A Changing World: Education in New Brunswick
Centre d'études acadiennes
In late 19th century New Brunswick, female teachers are called upon to play an increasingly important role in society. Yet many social changes must come about before they are fully accepted in the world of education. There is a long road ahead: legislation must be amended before women can be admitted to normal schools to be trained as teachers.
When the normal schools open their doors to women in 1848, major reforms are set in motion. To many women, teacher training is a brand-new opportunity to enter spheres of activity that have until then been denied to them.
Starting in the 1870s, New Brunswick brings in a series of educational reforms, culminating in free compulsory public schooling. Education becomes an issue of primary importance to the Acadians. Like many others, Bishop Marcel-François Richard, a leader of the Acadian élite of the time, opposes the Common Schools Act of 1871, which establishes a non-confessional school system.
To guarantee a French Catholic school system, Acadian leaders exact a compromise from the provincial government, which agrees to tolerate religious instruction. The school crisis mobilizes a great deal of the energy of Acadian society of this period.
In the early 20th century, the Acadians, persuaded that a good education is their best guarantee for the future, make this a focus of their struggle. They make demands regarding every aspect of education: French teacher training, French textbooks and schools in Acadian areas, to give just a few examples.
In parallel with this desire to make room for French teaching in New Brunswick, the Acadian community builds its own colleges and convents and founds professional associations connected with education.
As a result of the enormous achievements of preceding generations in the area of education, today New Brunswick Acadians can be educated entirely in French, from kindergarten to doctoral level.