The private-public school debate: CBC finds out why some parents choose private

A new CBC radio series explores why some B.C. parents are choosing to enrol their children in private schools, as opposed to public schools.

New CBC radio series talks to parents, teachers, administrators and students

Some B.C. parents are choosing private schools over public schools. (iStock)

Why are some B.C. parents choosing to enrol their children in private schools when the government claims B.C.'s public schools have some of the best outcomes in the English-speaking world?

It's one of the questions CBC producer Vivian Luk will be exploring in a new radio series called Class System: B.C.'s public-private school debate.

Luk will speak to parents who have chosen to enrol their children in private schools. She'll also talk to public school teachers and private school administrators who will debate whether parents should be able to choose where to send their kids, and whether taxpayers should foot the bill.

Finally, we'll hear from a student who chose to attend a public school in B.C. over a private school.

Private school enrolment up

A 2015 Fraser Institute study found that in 2000/2001 and 2012/2013 school years, enrolment in independent schools increased while public school enrolment decreased in nearly every province across the country.

In British Columbia, the study found private school enrolment increased by 24.4 per cent.

According to the Fraser Institute, there are a number of reasons parents choose private school, but the most common is religion.

"If you've got 340 independent schools in the province, and 188 of them have a religious orientation ... parents are choosing these religiously oriented schools because they cannot find them in the government schools," said Deani van Pelt.

Van Pelt said parents want the choice to send their kids to a school that conforms with their religious values.

Other reasons, she said, are social prestige, smaller class sizes, and the perception that private school will help students obtain better academic outcomes.

Public school still valued

However, a 2015 Statistics Canada survey argued it wasn't the schools that predicted better academic outcomes, but rather the students' higher socio-economic background.

In addition, Charles Ungerleider, professor emeritus of educational studies at UBC and a deputy education minister with the previous B.C. NDP government, said public schools are uniquely suited to helping students learn special life skills.

"One of the strengths of the public school system is how to communicate with people whose backgrounds are different, how to respect people whose backgrounds are different [...] and the fact learning those things takes place at the hands of a skilled professional who knows how to help students."

Series airs Sept. 6 to 8

You can listen to the radio series, Class System: B.C's public-private school debate, from September 6 - 8 on The Early Edition and On the Coast.


To hear the segment that aired on The Early Edition on Tuesday, Sept.6, click on the link labelled The public versus private school debate in British Columbia

To hear the segment that aired on On The Coast on Tuesday, Sept.6, click on the link labelled Why two B.C. parents enrolled their kids in private school

To hear the segment that aired on The Early Edition on Wednesday, Sept.7, click on the link labelled Should taxpayers subsidize private school funding?

To hear the segment that aired on On the Coast on Wednesday, Sept.7, click on the link labelled Is school choice leading to inequality in B.C. education?

To hear the segment that aired on The Early Edition on Thursday, Sept.8, click on the link labelled Teachers and administrators weigh in on the public-private school debate in B.C.

To hear the segment that aired on On the Coast on Thursday, Sept.8, click on the link labelled B.C. Public schools a big draw for international students

To hear the segment that aired on The Early Edition on Friday, Sept.9, click on the link labelled Edmonton School Board calls for an end to giving public funding to private schools in Alberta

To hear the segment that aired on On The Coast on Friday, Sept.9, click on the link labelled: Liberals and NDP agree: no changes to private school funding