Ontario's Private Schools: Who Chooses Them and Why?

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Private school attendance in Ontario has grown over recent decades from 1.9 percent of the student population in 1960 to 5.6 percent in 2006. What are the characteristics of private schools? Why are parents increasingly choosing them over public schools? What kinds of parents are choosing them for their children? This study is the most recent and comprehensive attempt by researchers to document the characteristics of private schools and the characteristics and motivations of Ontario parents of private school students.

This study is based on a survey of parents (from 919 households) whose children attend private schools in Ontario. We considered two major groups of private schools: academically- or pedagogically- defined day schools (ADS) and religiously-defined day schools (RDS), schools which together served over 107,000 students in 2005-2006, or almost 90 percent of Ontario private school students. The study did not include schools with a more specialized madate; those specifically for special needs students (11%), schools that cater almost exclusively to international students, or publicly funded First Nations schools.

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