Fraser Forum

School Enrolment in Canada, Part 2: More Canadian parents choosing independent schools

Printer-friendly version
School Enrolment in Canada, Part 2: More Canadian parents choosing independent schools

This is the second in a three-part series examining the current nature of school enrolment across Canada as well as recent trends. This blog post focuses on enrolment (K-12) in independent schools across the country.

Simply put, an increasing proportion of Canadian parents are choosing independent schools for their children rather than opting for local public schools, meaning that independent schools represent a greater number of students as a share of total enrolment.

Independent schools, as their name suggests, operate outside the public system. Depending on the province, parents may receive partial government support in the form of tuition grants. Specifically, the four western provinces and Quebec provide tuition support ranging from 35 per cent to 70 per cent of comparable per student grants provided to the public system. Schools receiving such public funding, however, are subject to a host of provincial regulations and certifications including curriculum requirements.

Ontario and the Atlantic provinces, on the other hand, provide no general support to parents choosing independent schools. The table below summarizes independent school enrolment for 2006-07 and 2018-19, the most recent year of available comparable data. The chart further down illustrates the same data.


 Total Enrolment% Change% of Total Enrolment
 2006-072018-19(2006-07 to 2018-19)2006-072018-19
PEI0441 0.0%2.1%
NB01257 0.0%1.3%

Despite large differences between the provinces in terms of support or lack thereof for parents choosing independent schools, between 2006-07 and 2018-19 the share of student enrolment in independent schools increased across the country from 6.7 per cent to 7.5 per cent.

Independent School Enrolment as a Share of Total Enrolment

Specifically, enrolment in independent schools increased in every province except Alberta and Quebec. Some provinces—British Columbia and Quebec in particular—have notably higher independent school enrolment than others. Of all provinces, B.C. has the highest share (13.1 per cent) of independent school enrolment as a share of total enrolment, almost double the Canadian average. Quebec, which ranked second, was noticeably behind B.C. at 9.6 per cent.

Ontario’s share of students enrolled in independent schools increased substantially from 5.1 per cent to 6.8 per cent from 2006-07 to 2018-19, despite the lack of general support to parents. Interestingly, the proportion of Ontario students enrolled in independent schools (6.8 per cent) in 2018-19 is greater than in Alberta and Saskatchewan, which provide partial funding to parents choosing independent schools.

Increasing independent school enrolment is consistent with decreasing enrolment in public schools across Canada, which was explored in Part 1 of this blog series.

More Canadian parents and students are opting for school options outside their local public schools. The next instalment in this series will examine enrolment in homeschooling.

Read Part 1: Fewer Canadian parents choosing public schools
Read Part 3: Homeschooling on the rise in every province

Blog Category: