More information about independent school families

From time to time we have referred readers to educationally related research from Cardus, an Ontario-based think tank studying – inter alia – “the institutions, communities, beliefs, leaders, and intricacies of civil society that collectively compose the social architecture of our common life.”

Cardus recently concluded a three-part, pan-Canadian investigation into the perceptions by Canadians of independent-school parents. The study examined perceptions in BC, Ontario and Alberta.

GAJE pointed to the Ontario study when it appeared a year ago September. Cardus has just published the third, final, paper of the series in relation to its findings of perceptions in Alberta. The study used the same research question and methodology as in the BC and Ontario studies.

The findings from Alberta are applicable – as they were from the BC and the Ontario studies – to GAJE’s efforts. It is important that the general public and the government of Ontario have an accurate understanding of who comprises the independent-school community. The Cardus findings contribute significantly to painting an accurate portrait of this community.

We shall reproduce only a handful of the key conclusions from the executive summary of the Alberta study. We urge readers to read the complete report of the findings at:

“Independent-school households are more likely to be community-oriented, married-couple families than Albertans in general. For example, Alberta independent school parents are:

  • 40 percent more likely to be active in a group, organization, or association, and are involved on average in two.
  • 30 percent more likely than other Alberta households with children to be married-couple families.
  • Considerably more likely to be people of faith or religiously affiliated. Even in non-religious independent schools, the overwhelming majority of families—70 percent—identify as religious.
  • Considerably more likely to vote in every municipal, provincial, and federal election (86 percent compared to less than half of Albertans).

“Independent-school parents in Alberta are also better educated, but their occupations and income do not reflect “elite” socioeconomic stereotypes. [They] work middle-class jobs and earn less income than their middle-class peers, despite having more education. In addition, there are at least two more reasons to dismiss myths of elitism:

  • 85 percent of non-religious independent schools’ parents went to government schools.
  • Only 1.7 percent found it very difficult to enroll in their preferred school, while 93 percent report it being very or somewhat easy. Put plainly, they are not socially exclusive establishments.

“However, affording tuition can be a challenge. Specifically:

  • 88 percent of parents have made financial sacrifices to afford the cost of independent schooling.
  • Over 20 percent have made major financial sacrifices—as defined by working multiple jobs, changing jobs, taking out a new loan, or moving or downsizing their house.”

The Cardus studies provide empirical findings that independent-school families are not the privileged elite of our society. Moreover, independent-school families tend to be the sorts of community-minded, volunteer-oriented and charity-giving people on which strong, caring, multi-cultural, democratic societies rely.


As we did last week, we consider it appropriate to include in this update the inspirational words from the prophet Jeremiah. They are the concluding words of the Haftarah reading on the second day of Rosh Hashana (31:16-17). His words are quite Covid-relevant as we anxiously receive our children each day back home from their day at school.

“Weep no more. Our hard work will be rewarded, God says. Our children will return from harm’s way. There is hope for our future. Our children will return safely to where they belong”. (Our free translation)


Be safe. Stay safe. Be well. Stay well. Be strong. Stay strong.

Shabbat shalom


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