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About 6% of Canadian tenth-graders are in private schools, most of which are in Quebec. A Statistics Canada study from 2015 found that these students tend to have higher test scores and future educational attainment than their public school counterparts. Rather than enjoying superior resources and educational practices, the most likely explanation for this discrepancy is the higher expectation of success that students experience from their parents, teachers, and fellow students.

Private universities
In the past, private universities in Canada maintained a religious history or foundation. However, since 1999, the Province of New Brunswick passed the Degree Granting Act allowing private universities to operate in the Province. The University of Fredericton is the newest university to receive designation in New Brunswick.

Trinity Western University, in Langley British Columbia, was founded in 1962 as a junior college and received full accreditation in 1985. In 2002, British Columbia's Quest University became the first privately funded liberal arts university without a denominational affiliation (although it is not the first private liberal arts university). Many provinces, including Ontario and Alberta, have passed legislation allowing private degree-granting institutions (not necessarily universities) to operate there.

Many Canadians remain polarized on the issue of permitting private universities into the Canadian market. On the one hand, Canada's top universities find it difficult to compete with the private American powerhouses because of funding, but on the other hand, the fact that the price of private universities tends to exclude those who cannot pay that much for their education could prevent a significant portion of Canada's population from being able to attend these schools.

In addition to the issue of access, some Canadians find issue with protections instituted within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as ruled by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2001 and consistent with federal and provincial law that (private) faith-based universities in Canada based on the long-established principles of freedom of conscience and religion can exempt itself from more recent human rights legislation when they insist in their "community covenant" code signed by staff, faculty and students that they act in accordance with the faith of the school. The covenant may require restraint from those acts considered in contradiction with the tenets of their faith such as homosexual relationships, sex outside marriage or more broadly abstain from consuming alcohol on campus or viewing pornography. However, private-Christian based schools do not preclude homosexual or lesbian students from attending. Some faith-based universities have been known to fire staff and faculty which refused to adhere or whose actions were in opposition with the tenets of the faith, although in some provinces, their dismissals have been successfully challenged in court based on the circumstances.

Religious schools
Each province deals differently with private religious schools. In Ontario, the Catholic system continues to be fully publicly funded while other faiths are not. Ontario has several private Islamic, Christian and Jewish schools all funded through tuition fees. Since the Catholic schools system is entrenched in the constitution, the Supreme Court has ruled that this system is constitutional. However, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has ruled that Ontario's system is discriminatory, suggesting that Ontario either fund no faith-based schools, or all of them. In 2002 the government of Mike Harris introduced a controversial program to partially fund all private schools, but this was criticized for undermining the public education system and the program was eliminated after the Liberals won the 2003 provincial election.

In other provinces, privately operated religious schools are funded. In British Columbia the government pays independent schools that meet rigorous provincial standards up to 50% of the per-student operating cost of public schools. The province has a number of Sikh, Hindu, Christian, and Islamic schools. Alberta also has a network of charter schools, which are fully funded schools offering distinct approaches to education within the public school system. Alberta charter schools are not private and the province does not grant charters to religious schools. These schools have to follow the provincial curriculum and meet all standards, but are given considerable freedom in other areas. In all other provinces, private religious schools receive some funding, but not as much as the public system.

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