ANCASTER- The results from a provincial study on private schools was the topic for Reedemer University College’s Education Symposium May 10.
Deani Van Pelt, Derrick Allison and Patricia Allison authored the study and presented the findings to their audience in a lecture hall. They discussed three main areas: what kinds of non-public schools exist and how they differ, which parents choose these schools and how they compare demographically, and for what types of reasons do parents choose these schools.
Following their PowerPoint presentation responses were heard from Dr. Adrian Guldemond, Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) executive director, and Patrick Daly, chairperson of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board.
The study, titled Ontario’s Private Schools: Who Chooses Them and Why? is the result of two years of work. It was funded by the Society for Quality Education and published by the Fraser Institute May 3.
The Ontario study is the first of its kind to give an in-depth look into the characteristics of families who choose private or independent education. The study surveyed 919 households in the province with children who attend private schools.
The market for private education has shown growth over the past 40 years. In 1960, 1.9 per cent of the student population attended private schools and by 2006 this number rose to 5.6 per cent.
The dedication of teachers was the response by 92 per cent of parents when asked why they chose private education. School safety, academic quality and teaching of right from wrong were also top reasons.
Guldemond says the OACS has been supportive of the study in hopes for an objective view of the sector.
“It was really our hope that the public dimension of the independent school sector would be the focus of the report,” he says. “I think that has been achieved.”
“We hope this report will be a major contributor to a more open dialogue among the major school groups in the province,” says Guldemond.
Doretta Wilson, Society for Quality Education executive director, says her non-profit organization aided the study both financially and by providing clerical support.
“(Independent schools) allow more options in teaching style,” says Wilson.
“There was a lot of diversity (of parents in the study), but at the same time, there’s a lot of commonalities,” says Wilson. “Every parent wants the right things for their kids. They want a safe environment, a nurturing environment, dedicated teachers, and high academic standards … traditional values are still very important.”
Dr. Steve Sider was the symposium’s convener. “We invited people who are involved with independent education in the province as well as people who are involved with public education,” he says.
Though there was a good turn out, with around 85 people pre-registered, Sider says there were some gaps in attendance.
”I was disappointed in the number of people from the public sphere who came,” says Sider.
After the symposium presentation, many guests stayed for a reception and voices throughout the hallways could be heard discussing the results from the survey.
“The comments I’m hearing outside here (includes) the research, the empirical work that has been done here, these are really valuable things for us,” says Sider. “They cement some of the things we’ve probably felt at a gut-level for years … I’ve heard lots of people say ‘what’s next?’”