Private school enrolment surge led by Saskatchewan, Alberta

Parents in Saskatchewan and Alberta are leading a nation-wide trend away from the public education system in favour of private schools, says a new study by the Fraser Institute.

In almost every province, independent schools are getting more students while public schools see decreases

A report produced by the Fraser Institute says private school enrolment is up nationally by 17 per cent. (CBC)

Parents in Saskatchewan and Alberta are leading a nation-wide trend away from the public education system in favour of private schools, says a new study by the Fraser Institute.

Private school enrolment across Canada is up by almost 17 per cent while public school enrolment has decreased eight per cent, according the public policy think-tank's report released on Tuesday.

The study finds that enrolment increased for independent schools and decreased for public schools in almost every province across Canada between 2000/01 to 2012/13 (the most recent period for which comparable data were available).

Out of all the provinces, between 2000/01 and 2012/13, Saskatchewan experienced the largest increase in enrolment for independent schools (34.2 per cent) followed by Alberta (30.6 per cent) and British Columbia (24.4 per cent).

"While education is funded and delivered differently across the provinces, we're seeing a greater number of parents in the vast majority of provinces choosing to have their children educated outside of the public school system," said Deani Van Pelt, study author and director of the Fraser Institute's Barbara Mitchell Centre for Improvement in Education.

Quebec, which already had the highest rate of private school enrolment in the country, experienced an increase of 18.1 per cent.

Funding models differ

Currently, all four western provinces and Quebec partially fund the operating costs of independent schools.

But even Ontario (which is one of the five provinces that doesn't fund independent schools) had a significant bump in its independent school enrolment — an increase of 9.4 per cent over the period.

"In Ontario, more and more parents are choosing to take on additional financial burden to send their children to private schools," Van Pelt said.

Because provinces have autonomy over K-12 education, the level of school choice available to parents varies province by province.

Each province provides both English and French language education within their public school systems while three provinces — Ontario,Alberta and Saskatchewan — also offer public education through religious 'separate' (Roman Catholic) schools.

In addition, Alberta is the only province that allows charter schools: schools within its public system that enjoy a fair degree of flexibility with respect to pedagogy, curriculum and management.

"While education in public schools is still the dominant form of education in Canada, the data indicates parents are increasingly looking to independent schools for more choice in how their children are educated," Van Pelt said.

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