Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
June 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Commercial Education in Canada


[This article was published in 1948; for the precise citation, see the end of the document.]


Education, Commercial. Although simple book-keeping had been taught in occasional schools almost throughout the past century, little value was attached to commercial education by employers until after the appearance of the first practical typewriter in 1874. Thereupon fore-sighted individuals began to establish private commercial schools, which in course of time spread numerous branches, and which fifteen years ago enrolled over 30,000 day and evening students throughout Canada. Originally intended to prepare only for the more common business positions, the schools of a least one chain have adapted themselves promptly to broader needs; they were the first to fit candidates for commercial specialist teachers' diplomas in Ontario about 1890, and later showed equal readiness in devising courses to qualify students for examinations set by associations of bankers, accountants, and others. In 1901, however, the University of Toronto took the step of establishing a commercial diploma, and about eight years later introduced a course in commerce and finance leading to the degree of B.A. Such recognition by the universities and the more recent major expansion of commercial education in secondary schools have contributed to the decline of private venture schools, which in 1933 had an enrolment of about 15,000.


Secondary Schools in Ontario. The purpose of commercial education as expressed in the calendar of the Toronto High School of Commerce is "to give a general high school education, together with such training in business theory and practice, that students, besides being generally well informed, will be able to adapt themselves to the needs of any business with which they may become associated." So defined, it is clearly a function of secondary schools; and in what follows we shall restrict ourselves to the appearance and development of commercial subjects in these institutions. In Ontario, stenography was first reported as a subject of study in 1885 and typewriting in 1900. In the latter year the number of students engaged in these studies was 1,935 and 869 respectively. By 1911 five schools, including the Toronto Technical School, had three-year commercial courses in separate commercial departments, and forty-five other schools had organized two-year courses. In the same year the importance of commercial education received further recognition by the establishing at Toronto of the High School of Commerce exclusively for this purpose. In 1933 Ontario had nearly 6,500 pupils in five large schools of this type, and 10,000 more in the commercial departments of vocational and composite high schools.


Other Provinces. In Prince Edward Island a commercial department. Was instituted in Prince of Wales College in 1925; and in 1933 it enrolled some 40 students. In the same year there were 62 pupils in the commercial courses in Halifax high schools, and in New Brunswick 257 in the St. John Vocational School and 321 in smaller composite high schools. In Quebec there are commercial classes in several of the classical colleges and Protestant high schools, and there is some commercial work in the post-.elementary, or complementary, grades of the Catholic primary schools. The School for Higher Commercial Studies in Montreal had an enrolment of 564 pupils in 1933. In Manitoba commercial work has been postponed until the tenth grade, with a consequent reduction in numbers; but possibly 1,000 pupils are enrolled in such courses in the Winnipeg high schools. Saskatchewan in 1933 had over 1,600 pupils in commercial classes in the three large technical schools, and Alberta more than 1,400 in three large schools, and 1,756 in all. In British Columbia, there were more than 2;400 pupils in the high schools of Vancouver, including 1,300 in two large high schools of commerce, and an additional 1,200 in twelve smaller high schools and high school departments throughout the province. Complete figures for the whole of Canada are not available, but fulltime day students studying commercial work in publicly controlled schools of secondary grade must number approximately 40,000.


Details as to the type of commercial work in Canada may be obtained from Bulletin Number 17, Vocational Education, September, 1926, of the Technical Education Branch, Department of Labour, Ottawa.

Source  : W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. IV, Toronto, University Associates of Canada , 1948, 411p., pp. 264-265.

© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College