In November of 2022, Cardus – the public policy think tank – published a research paper entitled Naturally Diverse: The Landscape of Independent Schools in Ontario. The study provides current, detailed information on Ontario’s independent schools. GAJE brought this important report to the attention of our readers and supporters at the time it was published nearly 8 months ago and again earlier this year. It is a seminal work.
The authors of the study – David Hunt, Joanna Dejong Vanhof and Jenisa Los – perform an invaluable service. Their combined work deserves to be widely read. It provides factually unassailable data on the nature of Ontario’s independent schools and of their respective populations.
As we wrote, the information provided by Cardus’ researchers enables government officials to make public policy based upon fact, not upon myth. The study conclusively proves that independent schools are a multi-purpose, multi-faceted, multi-pedagogical tapestry of diverse families and students. They are definitely NOT a bastion of the elite. Only 61 of the 1,445 independent schools, namely 4.2% of the schools, can be classified as “top tier”.These 61 schools account for 16% of all students attending independent schools. The government can cast into the trash bin of debunked myths, the harmful, false notion that extending any funds to independent schools would provide taxpayer funds to the well-heeled families of the province’s elite schools.
Naturally Diverse can be found at:
Last month, Kathryn Boothby, award-winning journalist and business writer, relied upon the study for an article for the National Post to chronicle the consistent growth of the independent school sector in Ontario. In the article entitled Explosive Growth in Schools, Boothby notes that there are some 1,445 independent schools in Ontario, an increase of over 50 per cent since 2013-14. She adds that “enrollment rose by almost 30,000 students, more than any other province in the country. Most recent numbers (2019-20) indicate independent schools in Ontario now educate over 154,000 students.”
Boothby describes the increase in the number of independent schools and in student enrollment from a number of points of view. Her article is quite instructive. However, we wish to highlight three key points from her article.
First: She notes that the sector is incredibly unique and diverse, with over 40 per cent having a specialization. Quoting David Hunt, she adds that “each school serves unique and specific student needs that district schools either don’t or can’t meet. More growth in the sector, and options to specialize, allows parents to self-select the type of school they believe is most beneficial for their child.”
Second: Boothby ties the information in Naturally Diverse to other recent Cardus from its complementary report, A Good Fit, which looked at the type of school a child attended versus how it affected outcomes. Again, quoting Hunt, “In an environment where students feel comfortable and familiar, there is a significant impact on student success. That is how important ‘fit’ is to academic outcomes. Civic engagement and career advancement also correlate with academic achievement. For a child to succeed, ‘fit’ matters,” Hunt said. There are hundreds of private schools that may offer a better fit for a child both socially and academically than the current public schools, Boothby adds.
Finally, quoting David Hunt, education director at Cardus and co-author of the report, she emphasizes that the increase in schools and student numbers “comes despite zero taxpayer funding for independent schools in Ontario, compared to Quebec and every province in the west.”
And so, we ask the provincial government – with as much pain and sorrow in our hearts as frustration and anger – why? Why, in the year 2023, should Ontario – the richest province in Canada – be the outlier? Why, in the year 2023, should Ontario be so indifferent to helping the more than 150,000 students attending independent schools achieve their best educational outcomes? Why, in the year 2023, should Ontario care nothing for fairness in educational funding?
The Boothby article is available at:
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Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)
May 19, 2023