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Ukrainian Language Teaching

The Laurier-Greenway agreement of 1887 allowed a bilingual system of public education in Manitoba. On the basis of this agreement, Ukrainians and other ethnic groups in Saskatchewan convinced their government to authorize, in 1909, establishing the “School for Foreigners” in Regina. The various Ukrainian educational organizations then submitted resolutions asking that Ukrainian be introduced into the curriculum of their respective provincial universities in view of the number of Ukrainian settlers in the west. Unfortunately, opposition to the bilingual system in the prairies became very vocal, especially during World War I, and the Regina School was closed. An era had come to an end: the Ukrainians, among others, had to rely again on their own resources. To allow their children to learn about their ancestral heritage some student-resident institutions were founded. In Saskatchewan, the first such institute was established in 1916; it eventually evolved into the Mohyla and subsequently the Sheptytsky Institutes in Saskatoon, devoted to the learning and dissemination of the Ukrainian culture in the province. These endeavours were supported by George W. Simpson, a professor of history at the University of Saskatchewan, who during the 1930s began introducing some material about Ukraine in his history courses.

World War II was a powerful stimulant in the development of Slavic studies. With the help of George Simpson and Brother Methodius of St. Joseph's College in Yorkton, Ukrainian was gradually introduced into the programs of the University of Saskatchewan and the provincial high schools. A non-credit course in elementary Ukrainian was offered in 1943 at the University of Saskatchewan. Two years later, Constantine H. Andrusyshen came to the newly established Department of Slavic Studies, and the Ukrainian language was added to the credited subjects at the University. In 1952 it was recognized as a high school subject by the Department of Education; simultaneously it was introduced into the Summer School at the University, and in 1958 into the School of Correspondence's curriculum. The University of Saskatchewan was the first institution in North America to offer such courses.

From there on, the teaching of Ukrainian in Saskatchewan began to spread; very soon it became evident that an association of teachers of Ukrainian had to be organized. Some previous attempts had been made is 1916 and 1958, but had proved to be premature. Eventually such an association, Saskatchewan Teachers of Ukrainian, was founded in the fall of 1966 as a special chapter of the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation. The association started publishing a newsletter, Tema, which encompasses information and professional material; annual conferences took place as well. Subsequently the STU was instrumental in initiating co-operation in the development of Ukrainian programs between the prairies provinces; the newly established University of Regina also introduced programs in Ukrainian. In 1976 the society “Ukraina” donated to the University of Saskatchewan a monument to the Ukrainian poet, writer and feminist, Lesya Ukrainka; this led to the initiation of an academic exchange agreement between the University of Saskatchewan and the Chernivtsi State University in southwestern Ukraine, again the first such attempt among universities in North America. Over 100 scholars and students have availed themselves in this exchange opportunity. The educational contacts with Ukraine grew and spread to other institutions as well. By 1979 a bilingual English-Ukrainian program was introduced in St. Goretti School in Saskatoon; the same academic year saw the highest number of centres, over fifty at all levels, offering Ukrainian with an enrollment of over 2,600 students. To accommodate the demand, several university and secondary school specialists started co-operating in the preparation of numerous manuals and materials, and introduced innovative language, literature and culture teaching methods. The Department of Education established a special position of Language Consultant and Facilitator for Ukrainian.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, more contacts were established with the independent Ukraine and an agreement for co-operation in education with Ukraine was signed in 1990, which made provisions for annual exchanges of high school and university students and educators between Saskatchewan and Ukraine. Subsequently two Canada-Ukraine Education Conferences were held in Ukraine, in 1991 and 1994; delegations from education ministries of Ukraine and Saskatchewan exchanged visits; and in 1996 a Ukrainian and Canadian team of specialists co-operated in the preparation of educational materials for secondary schools in Ukraine and Canada. In 1998 an academic unit, the Prairie Centre for the Study of Ukrainian Heritage, was initiated at St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan; and in 1999 a Lesya Ukrainka Chair in Ukrainian Studies was founded. In 2002 a consortium for the study of Ukrainian at secondary and higher level was established, and contacts were made with other centres on this continent and in Ukraine. In the summer of 2003 the first successful session for students from Saskatchewan took place at the newly founded Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. (See also Ukrainian Settlements, Association of United Ukrainian Canadians)

Victor Buyniak

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