Near the end of World War One, Canada devised an idea to keep its men occupied during downtimes, steer them away from vice, and prepare them for post-war life.
The program, originally called Khaki College, was the brainchild of Dr. Henry Marshall Tory who was conducting a report on the needs of men returning to civilian life for the National Council of the YMCA. The YMCA was active in Europe, setting up facilities for soldiers to have recreation, play sports or conduct bible studies.
Tory recommended that the men would benefit greatly from access to education.
Initially, courses were taught by chaplains, but soon classes were instructed by professors, officers and men who held teaching degrees. It then became a university, recognized as a formal educational institution by the Canadian government in September 1918.
Classes were held in army camps and hospitals throughout France and in Britain. They ranged from self-study and hands-on training to study groups and formal lectures.
Students could fill in any gap in their skill set, everything from learning to read to university-level courses. Any credits earned could be applied to any educational institution back home.
Among the courses offered were:
- High school matriculation
- Foreign languages
- Business management
- Teaching programs
In addition, classes in homemaking were taught to English women who had married Canadian soldiers and women who planned to move to Canada after the war.
Certificates were awarded once courses were complete.
Libraries also were established. Textbooks were approved in Canada before being sent to Europe.
For many men, education brought them hope. For some, it allowed them to restart civilian life with their skills sharp. For others, it was the start of a new life full of opportunity; 3,000 men learned how to read and write.
Postwar study was divided into two semesters: October 1918-January 1919 and February-May 1919. By June 1919, all soldiers had been demobilized, and Khaki University closed.
By Armistice, 20,000 men were taking classes. By the time all the soldiers had returned home, 50,000 had attended classes, 1,000 at university level.
Khaki University was used as a model for other nations.
Was the value of education stressed during your formative years? Leave a comment below.
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