Parents sending their children to Ontario private
schools do so because of dissatisfaction with public schools,
according to a new report published today by The Fraser
Institute, an independent Canadian research organization.
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
"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."
The survey asked parents to rate how important their
disappointment with other school options was in choosing their
current private school. Fully 94 per cent of respondents said
that disappointment with public or separate schools was a factor
in their choice of a private school.
The dedication of teachers at private schools was listed as very
important by 91 per cent of parents in the survey, while more
than 80 per cent of respondents 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 those 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.
A comparison of incomes of the surveyed families to the general
Ontario population based on 2001 census data and 2003 Statistics
Canada data showed more than 50 per cent of families sending
their children to private schools had incomes over $120,000,
compared to 25 per cent of the general population. However, 21
per cent of families sending their children to private schools
had income less than $50,000 compared to 37 per cent of the
comparison families. 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