After Confederation in 1867, education was the responsibility of each province. In Quebec, the provincial government allowed the Catholic Church and the Protestant minority take charge of organizing schools. As a result, there was one system for the Catholics and another for the Protestants.  Almost half of teaching staffs were members of the clergy.

At this time, children who attended school began first grad at about six years old and finished elementary school in four or five years. Many children left school when they were about 10 or 11 years old.

See French Video:  Loisirs et divertissements La Quebec vers 1905 at

Children who live in rural areas attended the local country school. It looked like a big house and was used as  both classroom and home to the teacher. All the children gathered in the same room: the teacher taught all levels simultaneously. She taught them to read, write and count and a lot of time was devoted to religious education. Students were often absent because they had to help with chores in the home or on the farm. Very few students continued school after primary school.

In the cities, in addition to primary schools, there were also schools for arts and crafts, business schools, industrial schools, normal schools (for teachers), domestic arts schools (for girls), traditional colleges and universities. Higher education was accessible only to the rich because education was expensive.

Until 1943, school was not required. Access to school was based on gender, parents’ wealth, location (city or country) and religion.

Author:  Service national du Récit de l’univers social

See also – Traces of the past:


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