Private school enrolment increases as B.C. teachers' strike drags on

Dec 19 2017, 7:58 pm

While public school students are enjoying an extended summer vacation, children attending independent schools around the Lower Mainland are back in class.

With the rising frustrations over the ongoing teachers’ dispute, some parents are turning to private schools as an alternative option for their kids.

Currently, private schools in the Lower Mainland are experiencing an increase of enrollment. Peter Froese, executive director of the Federation of Independent School Association (FISA), explained that independent schools usually see a 1 to 2 per cent increase in enrolment during an average school year.

However, when there is job action in B.C. these numbers go up. For example, after the 2006 teachers’ strike and job action in 2012, independent schools saw a climb in students who were crossing over from the public to private school system.

FISA has conducted an informal survey of private schools across the province in regards to enrolment increases related to the current teachers’ strike. So far, results have shown that there has been a 4.9 per cent increase in independent school enrolment.

Froese told Vancity Buzz that parents choosing to make the switch from public to private schools have four prominent reasons behind their decision:

  1. Parents believe that independent schools provide a high level of education.
  2. Parents feel that the values of the independent school they choose for their child reflects their own value system at home.
  3. Parents choose independent schools is because of the job action. It may be surprising that this is not the first reason given. However, Froese explained that this is good news because independent schools want to see parents choosing private education due to the quality of learning provided to students, and not solely because there is a strike.
  4. Parents turn to private schools because they believe that they provide smaller class sizes.

Independent schools appear to live up to their promise of providing students with a high standard of education. This leads to parents keeping their children in the private education system, even when public school disputes are resolved.

“When parents make the choice to send their kids to a private school, those kids tend to stay,” Froese said.

Another option parents are choosing is online schools. Currently there are 17 independent online schools in B.C. According to Froese, online school enrolment has seen an astronomical enrolment increase. Not only are online schools a convenient way for students to catch up on their studies, but they also do not charge tuition.

Of course, one major concern with sending children to private schools is the cost. Tuition can range anywhere from $2,000 to $12,000 per year. However, this cost is dependent on two essential factors: the location of the school and what kind of private school it is. Nevertheless, parents are willing to spend the money and make financial sacrifices when it comes to quality education for their children.

Although Froese is the executive director for FISA, he has worked in the public school sector for 20 years. His experience in both the public and private education system has given him insight into just how valuable both forms of education are for students.

“We need the strike to be over because we as society benefit from a strong education system,“ Froese remarked. “Education benefits society as a whole whether it’s public or independent. We need both of these systems operating effectively.”

The Federation of Independent Schools is a non-profit society that represents 292 independent schools across British Columbia.

Feature Image: Teacher via Shutterstock

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