The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

November 19, 2015 05:45 ET

Fraser Institute News Release: School Choice Can Be Expanded in Ontario's Public Education System

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Nov. 19, 2015) - While school choice exists for some Ontario families, it's not widely available in the public school system to all parents, finds a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

"Other provinces in Canada recognize the benefits of offering diverse education options - alternative schools that emphasize a specific teaching philosophy, particular language, culture, subject-matter or religion. Unfortunately, in Ontario those choices aren't available to everyone," said Derek J. Allison, author of Expanding choice in Ontario's public schools.

Unlike in the western provinces and Quebec that provide financial support to families who choose to have their children educated in independent schools, Ontario relies almost exclusively on its public school system to provide parents with school choice.

In addition to English-language schools, Ontario's public system offers Catholic (in both English and French), Francophone, and French immersion schools along with a spattering of alternative and specialized schools operated by some local school boards.

Unfortunately - aside from English-language schools - the choice is restricted: Catholic separate schools and Francophone schools are available only to eligible families, while accessibility to French immersion and alternative schools depends on the family's geographic proximity to the school and are limited by enrolment caps.

The study argues that choice can be expanded in the public school system through two complementary initiatives.

First, the Ontario government could encourage locally elected school boards to establish a wide range of alternative schools and programs based on parent and community needs.

Choices could include art, music, hockey or some other activity. Schools or programs could emphasize a particular language, traditional or progressive educational approaches, emphasize math, science or literature, or take some other form.

"Providing families with greater opportunity to choose between schools is a powerful way to improve education. In addition to enhancing student achievement, school choice stimulates innovation, encourages efficiencies, promotes diversity, and typically leads to increased satisfaction among parents," said Deani Van Pelt, director of the Barbara Mitchell Centre for Improvement in Education at the Fraser Institute.

Second, Ontario could adopt an open enrolment policy, which would eliminate or greatly relax school assignment by postal code, as British Columbia and Manitoba have already done. In other words, students would be allowed to attend any public school in the province, providing space is available.

"Eliminating the requirement to attend designated local schools stimulates competition between public schools," Allison said.

"The time is long overdue for a serious consideration of the merits of enhanced school choice in Ontario."

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The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of think-tanks in 87 countries. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for Canadians, their families and future generations by studying, measuring and broadly communicating the effects of government policies, entrepreneurship and choice on their well-being. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit www.fraserinstitute.org.

Contact Information

  • The Fraser Institute
    Derek J. Allison
    Senior Fellow

    The Fraser Institute
    Deani Van Pelt
    Director, Barbara Mitchell Centre for
    Improvement in Education

    For media interviews with Mr. Allison
    or Ms. Van Pelt, please contact:
    Aanand Radia
    Media Relations Specialist, Fraser Institute
    (416) 363-6575 ext. 238
    aanand.radia@FraserInstitute.org