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Canadian Materials in Schools

Reprinted from the Canadian Education Association Newsletter, October 1983

Volume 12 Number 3

Three reports have so far resulted from the project undertaken by the Canadian School Trustees' Association (CSTA) and the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP). This project was "to create awareness and stimulate interest in the use of Canadian learning materials, to explore the current level of emphasis upon Canadian studies and selection of Canadian learning materials, and to assess the awareness of educators and others of the availability of Canadian learning materials for use in the schools."

The first report, Canadian Learning Materials in Elementary and Secondary Education: A Literature Review (81 p., March 1981), was researched and written by Loraine Thompson. She looked at the main documents about Canadian authorship and publishing and the appearance of those efforts in schools. She found that most of the literature relating to Canadian materials in elementary and secondary schools is written by people associated with the publishing industry. Only a minority is written by educators. There is also more material about the selection, production, and utilization of textbooks than there is about school library books. What literature there is on selecting school library material is, she says, long on theory and short on practice. Very little information is available on how librarians actually select material or on what priority librarians give to Canadian content.

Thompson feels that they give very little, citing studies that found that of 254 recommended Canadian titles only one-third of the elementary school libraries surveyed had the average Canadian book on their shelves and that the librarians bought more award-winning American books than Canadian books. "These findings,'' the author says, "can be attributed to lack of priority or lack of knowledge of Canadian materials on the part of the school board, the individual librarian, or both."

The project also surveyed school boards (359 responded) on their budget provisions, awareness of Canadian publishers, policies, and procedures. The report, A Survey of School Boards Across Canada (109 p., November 1982), done by Trevor Gambell and Murray Scharf of the University of Saskatchewan's College of Education, sets out the findings of this survey and summarizes them on eight issues: general policy, criteria for selection -- objectives; criteria for selection-Canadian; selection procedures, locally developed courses; locally produced materials; challenged and controversial materials; and library materials. They found that seventy per cent of school boards had no policy specifying criteria for selecting Canadian material. A Canadian policy was found to be of more importance in Nova Scotia, Ontario, and the Northwest Territories, and of least importance in Manitoba. The authors point out the leadership role played by ministries or departments of education in this matter. They found that in those provinces where the ministry of education has a Canadian policy and a definition of Canadian texts and materials (British Columbia and Ontario) and where the ministry of education authorizes texts, the school boards are most likely to have a Canadian policy.

The third report, Policy Guidelines (14 p., April 1983), by Earl Newton, also of the University of Saskatchewan's College of Education, and Craig Melvin of the Saskatchewan School Trustees' Association, is a handbook to help trustees discuss and formulate policy regarding the use of Canadian learning materials. (It includes Vancouver School District No.39's policy as a worthy example.)

All of the reports resulting from the CSTA/ACP Canadian Learning Materials Project should certainly be read by all school board decision-makers and all school librarians. They're available from either CSTA or ACP.

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