Fraser Forum

Share of independent school enrolment has increased in Canada

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Choosing where a child is educated is one of the most important decisions Canadian parents can make. Depending on geographical location, families may be able to choose a public school in either official language, a separate Catholic school, an independent school, a charter school, or decide to educate their children themselves through homeschooling.

While the majority of students are still educated in public schools in the dominant language of their area (French in Quebec, English in the other nine provinces), more and more families are looking at alternatives, including independent schools.

All provinces in Canada have independent schools. Currently, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec offer partial funding for independent schools, while Ontario and the Atlantic provinces do not. Government formulas for determining independent school funding differ by province but are generally linked to the average per student operating funding for the public school district where the independent school is located. 

B.C. has the highest proportion of students enrolled in an independent school at 12.9 per cent. Quebec has the second highest at 12.3 per cent. 

Interestingly, Ontario has a higher percentage (6.1 per cent) of students enrolled in independent schools than two of the five provinces (Alberta and Saskatchewan) that provide financial support for independent schools. However, it’s important to note that Ontario is also the province with the fewest regulations for establishing an independent school.

New Brunswick maintains the lowest rate of independent school enrolment as a share of total enrolment at 0.8 per cent. In general, the Atlantic provinces have low rates of independent school enrolment with Nova Scotia at 2.7 per cent, Prince Edward Island at 1.1 per cent, and Newfoundland and Labrador at 1.4 per cent.

The share of independent school enrolment relative to total enrolment has increased between 2000-01 and 2014-15 in all 10 provinces. Although Saskatchewan has a relatively modest share of students attending independent schools, it saw the largest increase over the period, from 1.2 per cent of total enrolment 2.4 per cent (an increase of 102.3 per cent). New Brunswick independent school enrolment declined in absolute terms, but still saw a modest increase in the share of total enrolment, from 0.7 per cent in 2000-01 to 0.8 per cent in 2014-15.  

Clearly, the rate of public school enrolment, measured as a share of total enrolment, has declined in every province over the period studied. It’s no surprise that independent schools have seen a corresponding increase. Canadian families are increasingly looking for options beyond their neighbourhood public school for the education of their children. 


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