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Gibbons, Joanne. “The State of Canadian Studies in Canada’s Schools.” M.A. Thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 2003.


This thesis focuses on the current state of Canadian Studies in elementary and secondary schools across the country. Its main objective is to assess the degree to which grades one to twelve students across the country are given the opportunity to study Canada in their Social Studies courses.

This study includes an assessment of elementary, intermediate, and secondary Social Studies curriculum guidelines in all Canadian provinces in 2002. Due to financial and time constraints, the thesis measures only what is outlined in the curriculum guidelines and not what is actually taught in the schools. For the sake of clarity, grade levels are divided into three groups: elementary, grades one through six; intermediate, grades seven through nine; and senior high, grades then through twelve. There are two exceptions: Ontario, where the elementary social studies program is divided into two strands (Canada and the World, and Heritage and Citizenship); and Quebec, where the groups are divided into cycles.

This thesis argues that there are a sufficient number of Canadian Studies courses available to students in elementary and secondary schools across the country. The author qualifies “a sufficient number of courses” to mean that a majority of the provinces provide at least one Canadian Studies course with a significant amount of national content in their elementary, intermediate and senior high curricula. Sufficiency was measured by looking at the amount of national content found in the social studies curricula set by the provinces. The study also found that individual provinces differ in the quantity of national content found in their Social Studies program, and that graduation requirements may hinder students’ ability to take Canadian Studies courses. The greater the number of Canadian Studies courses offered to students, the author concludes, the more in-depth the national focus. She finds that a strong identity is emphasized across the country (except in Quebec and the Northwest Territories) in Social Studies curricula. National history is available to all senior high students across the country, but is only required in Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia.

This study includes a discussion of civic education and its recent manifestation in Canadian schools, a review of relevant literature pertaining to Canadian Studies, and a discussion of the alleged crisis in Canadian Studies. It also examines whether there is a stronger local or regional identity in post-Confederation provinces, whether there has been a breakdown of national history in Canada and whether or not regional or provincial histories are given more importance than national history in the curriculum.

One problem area that the provinces should address are the requirements for senior high graduation. Without making Canadian Studies courses mandatory for graduation, there is no guarantee that students will take these courses even if they are offered. Post-secondary admissions could also be changed to reflect a Canadian Studies course requirement. Similarly, a wider selection of choice within a discipline could enable students to take Canadian Studies courses from a variety of perspectives. Future research questions could also explore why secondary school students decide to take or to reject Social Studies courses.

Mary Chaktsiris