included guidance, instructional materials, and school broadcasts. In 1963 the Department of Education adopted a Plan for the Reorganization of Instruction in Saskatchewan Schools, which reorganized the grades into four divisions. The Plan was based on the principles that grade skipping, grade failure and repetition were not appropriate; rather, it advocated that teachers give students more time to learn the material and master the learning objectives. Average students would take three years to master the material in a division; a more gifted student might take two years; and a more challenged student might take four years. Division I comprised Grades 1, 2, and 3; Division II Grades 4, 5, and 6; Division III Grades 7, 8, and 9; and Division IV comprised Grades 10, 11, and 12. This was referred to as the continuous progress system.
On October 13, 1971, the Minister of Education established the Minister’s Committee on Kindergarten Education, charged with examining the feasibility of implementing a publicly supported Kindergarten education program in Saskatchewan. In June 1972 the committee filed its report recommending the establishment of a half-day, non-compulsory, publicly funded Kindergarten program; the program was implemented as recommended, and remains essentially the same as it was in the early 1970s. Also during that period, public pressure on the education system grew. In the 1960s, at the high school level, more courses were added in order to retain students: the idea was to provide courses of interest to non-university bound students so that they would obtain a high school education. Parents and other members of the public expressed concern that education was watered down, and there was a call for a return to the basics. This sentiment was widespread across North America, and was one of the forces that led the Minister to establish in 1981 a Curriculum and Instruction Review Committee to make recommendations to support schools in meeting the students’ and the public’s needs. The Committee filed its report, called Directions, in 1984; the Minister supported its findings and established an implementation plan. The report launched the Department of Education and the education system into a collaborative effort to strengthen education through improvements to the curriculum and instructional practices. Through a set of goals, the design of a Core Curriculum, and the development of a resource-based learning policy, changes were supported; this direction would dominate educational developments for over twenty years.
At about the same time as the Department of Education embarked on the Curriculum and Instruction Review, it implemented new programs to address the needs of First Nations and Métis students and students living in poverty. These programs included the provision of more accurate First Nations and Métis content in the curriculum, and the establishment of the Community Schools Program, which provided a closer connection to the community, the provision of nutrition programs, and the engagement of teacher associates to work in classrooms. Sixteen community schools were established in the early 1980s; in addition, St. Paul’s Roman Catholic School Division established the Saskatoon Native Survival School, later to be named Joe Duquette High School. These initiatives complemented a variety of other programs developed by school boards across the province.
Since at least the 1950s, concerns increased throughout North America about the ability of the education system to meet individual differences. Although the School for the Deaf had provided an institutional environment for deaf students in Saskatchewan, other students with special needs were frequently left with little or no opportunity to gain an education, or were educated in institutional settings. During the 1950s the department began to support school units as they established classes for gifted students or children with special needs. In the mid-1960s the trend changed from specialized, segregated classes to integrated classes where needs were met in the regular classroom. This inclusive approach made a major step forward with the passage of legislation in 1971, an amendment to the School Act which required school boards to provide appropriate educational programs for children with disabilities; the principle was that children must be provided with an education in the least restrictive environment. The integration of special needs students into regular classrooms received widespread support, but also encountered resistance from teachers, parents and students. Even with additional support programs, teachers found it difficult to teach children with severe special needs, and at the same time provide a quality education for other students; at times, some students and parents felt that the quality of non-special needs programs was being compromised. However, a Special Education Review that completed its work in 2000 confirmed inclusion as the appropriate philosophy of education; it made recommendations for supporting the inclusive philosophy, accelerating integrated services, enhancing accountability, and increasing resources. These recommendations were implemented.
The connection between the well-being of school students and that of the communities served by the schools has been recognized since the first school was established in Saskatchewan in 1840. Schools and Community Development have always been closely linked in the province: this helps to explain why declining school-age populations, increasingly larger school divisions, and the closure of schools have meant the demise of some communities. Such challenges led the Saskatchewan School Trustees’ Association to hold a symposium on the “Role of the School” in 1992, the purpose being to provide a forum for examining the expanding role of the school and to develop a forward-looking and commonly supported understanding of that role. The 1984 Directions report had recommended that the government departments of Health, Education and Social Services establish mechanisms for the coordination of their services. Social issues including rural depopulation, cross-cultural problems, family changes, and youth violence began to overtake the service providers and their clients, particularly students. In response to such concerns, the government released its Action Plan for Children in 1993. In late 1998, educational stakeholders approached the Minister of Education seeking a review of the role of schools. The Minister established the Task Force and Public Dialogue on the Role of the School, with Michael Tymchak as Chair; its mandate was to engage the community at large in a discussion of the role of the school and to identify the extent to which there was a gap between the expectations of the school and the school’s ability to meet those expectations. In February 2001 its report, SchoolPLUS: A Vision for Children and Youth, was submitted to the Minister.
On the basis of similar principles, the federal government and the province of Saskatchewan recognized that improved early childhood services would help break the cycle of poverty. The province had been involved in an early childhood development policy since the unveiling of Saskatchewan’s Action Plan for Children in 1993. The value of early childhood (prenatal to Pre-Kindergarten) programs to prevent such problems as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome was recognized by all provinces: as a result, in September 2001 Canada’s First Ministers issued an “Early Childhood Communiqué” outlining the commitment of federal, provincial, and territorial governments to work together to address the early developmental needs of all Canadian children. The federal government committed to fund the program, and Saskatchewan established the KidsFirst program, which began operation in September 2002 in eight communities in southern Saskatchewan and in all the communities in the northern part of the province.
Meanwhile, the SchoolPlus report had concluded that there was a gap between the capacity of the school and the expectations of the community; further, it recommended that the role of the school should be expanded to serve as a centre for addressing social issues: all schools should take on additional responsibilities, and in that sense become SchoolPLUS. In 2002, the government’s response was released under the signature and commitment of six Ministers of the government with a covering message from the Premier: it endorsed the recommendations of the report and launched a government commitment to the SchoolPLUS concept. In a major policy statement, the government acknowledged that the role of the school had changed and that it now carries two functions: to educate children and youth, and to serve as a community centre for the delivery of appropriate social, health, recreation, culture, justice and other services for children and their families.
The history of education in Saskatchewan is filled with endeavours at the local, provincial and national levels to meet the learning, training and community needs of the many dimensions of the province’s society. Those efforts faced the challenge of people living across vast areas, in isolated communities, from various cultural, religious and language traditions, and from various socio-economic circumstances. Throughout the History of Saskatchewan, education has been viewed as the foundation needed for people to reach new and better opportunities.