Foundations of Education


Presents a timeline of 19th century educational events in Ontario.

Timeline: The Origins of Public Schooling in Ontario

The timeline below chronicles the development of public education in Ontario during the 19th century.
School Acts are passed in Upper Canada (now Ontario) to establish schools and require that teachers be certified.
January 1, 1799
The first tuition-free non-denominational school opens.

Review Focus #1 for details.
January 1, 1804
The District School Act allocates one school per each of eight districts, also requiring students to pay tuition.
January 1, 1807
The Common School Act funds eight school districts in Upper Canada. Boards of Education are established in each. In a school district, any community that has 20 or more children (and which has built a school building to educate them in) is permitted to establish a school. Local trustees are granted the authority to determine the hiring criteria for teachers.
January 1, 1816
A General Board of Education is established in Upper Canada.
January 1, 1823
The authority to determine the criteria for teacher hiring is transferred from trustees to district school boards.
January 1, 1824
Upper Canada and Lower Canada (now Quebec) combine to form the Province of Canada. The School Act for the United Province of Canada establishes non-denominational schools.

The position of General Superintendent of Education, with overall responsibility for education in Upper Canada, is created. A compulsory taxation system is also established to levy taxes to fund schools. Students pay a monthly fee of 25 cents to attend school with a limited allotment of free education for poor children.
January 1, 1841
The Act of 1843 establishes the position of Chief Superintendent of Education. Egerton Ryerson holds the position from 1844 until his retirement in 1876.
January 1, 1843
The Common School Act is passed, the first major education legislation in Upper Canada. The Act delineates the structure of the school system; establishes teacher training schools; assigns school superintendents to each school district who are responsible for annually inspecting schools; establishes the role of elected school trustees; levies a school tax on the parents of all school-aged children; lists approved school textbooks; and protects the non-denominational status of public schools.
January 1, 1846
Chief Superintendent Egerton Ryerson completes his tour of Europe’s education systems and writes a "Report on a System of Public Elementary Instruction in Upper Canada."
January 1, 1847
The Common School Act creates school boards across Canada West, expands the school levy tax to all property, and enshrines the principle of a tuition-free education for all children. The Act stipulates that each municipality must meet the funding needs established by its local school board. The Act allows for schools to be solely paid for by provincial and municipal funds. The Act also authorizes the creation of separate schools, leading to provincially-funded Catholic schools and racially segregated schools.
January 1, 1850
The British North America Act establishes the country of Canada (originally Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia), also enshrining elementary and secondary education as a solely provincial responsibility.

Review Focus #2 for details.
January 1, 1867
The School Act makes elementary education compulsory and free for children up to the age of 12. The Act also creates two streams of secondary education: high schools (the lower stream) and collegiate institutes (the higher stream).

Review Focus #3 for details.
January 1, 1871
Egerton Ryerson retires after 32 years as Chief Superintendent of Education. The first Minister of Education is appointed.
January 1, 1876
The compulsory age to which students must attend school is raised from 12 to 14.
January 1, 1891
📌 A timeline of educational events in the 20th century will be presented in Week 8.