HON. JAMES W. ESTEY
Minister of Education, Saskatchewan
SASKATCHEWAN, and its condition of unprecedented drought, are attracting a good deal of attention throughout the whose of the Dominion of Canada. Two magazines, Chalelaine in its November
issue, and Maclean's in its issue of November 1, publish articles with respect to Saskatchewan. The first contains the following paragraph:
“Life savings have been used up, insurance drawn on, little nest eggs brought out and spent, clothes made over, dresses turned upside down, quilts sewn from old suits, rugs made from old underwear, tablecloths and underclothing fashioned out of flour sacks. Relatives from the east and west and south have sent bales of half-worn clothes that have been eagerly and thankfully received. I have stood amazed at what some of the women have done to keep off relief.
“But we have reached the end of our tether now; there are no reserves, no resources left.”
The second contains an article by two schoolteachers who ask the adoption of an education program the expense of which is stated in the article to be as follows:
“The estimated minimum cost of the above program is $12,000,(XX). Here is one suggested way by which the money could be raised:
(a) The province would raise 75 per cent ($9,000,000) of the money required in the following ways:
1. Interest on school lands
(Dominion Bonds)............. $ 800,000
2. Interest on school lands........ 350,000
3. Provincial property tax of 4 mills on an estimated assessment of
4. General sales tax of 2 per cent,. 2,382,740
5. Dominion subsidy to the province 1,307.260
(b) A property tax of 3 mills in larger areas would raise the remaining 25 per cent.................... 3,(XX),000
The foregoing presents two views—the one of misfortune and distress; the other of a demand that equals about three quarters of the entire annual revenue of the province.
TNURJNG the earlier years of drought, in the year 1932, the Government appointed a committee to study school finances in the province with special reference to school grants. Mr. N. L. Reid of the Department of Education was named as chairman, and the others were R. H. Heane, nominated by The Saskatchewan School Trustees' Association, W. E. Hodge, nominated by The Association of Urban Municipalities. James R. MacKay, nominated by The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Alliance, and G. H. Hummel, nominated by the Association of Rural Municipalities. Under date of March 1. 1933, this committee submitted its report to the Government, which included the following statement with reference to the educational system of the province:
“There has been developed in this Province an educational system which, during pioneer conditions, has prixluced results of which all citizens may justly feel proud. Schools have been brought within reach of practically all, attendance for years has been remarkably regular, the schools are manned by fully certificated teachers trained for the most part in our own Province and, finally, the almost entire absence of illiteracy among our school population, the mental alertness of our citizens, the increasing number enrolled in our high schools and the important positions occupied by our universitygraduates are all indicative of educational progress and form the best measure of educational wealth. Saskatchewan may well feel proud of its accomplishment.”
In 1931 a committee set up by the Government made a thorough study of the curriculum of the primary grades, I to VIII, inclusive, as a consequence of which a new curriculum was adopted which was well regarded as being up-to-date and adequate at that time. It has been the practice of the Department to review the high school curriculum each year, and to make certain changes in order that this curriculum may be in keeping with modern trends and local conditions. In 1936 the Director of Curricula and Correspondence Courses, was asked by the Department to visit various institutions, particularly in the United States, and review the curricula of the various high schools and collegiate institutes. A report of his survey was submitted to the Minister of Education which included the following paragraphs:
“I had an opportunity of studying the curricula of the more progressive States, and found that the philosophy of education permeating the curricula of these States differs but little from the philosophy of the Saskatchewan courses. Naturally there is a difference in content in such subjects as civics and history, but there is a remarkable resemblance in much of the work outlined, especially in that pertaining to the elementary courses.”
“I have been glad to note that the foregoing changes which we have made in this Department are in keeping with the trends in the more progressive States and which I know to be in line with similar changes being made in many of our own provinces and in Great Britain.”
“No one could help but be impressed with the many changes in recent years that have been effected in the curricula and school systems in both Canada and the United States, also the further changes that are now under review.”
The officials of the Department of Education are constantly reviewing the trends of thought and developments in education, studying suggested changes, and recommending what in their judgment will best serve the people of this province and provide a modern system in accordance with the standards and requirements of a progressive citizenry.
The province maintains three normal schools situated in the cities of Regina, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw. Each is provided with a competent staff of experienced teachers whose ability and standing in their profession are well recognized. All have taught school in the province, some have inspected schools, and many have studied at the larger institutions of learning either in this Dominion or in the United States. At all times they have shown an interest in their chosen profession, and their services are sought at educational events inside and outside the province.
The College of Education at the University of Saskatchewan was established about ten years ago, and provides a course that enables teachers to obtain interim first and high school certificates. Its staff consists of men recognized as outstanding educationists. Upon its recommendation, interim certificates are issued by the Department of Education and may be made permanent after a period of successful teaching experience. The requirements for these certificates are either identical with or similar to the requirements in the other provinces of the Dominion.
The entire province is divided into forty inspectorates, each of which is in charge of an inspector of schools, except in the larger cities where the supervision is under the direction of the local superintendent of schools. The collegiate institutes and high schools are visited by high school inspectors. Each inspector submits a report to the Department of Education and to the local school board after each visit, setting out his observations and conclusions. In December, 1936, the inspectors from the drought area of that date, all of which is included in the drought area this year, were called into Regina, when the situation was discussed and the assistance available from the Government reviewed. The inspectors are former teachers and are only too anxious to assist both teachers and trustees. Their experience, advice and assistance are available at any time they are requested by every teacher and trustee board in the province.
Saskatchewan this year suffered the worst drought the province has ever experienced. The production of wheat,
the basic commodity of the province, is affected and determined largely by climatic conditions. Without moisture the wheat crop is a failure, and this year because a very large area of the province suffered from drought the wheat yield was reduced to a minimum. Statistics provided by the Provincial Department of Agriculture indicate that the total production and the value of the wheat actually sold off the farm in the Province of Saskatchewan fell from $221,537,000 in 1927 to $10,000,000 (estimated) in 1937.
This means that the Saskatchewan farmer in 1937 derived from his basic crop of wheat sold off the farm only the twenty-second part of the income obtained in 1927. Furthermore, this drastic reduction culminated a series of bad years, whereas the 1927 income was after a series of prosperous years. Such figures cannot fail to impress us with the discouragements and the needs of our people.
There are substantial areas in this province which have suffered from drought for a period of nine successive years. Other parts have experienced the consequences of drought for shorter periods. Within these areas, either a complete crop failure or what might be regarded as almost a complete crop failure has been the result. Many areas this year have produced neither grain nor vegetable crops solely because of the lack of moisture. It is therefore essential that our citizens, by way of relief, must receive from the Government, food and clothing for themselves, feed and fodder for their stock and poultry, and seed for seeding operations next spring. Provincial and Dominion Governments, with the assistance of the municipalities, are accepting these responsibilities and providing for these needs.
The churches and philanthropic associations throughout Canada are generously recognizing the plight of our citizens and donating food and clothing. Hundreds of carloads have been received and distributed through a Voluntary Relief Committee under the chairmanship of Dr. J. W. Hedley, the railroads providing free freight.
Assured of Government assistance and encouraged by the generosity of the people throughout Canada, the citizens of Saskatchewan are making a magnificent effort to maintain the essential institutions, including churches, schools and hospitals. One hundred and seventy municipalities are at present designated and recognized by the Government as the Official Drought Area. This includes all the southern area, and constitutes about one half the settled portion of the province, including towns and villages. Many of the remaining parts of the province suffer a condition but slightly improved. These conditions and the circumstances associated therewith impose trying burdens and limitations upon our people. The successive years of drought have made it increasingly difficult for them to maintain their interest and morale.
In the main, the trustees and teachers have been resourceful and ingenious in their efforts to maintain our schools, and a very splendid measure of go-operation exists between them. Teachers’ salaries have been low. Sometimes the secretaries and the janitors are allowed a srqpll remuneration to apply upon their taxes. In other instances this work has been done by voluntary effort. In fact every reasonable effort has been put forth to make the best of a difficult situation.
'T'HERE ARE some who do not co-operate but attack the school system as a failure, forgetting that similar conditions have at some time in their history obtained in all the provinces. The real difficulty at the moment is lack of revenue, due to the fact that many of our people have had no income. Even under these difficulties the services are being maintained, though somewhat restricted. The school nurse continues her work. Honorable Dr. J. M. Uhrich, Minister of Public Health, in the Legislative Assembly, March 31, 1937, spoke as follows:
“Let us review some of the work these nurses do.
“Take school work: After all, the school is the central point for the work of the nurse. It is the point of contact which brings her into close touch with every phase of community life. The teacher, trained in health education in the provincial normal schools, is her ally. The children,
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given instruction in health as in all other subjects, accept it as part of the curriculum and, when the nurse enters the school, they receive her with open arms. She inspects the children, examines them for defects—bad teeth, bad breath, bad eyes. She inspects the general sanitary surroundings of the school, and in each and every case after her inspection is completed, she reports to the school board, giving a summary of her findings, commenting on the quality of the health teaching, and making recommendations as to the sanitation, cleanliness and general condition of the school plant. She also sends a direct report to the parents of those children she has found defective— when I say ‘defective’ I mean in a physical sense, with reference to teeth and so on. In many cases she makes a personal visit to the homes where the children live to notify the parents of the condition found in the child, and while there she sees pre-school age children, gets an opportunity to talk to the mother regarding pre-natal or post-natal work—and Honorable Members will agree that it is this personal touch, this personal contact, that counts for most in such matters.
“Approximately 500 schools were visited during the year, and more than 17,000 schoolchildren given health inspection by the ten nurses.
“Dental Clinics: We have heard a
great deal about dental clinics and of the necessity for a certain amount of work being done among schoolchildren, and rightly so, because, if the child in school has a painful molar, the best education in the world will not make much impression on him. Some 205 dental clinics were held, chiefly in the drought and Northern Settlement areas.
One hundred and seventy-four schools, located in twenty-nine different municipalities and nine local improvement districts, have had dental work completed for more than 3,000 children of school age. Those clinics were not free. Only five free clinics were held.
“The mode of operation is this: The nurse goes into the community, contacts the council, the school board or some local organization, and organizes the clinic and, in co-operation with the dentist established there, the work is done. I find that, during the year, this work cost approximately $3,600. My friends may say that is not a large amount; yet it was twice the amount spent last year, and four times that of the year before. It is interesting to note that twenty-six dentists in the various communities assisted in this work, and did a very good job indeed. I wish to express to the Dental Association my appreciation of the co-operation and assistance given by that body, without whose support the work would not have been possible. I also wish to pay tribute to the splendid co-operation extended to us by the president of the Association last year, the Honorable Member for Humboldt (Dr. King).”
Prior to 1929 for a long period of years, the rural teachers of this province received an average salary in excess of $1,000 per year, and I am confident that the trustees of today are anxious to pay the teachers higher salaries, indeed much higher salaries, than those which they are now receiving. I believe teachers, in the main, realize this and are willing to co-operate with the trustee boards, knowing that when favorable climatic conditions return, Saskatch-
ewan will again be in the forefront in the matter of remuneration for its teachers. Further, this province has always occupied a first place in its adoption of modern educational standards, and at present its teaching body will bear comparison with any other teaching body in the Dominion. It is true that in a province with more than 5,100 school districts there are exceptions to any general statement. It is equally true that, in a comparatively young province where there are still pioneer districti, conditions are not always the best, but it is unjust and unfair to take isolated cases and from them to generalize and submit the whole province, the teachers, the normal schools, the inspectors of schools, the trustees and the home conditions of our people, to condemnation.
The province is divided into school districts, in each of which a board is elected and charged with the administration of the school. All contracts are made by this board. It determines its budget and is charged with certain responsibilities, including the employment of a teacher. The Department of Education determines the curricula and administers the provisions of The School Act and other relevant statutes, while the Government pays the annual grant to each school.
The Government has realized during these years of drought the difficulties under which the trustees and teachers are carrying on. It has provided these districts with fuel ; made loans to assist in the payment of teachers’ salaries; made special loans for married teachers; increased the school grants as of July 1, 1937, from a basic grant of $1 to $1.50 per diem, thereby increasing the income to each room by $100. Realizing that there are districts in
which no revenue is available other than the school grant, the Government is making loans for the purpose of purchasing school supplies, and further is paying the school grants in advance in order that schools may remain in operation. The Government recognizes that the problem of education is far too important to be neglected and has done, and will continue to do, whatever its means will permit to assist the local school boards. The statutory grant is now as great as that in any of the provinces with the possible exception of British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, and when we take into account the assistance above mentioned, the contribution made by this Government is perhaps equal to that made by any Government in the Dominion of Canada.
Under the provisions of the B.N.A. Act, education is a provincial responsibility and we must rely for revenue upon our people. In order to meet our obligations this year, we imposed and have been collecting from August 1, 1937, an Education Tax of two per cent upon retail purchases made in this province, subject to certain exemptions. We believed that our people were anxious that the schools should be maintained, and that, notwithstanding their difficulties, they would submit to the payment of this tax. The Government’s opinion has been well founded, as evidenced by the willingness of the people to make payment of this tax.
Our first public schools, established by the courage and determination of our pioneers, are being maintained, in spite of discouragements and difficulties, by the co-operative efforts of the ratepayers, trustees and teachers. The Government is no less anxious, and means lo do everything in its power to ensure that our schools will function with the greatest possible efficiency.