Student Enrolment in Canada, Part 2: Government-run public school enrolment on the wane
The proportion of Canadian students enrolled in government-run public schools is on the decline, though public schools still maintain the largest share of students overall. This is the first in annual three-part blog series exploring enrolment of K-12 students in Canada. This blog post details enrolment trends in public schools.
From 2006/07 to 2019/20, the earliest and most recent years of available data for all school types, K-12 student enrolment in government-run public schools dropped from 93.0 per cent to 91.8 per cent. Over this period, eight of 10 provinces experienced a decline in government-run public school enrolment. The share of enrolment, as a national average, did not change significantly from 2018/19 to 2019/20.
During the pandemic, many families sought educational alternatives in the wake of school closures, learning disruptions and restrictions on students, which have persisted intermittently for nearly two years. Until there’s a return to normalcy in K-12 education in Canada, it’s impossible to determine the full impact of COVID and related government policies on student enrolment in Canada.
Yet even before the pandemic, an increasing proportion of Canadian families were seeking educational options outside of their local government-run public schools.
Government Public School Enrolment as a Share of Total Enrolment
|Total Enrolment||Percent change||% of Total Enrolment|
The national average share of enrolment in government-run public schools in 2019/20 is 91.8 per cent. Three provinces—British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec—fall beneath that level, enrolling a smaller share of students in government-run public schools. The smallest proportion of students (as share of total enrolment) is in B.C. where government-run public school enrolment is 86.5 per cent—considerably below the national average of 91.8 per cent. In turn, B.C. has considerably higher-than-average independent school enrolment (more information about enrolment in independent schools can be found in part two of this blog series). The country’s highest proportion of students enrolled in public schools is in Newfoundland and Labrador at 98.2 per cent of all students.
While the total share of government-run public school enrolment decreased in eight of 10 provinces, two provinces—Alberta and Quebec—experienced an increasing share of students enrolled in public schools between 2006/07 and 2019/20.
As enrolment in government-run public schools (as a share of total enrolment) decreased overall in Canada, enrolment in independent schools (as a share of total enrolment) increased over the same period. Similarly, the share of students enrolled in homeschooling increased as well.
A decreasing share of Canadian students are opting for government-run public schools, despite it being the most affordable option for families in that they already involuntarily pay through their taxes. Part two of this blog series explores enrolment in independent schools, and part three explores enrolment in homeschooling in Canada.