Debunking myths about private schools

Myth: Private schools are only for the wealthy.

Fact: Not just for the elite, a growing number of Canadian independent schools are trying to attract the best and brightest by beefing up their financial aid and scholarship programs.

“One of the top myths right now is that independent schools are not as accessible as they actually are,” says Anne-Marie Kee, executive director of the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS), noting that millions of dollars in financial aid are distributed to families each year. “I think it’s worthwhile for parents to take time to inquire about really understanding what the value is for the tuition and what kind of financial assistance is available to families each year.”

Myth: All private schools are alike.

Fact: Parents need to do their research to find the best fit for their child because Canada has thousands of independent schools – each one varying in character, philosophy, values, cultures, programs and missions.

“Not all schools are the same,” says Kee of CAIS. “Each school has an individual vision, mission and set of values, so it’s really valuable for parents to find out about the values of the school and if they’re aligned with the values of the family to see if that child is going to be successful in that environment.”

Just because it’s an independent school doesn’t necessarily mean any one will be right for your child, she adds. “Instead, parents really have to invest time in learning about the different schools and do their homework,” she says.

Myth: Independent schools weaken public education.

Fact: In all jurisdictions where governments have financially supported school choice, they have also retained their commitment to quality public education, says Barb Bierman, Executive Director of the Ontario Federation of Independent Schools.

“In North America, wherever provinces or states support school choice, 90 per cent (on average) of all students still attend public schools,” she adds. “There is a growing body of evidence which shows increased levels of student achievement and parental satisfaction in all schools, including public schools, when parents are truly free to choose.”

Myth: Independent schools lack diversity and isolate themselves from communities.

Fact: More private schools are opening their doors to students of diverse backgrounds, with most offering scholarships, bursaries and financial aid.

“I’ve seen the involvement of students and I have the opinion that independent schools indeed participate in social responsibility leading to the public good,” says Peter Froese, executive director of the Federation of Independent School Associations in Vancouver (FISA). “If you look and track the graduates coming out of private schools, they are very much involved in the political leadership of our province and our country, they are very much involved in social services, and they are very much involved in providing professional services to the community to sustain our society.”

Article provided by Our Kids Guide to Private Schools www.ourkids.net.