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Schooling in Ontario MAA
Schooling in Ontario

There were schools in Ontario as early as the 17th century. There was little consistency to these early schools. Classes were held in kitchens, parlors, churches and even taverns! Private tutors taught subjects ranging from art and deportment to languages and music.

In the 1840’s Egerton Ryerson, the Chief Superintendent of Education in Upper Canada, introduced reforms to the education system including standard schoolhouse designs that included lots of light, and fresh air.

Parliamentary Acts over the next 35 years further defined the structure for the school system. These acts:

    ·      outlined the responsibilities of trustees, superintendents, and teachers.

    ·      established schools for educating teachers.

    ·      formalized the authority of the General Board of Education,

    ·      created legislation for secondary schools,

    ·      defined attendance requirements,

    ·      established the Education Department, precursor to the Ministry of Education.

​S.S.16 Mount Joy c.1900

The One-Room Schoolhouse

One-room schoolhouses were just that - one room that held the entire student population of the area. One teacher, often only a few years older than the students themselves, taught children from the age of 5 to 16 or 17. Class sizes varied from a dozen to close to eighty students depending on the area, season and even the teacher’s reputation! Each grade worked from its own set of readers and lesson books as the teacher taught grades 1 to 8 on a rotating schedule.

Not only did the building serve as the school, but also as the community centre. This was often the location for community meetings, special forums, and social functions such as dances or receptions.

The one-room schoolhouse plays a significant role in the history of Ontario. It represents the basis of education for generations of people who shaped this province and the origins of our modern school system.

Many of the schoolhouses built in this period may still be seen today throughout rural Ontario. Often these buildings have had additions added after the turn-of-the-20th century to meet the needs of the growing population, but are still easily recognizable by their design. Many of these buildings have been preserved and converted into private homes, community facilities, and museums, however you will also see these recognizable shapes crumbling in disrepair and neglect​.


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