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First graduating class of the Prairie Bible Institute. Glenbow ArchivesBy the time Alberta became a province in 1905, there were already 562 schools, 1,210 teachers and more than 34,000 pupils.  Hundreds more were added as the new provincial government introduced a Department of Education and put money into building new schools and hiring more teachers. The existence of so many schools prior to this time, however, indicates the importance Albertans placed on education. The missionaries, both Catholic and Methodist, were some of the first to introduce schools to the West. Industrial and residential schools recruited Aboriginal and mixed-blood children and aimed to "Canadianize, civilize and Christianize" them. 

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Heritage Trails #159 Cottage Schools - North Red Deer

They were called cottage schools because they were intended to be small and temporary, much like a summer cottage.

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Many of the settlers who began arriving in the west in the 1870s and 1880s also viewed the education of their children as highly important; they put together small log schoolhouses often on a few donated acres of land, equipped them as best they could and hired a teacher. Although these early schools varied in their teachings, such as whether they taught English or French, a white, middle-class, Protestant-based curriculum soon began to dominate. Included in this burgeoning education system were girls; however, right from the beginning, the extent and type of their education differed from boys'.



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