Spring/printemps 2004

Teaching to the Test or Testing to Teach? Educational Assessment in British Columbia, 1872-2002

Alastair Glegg
Assistant Professor, Educational History and Leadership, University of Victoria
Thomas Fleming
Professor, Educational History, University of Victoria
Published May 1, 2004
How to Cite
Glegg, Alastair, and Thomas Fleming. 2004. “Teaching to the Test or Testing to Teach? Educational Assessment in British Columbia, 1872-2002”. Historical Studies in Education / Revue d’histoire De l’éducation 16 (1), 115-37. https://doi.org/10.32316/hse/rhe.v16i1.437.


Over the years educational assessment in British Columbia has served many purposes in addition to recording student progress. Initially it helped provide evidence that the novel idea of a publicly funded school system was a worthwhile financial and social investment. As schooling expanded so did public examinations, ensuring that content and standards were consistent throughout the province. Between the wars educational priorities dominated assessment, as reformers challenged the validity of traditional testing and the popularity of large-scale assessment and mental testing increased. Recently schooling has become more politicized, and the purposes and methods of assessment have become subjects of public debate, often reflecting the priorities and philosophies of the government in power. Current attitudes to formal assessment appear to be determined by a combination of the factors that have influenced it over the years, and what started as a fairly straightforward concept has become increasingly complex and controversial.