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Why Canadian parents send their kids to private school

Who chooses private education and why

"He's a totally different person. He's into his schoolwork. It's absolutely great to see."
— Father of a Grade 8 student, wrapping up his first year in private school 

Every family has a different reason for considering a private school education, but nearly all agree that private schools provide their children with:

  • Smaller classes
  • More structure
  • Preparation for post-secondary studies
  • Enriched and focused academic setting
  • More emphasis on specialties like art, music and athletics
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Many chances for parents to get involved
  • Fewer layers of bureaucracy
  • More accountability to you (a paying customer)
  • A shared philosophy and approach to education

Students who attend private schools can be more academically challenged, exposed to clearer value systems, given greater access to teachers, and may simply feel safer. Some features parents look for when they turn to the private system include:

  • A specific educational approach, such as Montessori or Waldorf
  • A particular religious or cultural setting
  • A strong academic setting
  • A program for children who are gifted, have special needs, or require a special schedule due to art, music or sport training.

Who chooses private school education?

Families who choose the private education system tend to be concerned with the development and all-round character building of their children. Studies show that families of all sizes and ethnic backgrounds have turned to the private system. Although the notion remains that private school families are very wealthy, studies show that children from both ends of the income distribution attend private schools; 29 per cent of children who attend private schools are from families with incomes below $50,000, while 26 per cent are from families with at least twice as much income. Statistics Canada, July 4, 2001

Study of private schools in Canada

In May 2007, The Fraser Institute conducted a study into the reasons parents choose private schools. The report, Ontario’s Private Schools: Who Chooses Them and Why? is based on a survey of 919 Ontario households with children attending private schools.

The study found that the top 5 reasons parents chose private school for their children were:

  • Disappointment with the public or separate schools
  • Smaller class sizes
  • Dedicated teachers
  • Emphasis on academic quality
  • Safety

To read the full report, visit www.fraserinstitute.ca

What to expect from a private and independent school education

Realistic Unrealistic
Expect your child to receive a quality education. Assume he or she will automatically start to bring home straight A's.
Expect a school to be clear about its philosophy, rules, guidelines and code of conduct. Try to bend the rules the first time your child runs afoul of one.
Expect a nurturing and academically challenging setting. Expect an unmotivated child with poor study habits to be miraculously transformed into a good student without commitment on the child's part or parental support.
Expect boarding school to provide structure. Assume boarding school is a cure-all for wayward children.
Expect several schools will be a good fit for your child. Feel all is lost if your child does not get into a particular school.
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