Vision 2012: education then

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The creation of Duncan a century ago this year means 2012 also marks the 100th anniversary of big changes in local education.

Prior to 1912, explains Cowichan Valley Heritage Schools Society president Bob King, local schools were all administrated by North Cowichan. But when Duncan became its own city, it also became the overseer of all the schools within its new boundaries.

"It meant some sweeping changes for schools in the Duncan area," King said.

Students in Duncan attending Somenos School, for example, suddenly had to pay tuition because they were no longer living in the school's jurisdiction.

The changes also meant Cowichan High School, built in 1911, was suddenly in Duncan's jurisdiction, and was therefore renamed Duncan High School.

"That was the one that burned down in 1946," King said.

But 100 years ago, that school meant Cowichanians studying past Grade 8 could stay in the valley.

"The kids wrote exams after the eighth grade, and anyone who needed to go on to school past Grade 8 had to go elsewhere until 1911," King said. "Mostly it meant boarding in Victoria or Nanaimo.

"There were two private schools, though, that would take some students in the upper grades," King added.

The first of those private schools was Quamichan Lake School, built in 1905.

Students studying up to Grade 8, meanwhile, were usually housed in a single, all-grades classroom.

"We haven't got copies of any texts they were using around 1912, but I think it was basically slate-board writing — a black slate with chalk — with not much in the way of notebooks and that sort of thing," King said. "There were a few pencils, and of course ink and ink wells, and pen nibs, and their lessons basically came off a chalkboard produced by the teacher."

Students worked mostly in groups, with older students helping the younger ones.

"And the teacher sort of worked in between," King said.

Studies include reading, writing and counting, and perhaps some British history.

"But I don't think very much of it," King said. "There wouldn't have been much in the way of textbooks. All the first textbooks came from Britain, and a lot of them were supplied by various churches."

"This was close to a period of time when there were some very big changes coming from the Ministry of Education," King added. "The word was consolidation — they were trying to group various schools together and build larger schools."

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