Measuring Choice and Competition in Canadian Education

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As the benefits or returns to education become more and more apparent, there is increasing interest in ensuring accessible, high quality education. The increasing body of research available on the effects of school choice and competition suggests that education is broadly improved when parents have choice and schools are forced to compete. It is, therefore, timely to update the state of school choice and competition in Canada. This study updates and consolidates previous work on school choice in Canada.

As one might expect given the decentralized nature of K-12 education in Canada, the mix of public, independent, and home schooling varies by province as does the funding and regulations for schools. Some provinces rely more heavily on choice and competition within the public systems while others rely more heavily on independent schools to provide choice and competition.

In terms of general observations, Alberta currently offers the greatest degree of school choice in Canada. Apart from having five, fully funded public school choices, depending on residential area, it also provides substantial funding to students wishing to attend independent schools and for parents wishing to educate their children at home. The presence of charter schools in Alberta provides an additional source of choice, which provides parents with additional options outside of traditional linguistic and religious alternatives offered by public school boards.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Atlantic provinces tend to offer comparatively little parental choice and competition among schools. None of the Atlantic provinces provide funding for parents who choose independent schools. Simply put, the Atlantic provinces tend to offer less choice within the public system and provide no support to parents for independent schools.

The remaining provinces range between Alberta and the Atlantic provinces with respect to the level and depth of parental choice and competition for schools.

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