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Parents Opt to Send Children to Private Schools
A recent survey indicates that parents are dissatisfied with the public school system, and are choosing to send children to Ontario’s private schools.

Parents sending their children to Ontario private schools do so because of dissatisfaction with public schools, according to a new report released by The Fraser Institute, an independent Canadian research organization.

…94 percent of respondents said that disappointment with public or separate schools was a factor in their choice…

The report, Ontario’s Private Schools:  Who Chooses Them and Why, is written by Deani Van Pelt, assistant professor in education at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, along with Patricia Allison and Derek Allison, both instructors in the education faculty at the University of Western Ontario.

It is the most comprehensive study of its kind and is based on a survey of 919 Ontario households with children attending private schools.

“Parents are choosing private schools because they feel the public system isn’t meeting the needs of their children” said Van Pelt, the report’s lead author.

“Regardless of whether they are seeking a sounder academic environment or a learning environment that reflects their religious faith, the answers to the survey reflect dissatisfaction with the current public school system.”

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The survey asks parents how important their disappointment with other school options was in choosing their current private school.  Fully 94 percent of respondents said that disappointment with public or separate schools was a factor in their choice of private school.

The dedication of teachers at private schools was listed as very important by 91 percent of parents in the survey, while more than 80 percent said the emphasis on academics by private schools was very important.  Teaching right from wrong and school safety were also very important reasons for choosing a private school for almost all parents surveyed.

“While enrolment in Ontario’s publicly funded schools has not even doubled over the last four decades, attendance at private schools has more than quadrupled,” Van Pelt said.

“Parents tend to be attracted to schools that show strong leadership, clear goals, flexibility, good discipline, high expectations and parent-teacher collaboration.  Many parents believe they will find these qualities in a private school.”

The report also looked at the characteristics of families that choose private schools for their children and found they tend to have higher levels of education, higher status occupations or self-employment, and a greater involvement in civic affairs.

“Parents who choose private schools in Ontario are different.  On average, they are more civically engaged, more politically involved, much more entrepreneurial, and have both higher levels of education and levels of employment status,” said Van Pelt.  “These parents are contributing to the economic and social wellbeing of our province.

“Parents who choose religiously-defined schools deeply desire to pass on their religious heritage to their children.  Many hope to awaken spiritual sensitivities in their children and believe that the entire educational experience is important in this regard.

“Both sets of parents repeatedly mentioned the dedicated teachers, the solid academic and moral atmosphere of their schools, and the safety they felt sending their children to such schools,” she said.

A comparison of incomes of the surveyed families showed that parents choosing private schools with a religious focus tended to have incomes lower than those who choose private schools with an academic focus.

“While families choosing private schools tend to have higher income levels, it’s worth noting that parents from all income levels and occupational groups send their children to private schools in Ontario and find value in the education they offer,” Van Pelt said.

“A common bond exists among parents choosing private schools.  They have been persuaded by direct experience or belief that the superior education they desire for their children, whether driven by an explicit individual need of the child or by the child’s cultural or religious identity, cannot be adequately met in the school system currently provided by the province of Ontario.”

Originally published in Beacon, November/December 2007.

Used with permission.  Copyright © 2007 Christianity.ca.



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A ministry of
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada