Schooling in Ontario
ONTARIO IS CANADA’S MOST populous province and thus has the most school-aged children enrolled in English-speaking non-government schools (although it does not have the highest percentage of children enrolled in such schools).4 Apart from degree-granting non-governmental secondary schools, the province has very little to do with curriculum compliance for many of these schools.
Unlike all other provinces except those east of Quebec, independent schools in Ontario do not receive any public funding. As in Alberta and Saskatchewan, however, Ontario fully funds Roman Catholic separate schools. This is a legacy of political compromises codified in the Constitution Act, 1867, section 93, which protects the educational freedom of the then-religious minorities in Quebec and Ontario.5 Consequently, all of Ontario’s more than one thousand independent schools must cover their operating and capital costs through tuition fees and other contributions made by supporters. This creates obvious barriers in making such schools a viable option for most Ontarians. Even so, independent enrolments have steadily, albeit slowly, increased in the province, rising from 1.85 percent of total public, separate, and independent enrolments in 1960 to 6.3 percent in 2016, about half of which are estimated to be religious schools.6 Ontarians, it seems, want a diversity of educational options.
The problem, though, is that such a decision assumes these independent schools do not provide significant public goods. And there is often an assumption that graduates from such schools are part of homogenous enclaves that, while strongly bonded within their communities, do little for the common good. As our past surveys have revealed, however, these assumptions are not borne out in reality. Graduates of independent schools have networks as diverse (or more so) than public school graduates, and are often much more engaged in all types of civic activities. In addition, graduates from independent schools—particularly religious schools—give more of their time and resources to a wide range of public institutions. Time and again we have seen that the assumptions about independent school graduates could not be further from the case. And in this Ontario report our findings are similar.
Family, Post-Secondary Education, and Work
THE ONTARIO DATA REVEALS a continuation of trends regarding family noted in earlier reports:
- All independent religious school graduates are far less likely to be cohabiting today than their peers in public, separate Catholic, and non-religious independent.
- The likelihood of divorce is even across sectors.
- Independent Catholic and evangelical Protestant graduates are still more likely to be married than cohabiting.
Our findings reveal that Ontarians are just as likely or more likely to get a university degree if they went to an independent school.
- Catholic and non-religious independent have a higher likelihood of attending post-secondary studies; however, evangelical Protestants and separate Catholic are just as likely.
How one views work changes based on the school sector; however, the types of work and likelihood of (un)employment remains similar across all sectors.
- Separate Catholic school graduates are more likely to seek a job that pays well, while evangelical Protestant graduates are less likely.
- Independent Catholic and evangelical Protestant school graduates are much more likely to seek a job that fulfills a religious calling. Separate Catholic and non-religious independent, however, are no more likely.
- Both independent and separate Catholic graduates are more likely to choose jobs close to their families. Non-religious independent graduates, however, are less likely.
- There is no statistical difference in the likelihood of being employed excepting a slightly higher chance of employability for the independent Catholic graduates.
In (X) We Trust?
TRUST IS THE BEDROCK of a shared life together. Without it, we cannot live with one another for long. In terms of graduates’ civic orientations, our surveys have sought to find in what (or in whom) people trust. What we find is that graduates from religiously oriented schools have been prepared for a robust civic life.
- Both independent Catholic and evangelical Protestant graduates reported much higher levels of trust in strangers, co-workers, people in their religious congregations, and their neighbours.
- Higher trust among independent Catholic and evangelical Protestant graduates speaks to their openness to and involvement in civic life even while they do indicate feeling increasingly alienated from the broader society. The highest and most consistent levels of civic trust do come from those in the independent Catholic sector, who also have little sense that the general culture is hostile to their views.
Want to learn more about this?
Comment Magazine, Cardus’s flagship journal, dedicated an entire issue to TRUST: “This issue analyzes the social dynamics of trust from different angles and constructively considers how to reweave the web. Generating a diagnosis is important, so woven throughout this issue are multidisciplinary accounts that give us insight into the sources of our cynicism—from fake news to ubiquitous surveillance to the broken realities of racism.”
READ IT, FREE, ONLINE: cardus.ca/comment/browse/print-issues/trust-reweaving-our-social-fabric
IF TRUST IS THE CONDITION in which civic, shared life is made possible, the development of social bonds is the visible manifestation of our views of others. As we argued in 2016, it is hard for one to love their neighbour if they are not in any form of meaningful relation. And as we showed in 2016, the non-public school graduates have a diverse range of social ties.
- Our findings indicate that religious schoolers are not socially isolated, at least no more so than graduates from the public school sector. In many instances, however, religious schoolers have stronger social ties.
- Evangelical Protestant graduates are almost two times more likely to confide in a close friend and to help their friends out financially.
- Independent religious schoolers are not part of a socially elite enclave; the range of their friends’ socioeconomic statuses is comparable to public graduates.
- There is evidence that evangelical Protestants are more likely to associate with people from their congregation, but that does not preclude relationships from other spheres of life. The findings also show that independent religious school graduates are not isolated in politically homogenous echo chambers.
- Independent religious school graduates are also more likely to have friends at work, showing that their networks extend beyond the church and into their shared, public life.
- While there is some evidence of religious homophily (associating within tight communities of shared, common identity), the survey indicates that independent religious school graduates have a diverse array of social ties that traverse religions, class, and political opinions.
Volunteering and Giving
One of the true measures of publicly minded graduates is in their desire and ability to give of their resources and time and skills in service to the common good. Our findings in Ontario reveal that independent religious school graduates are just as, if not more, prepared to create an adult life marked by a capacity to give. The categories for volunteering and giving you will find below were largely derived from the most recent Statistics Canada survey.
- Graduates from independent religious schools (evangelical Protestant and independent Catholic) were more likely to participate in almost every category of volunteering laid out by Statistics Canada than public school graduates. This includes but is not limited to fundraising, door-to-door canvassing, mentoring, teaching, coaching, and refereeing.
- The independent Catholic graduates are particularly keen to volunteer, having a higher likelihood to volunteer drive, firefight, protect the wilderness, collect and deliver food, and more.
- Independent Catholic graduates and evangelical Protestant school graduates have a much high frequency of volunteering days and, in relation to their diverse social networks, are more likely to volunteer with their friends.
- Perhaps unsurprisingly, religious school graduates have higher degrees of congregational volunteerism. However, the findings also indicate that volunteering within this institution not only improves their sense of well being but also leads to involvement in lives of others, including financial giving.
- Particularly the independent Catholicgraduate experience reveals a diverse array of congregational volunteering.
- The commitment of religious school graduates to giving through their congregation is strong, and they are more likely to give this way than their public-school-graduate peers.
- In general, non-religious independent graduates are not likely to give to any particular type of charitable organization, though they are no less likely to give at their workplace or to the Red Cross. But non-religious independent graduates are less likely to give to other non-religious organizations. Evangelical Protestants are giving to a diverse array of charitable organizations, and are no less likely to give to non-religious institutions. Without controls, evangelical Protestants are more likely to give at their workplace, the Red Cross, or the Salvation Army.
- Both independent Catholic and evangelical Protestant graduates have a higher sense of religious duty in giving than graduates from the public sector. This is likely reinforced by their giving and volunteering within their congregations.
- Both evangelical Protestant and Independent Catholic graduates are much more likely to agree that they are personally obligated to give 10% of their income to charities. Over 35 percent of independent religious school graduates completely or mostly agree, while the corresponding percentage for public schoolers is only 16 percent.
Political Activities and Views
It is one thing to give and volunteer as ways of being publicly active. However, political involvement is perhaps the most explicit way to measure how involved graduates are in the shared life of their province.
- As found in our other reports, the non-religious independent note a lower likelihood of voting in federal, provincial, and municipal elections than other graduates.
- Both evangelical Protestant and independent Catholic are 2.2 times more likely to be conservative politically.
- Evangelical Protestant graduates are no more likely to get involved in politics on the basis of their school; however, based on the family effect, they are more likely.
- Both evangelical Protestant and independent Catholic are not as likely to get involved in disruptive politics (protests, etc.); however, they are just as or more likely to be involved with various movements that include, but are not limited to: right to life, women’s rights, and environmental movements.
- Independent religious school graduates are more likely to care for the environment by supporting the environmental movement; yet less likely to recycle.
- Independent religious school graduates are more likely to pay attention to the news.
Religious Views and Activities
A unique aspect of our education reports is that we are intrigued by how education shapes one’s adult beliefs and their behaviours in the home, long after students have graduated and created their own routines and rituals. And while eating meals as a family, for instance, might seem a bit far afield from relevant graduate-outcome data, such findings are significant markers of social connection and resilience.
- All graduates are just as likely to eat together as a family for meals.
- Reading the Bible, praying, and talking about God are all more likely among religious independent graduates.
- Religious school graduates (including the separate Catholic) see religion as central to their lives more so than public graduates do.
- Graduates from all the school sectors have a higher likelihood of religious-service attendance than graduates from public school.
- Independent religious graduates are much more likely to find purpose and peace in their beliefs; however, separate Catholic graduates are also more likely to find deep communion with God and to strengthen their relationship with him later in life.
- The evangelical Protestant and independent Catholic are more likely to feel an obligation to practice spiritual disciplines of prayer and Scripture reading, to accept the authority of the church, and to tithe (give 10 percent of their income away). Again, this reinforces the fact that the church is another highly formative institution in concert with the school in forming the types of citizenry capable of loving and serving their neighbour and the common good.
- In Ontario, the separate Catholic graduates, like their peers in evangelical Protestant and independent Catholic maintain beliefs considered orthodox, including but not limited to their duty to witness about Jesus, and the belief that Jesus saves through his death.
Survey OF Secondary School Experience
FINALLY, HOW GRADUATES look back on their experiences is important. With a little experience, one can look back and have a better sense of whether their school really prepared them for life beyond its walls. In Ontario, the following is what we found when it comes to how graduates assess their school sector:
- Only the non-religious independent and independent Catholic are more likely to be satisfied with the quality of education they received.
- The evangelical Protestant graduates show no distinction from the public school graduates in terms of their satisfaction with how their schools handled spiritual matters. The only sector that has a higher satisfaction is independent Catholic, while the separate Catholic is less likely to be satisfied.
- Again, the independent Catholic graduates are more likely to have enjoyed high school, while the evangelical Protestant graduates are somewhat less likely.
- In terms of preparation all the independent school graduates (religious or not) indicate a higher likelihood of being prepared for their job, college, relationships, and spiritual life (this last one, however, also includes separate Catholic graduates).
In sum, the Ontario findings largely corroborate the narrative told in our previous reports: private education is a public good. Graduates from such schools are just as likely (and often more likely) than their peers in the non-religious public sector to cultivate diverse social ties and be active and engaged members of their communities, committed to the well-being of their neighbours, and ready to give of both time and resources.
- Independent Catholic and evangelical Protestant school graduates report much higher levels of trust in a wide range of others with whom they share their lives—strangers, co-workers, neighbours.
- Independent religious school graduates have a socially diverse network.
- In almost all Statistics Canada categories for volunteering, independent religious school graduates are more likely to give of their time and resources.
- Independent school graduates are just as or more likely to get involved in a wide array of political activities.
- Independent Catholic and non-religious independent are more likely to graduate from university than public school graduates, but graduates from the other sectors are just as likely.