History of Curriculum

In my last post I discussed the fact that the curriculum that we are all under dictates that we teach creativity and innovation to our students.  However, in this post I would like to discuss the history of curriculum in Canada, so that I can look ahead with a better understanding of what lies behind.

Curriculum is a set of uniform and consistent operational principles guiding what is to be taught and learned in schools. From our earliest history Canadians have began with copying the values and ideas of other surrounding countries: beginning with European nations, and later on the ideas of America. A central idea that I pulled out after reading the article by Tomkins was how although at times Canadians dealt with the challenges and changes of our society by changing the curriculum, many times they simply copied how other countries dealt with these issues.

By copying other nations to create our curriculum, there was not much innovation (especially in earlier times), especially when I look back to my definition of innovation: that changes are made according to the needs of society. One exception to the norm of a lack of innovation in this history, however, came with Egbert Ryerson (the superintendent of Ontario schools). He was very concerned about the breakdown of family and community, especially with the effects of industrialization, urbanization, and a high immigrant population. He then brought about a total reform, and dealt with these ‘problems’ in the way that he thought was best: a new curriculum focused on eliminating foreign influence, and promoting Christian values. Because of this, we could say that although we may not agree with Ryersons approach, this was both innovative and creative. His idea was novel (no other country had a system in place like this), and useful (especially when we consider the ‘problems’ that he hoped to fix).
The many changes in society over the history of Canada would inevitably led to changes in the way that teaching and learning occurred: however not much was said about this in the article.

After reading this article I was curious about how how innovative Canadian curriculum and policy makers are today, and how many of their ideas are coming from other countries. With a global society, many of the challenges that face a province, or Canada, are so similar to those happening around the world. In BC they hope to begin teaching a new curriculum this September (K-8), one that is based on 6 core competencies. The reason for this switch was to prepare our learners for a changing society. I wonder how much of this curriculum was also based off of ideas that other countries or provinces have also used…


Tomkins, G. (1981). Foreign influences on curriculum and curriculum policy making in Canada: Some impressions in historical and contemporary perspective. Curriculum Inquiry, 11(2), 157–163.


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