Ontario is the glaring outlier among the six most populous provinces in Canada, adamantly and illogically refusing to extend public funds to independent schools.
It has always been assumed that one of the reasons for Ontario’s obstinacy has been the presumed extra expense of doing so. But reputable, definitive studies and the experiences of the western provinces and of Quebec categorically refute this assumption.
It has also always been assumed that another reason for Ontario’s abject refusal to help fund independent schools has been to avoid the perceived threat such funding would pose to the viability of the public school board system. But here too, reputable, definitive studies and the experiences of the western provinces and of Quebec refute this assumption.
It has also been assumed that Ontario’s denial of any funds to independent schools stems from the fear of appearing to lavish taxpayer funds upon the very well-heeled families of the province’s elite schools. Now however, there is definitive proof dispelling the harmful, inaccurate, even mendacious stereotypes regarding independent schools and the families and the children who comprise them.
Cardus, the public policy think tank, this week published a report entitled, Naturally Diverse: The Landscape of Independent Schools in Ontario, that provides an up-to-date, detailed snapshot of Ontario’s independent schools. The authors of the report David Hunt, Joanna DeJong VanHof and Jenisa Los have provided an innovative, ground-breaking study that enables policy-makers and the curious public to understand exactly who and what are the province’s independent schools.
The authors identified three reasons for conducting the study. “First, there is no accepted or widely used typology of independent schools. Second, independent schools are poorly understood in Ontario, which leads to misinformed public narratives and affects public policy. And third, the sector has grown considerably in recent years. Despite dozens of independent schools closing each year, the number of independent schools in Ontario has increased by at least 51.5 percent since the last (and only) study of this kind was conducted—from 954 in 2013–14 to at least 1,445 as of July 2022. “
The authors identified six distinct types of independent schools: Religious, Special Emphasis (e.g., Montessori, STEM, Arts), Top Tier (member of an elite school association), Preparatory, Credit Emphasis, and Other. According to these six types of independent schools, they counted and analyzed 1,445 schools. In addition to school type, the authors “explored schools’ different approaches to educational delivery, accreditation and school-association membership, geographic location, and additional variables like school size.”
For the brief summary purpose of this GAJE update and to help to finally put paid to the false notion that independent schools are but bastions for the elite and the wealthy, the report categorizes merely 61 of the 1,445 independent schools—4.2 percent— to be Top Tier schools.
“Ontario’s independent-school landscape is robust in its diversity. Special Emphasis schools, for instance, accommodate an immense variety of pedagogical approaches, educational philosophies, lifestyle decisions such as high-performance sport training, neurodiverse learning styles, and other non-traditional learning opportunities.
“Independent schools serve a diverse set of students and needs that district schools do not or cannot, given that district schools exist to provide universal education. Pluralism in education contributes to the common good. An increasing number of Ontario families are enrolling their children in independent schools, and their reasons for doing so vary. We hope that our research will encourage Ministry of Education officials, policy-makers, researchers, and the general public to better understand these varied motivations, needs, and purposes of the families and the schools that make up this innovative and growing sector.”
This important report should be consulted and widely shared. It is beyond unconscionable that Ontario’s education system in 2022 is indifferent and oblivious to the widely differing, educational needs of its diverse population, only supports and favours the education of one religious group to the exclusion of all others, and appears to base its policy upon outdated thinking and entirely false factual assumptions.
The full report can be found at:
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Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)
November 25, 2022