A recent study of Ontario’s private schools illustrates the benefits available to families and children who participate in an independent school setting.
The Ontario study is the first of its kind. Released by the Fraser Institute May 3, 2007, the conclusions show families who choose private schools tend to have higher education levels and are more involved in civic affairs.
Deani Van Pelt, assistant education professor at Redeemer University, authored the study with Patricia Allison and Derek Allison, education instructors at University of Western Ontario.
Titled Ontario’s Private Schools: Who Chooses Them and Why? the study surveyed 919 Ontario households with children who attend private schools.
“Parents are choosing private schools because they feel the public system isn’t meeting the needs of their children,” said Van Pelt in a Fraser Institute news release.
“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,” she said.
The attendance of Ontario private schools has increased from 1.9 per cent of the student population (1960) to 5.6 per cent (2006). This statistic prompted the study’s authors to investigate the characteristics of private schools and why parents choose them over public schools.
“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,” said Van Pelt.
The study breaks private schools into two streams: academically/pedagogically-defined day schools and religiously-defined day schools. These two streams cover 90 per cent or over 107,000 students who attend private education in Ontario.
For religiously-defined schools, the survey found the top reasons parents choose an independent school include the school teaches right from wrong, has dedicated teachers, and supports family values.
“Parents tend to be attracted to schools that show strong leadership, clear goals, flexibility, good discipline, high expectations and parent-teacher collaboration,” said Van Pelt. “Many parents believe they will find those qualities in a private school.”
Characteristics of parents who choose private education show they have higher levels of education and involvement in the community.
Though many of these parents have high incomes compared to the general Ontario population, results show parents who choose private schools with a religious focus have lower incomes than those who choose academically-defined private schools.