Diversity in Educational Delivery has been a hallmark of Canadian education since Confederation. Section 93 of the 1867 British North America Act protected the provision of different educational delivery models for different religious perspectives, although the diverse provincial application of this principle resulted in very different working models across the country. This study examines survey data from a representative sample of graduates of Canadian secondary schools aged 24-39. Collected in March 2012, the resulting data were intended to enable better understanding of the outcomes of the various government and non-government schooling sectors. The data reported regard graduates from schools in all provinces except for Quebec, which is dealt with separately in the report.
Using the standards for educational outcomes grounded in provincial statutes, regulation, and policy, we conclude that various non-government schooling sectors—Separate Catholic, Independent Catholic, Independent Non-religious, Evangelical Christian, and religious home education—produce graduates who embody commonly desired excellences and characteristics in generally even higher proportions than do government-run public schools. These conclusions suggest that non-government schools are important contributors to education delivery in Canada and that they can be regarded to contribute to the public good.
Various themes emerged from findings with respect to graduates of non-government schools, even when the results are controlled for family socioeconomic and religious background, and in many cases point to statistically significant effects of the schools they attended.
Canada’s government schools perform very well in international rankings, but by many measures, Canada’s non-government schools perform at even higher levels.
Since 2000 the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results for Canadian government-school students have ranked among the top in the world. Consider, then, these additional successes in non-government schools:
- Stronger families: Graduates of non-government schools are less likely to be divorced or separated. Evangelical Protestant school graduates and religious home school graduates are more likely to have more children.
- More engaged: Graduates of non-government schools participate in more neighbourhood and community groups as well as in arts and culture initiatives. Graduates of independent non-religious schools, especially, vote more, volunteer more, and participate in a wider variety of organizations. Non-government graduates are notably more committed to smaller, grassroots movements than they are to larger, more mainstream institutions in, for example, politics and the environment.
- More generous: Graduates of non-government schools volunteer more than their public school counterparts, for a variety of causes. Evangelical protestant school graduates, for example, focus more on volunteer opportunities involving faith, family, and neighbour.
- More focused on neighbour: Evangelical Protestant school graduates, in particular, are seeking to contribute to the common good in a culture which makes them feel unwelcome. Although showing comparatively high results in measures relating to life satisfaction, graduates of evangelical Protestant schools and of religious home education report that the dominant culture is hostile to their beliefs and values. Nonetheless, they continue to be engaged with the culture and contribute to it.
- Express their identity through their work: Graduates of independent non-religious schools are more likely to hold higher-status employment positions and they have a wide variety of fulfillment expectations of their job such as for being helpful, creative, worthwhile, and relational. Graduates of Evangelical Protestant schools and of religious homeschooling have a strong sense of vocational calling, seek jobs that fulfill that calling and pay well, but are less rooted occupationally than their non-religious school counterparts.
- Educating for employment rather than influence: The post-secondary education results are bi-modal. For example, the evangelical Protestant school graduate seems more likely to attain only a secondary school or college diploma or, alternatively, to attain a master degree, and the religious home education graduate to attain a secondary school or a college diploma or alternatively to attain a PhD. This suggests that if students in these two sectors do decide to go to university they pursue education vigorously. It is quite possible that they are concerned about the utility of their degree and only leave when they have attained sufficient employment credentialing. The independent non-religious graduate gives solid evidence of attaining at least a university degree, but also of being more likely to attain the highest levels of degrees as well.
- Non-government schools are, in the perspective of their graduates, a “good brand.” In general, even with fifteen or so years of hindsight, graduates of non-government schools evaluate their school cultures positively, claiming them to be close-knit and expressing a positive regard for teachers, students, and administrators, and reflect that they offered good preparation for post-secondary education as well as for later life. If we would view the graduates as “clients” of non-government schools, the results of the customer satisfaction survey could only be viewed as encouraging to those who are responsible for this sector.
- Separate Catholic Schools, for almost every measure including religious, produce similar results to graduates of public schools. Whereas evangelical Protestant schools and religious home education graduates reflect attributes of religious conviction, spiritual formation, and practices that one would expect of those who are religiously motivated (with schooling effects having contributed positively to those results), graduates of separate Catholic schools appear almost identical to those of public schools in every measure.
Independent non-religious schools may provide “best practice” models for producing civically engaged graduates. Although all of the non-government schooling models match or exceed the government school graduates in the various measures of civic engagement, many of which are included in the provincially defined purposes of education, the independent non-religious schools stand out in several of these measures and may provide opportunity for best-practice learning.
In short, graduates of evangelical Protestant schools not only show more commitment to and involvement in religious rituals and activities compared with their government school counterparts with similar religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, but, despite having been educated among peers from similar religious backgrounds, are likely to be just as involved in civic affairs as all public school graduates, with the exception of protests. They also tend to marry earlier and have more children. Graduates of independent non-religious schools, perhaps not surprisingly because of the population they represent, are disproportionally represented among managerial and professional careers, and are exceptionally active in civic and political initiatives. Graduates of Separate Catholic schools tend much closer to the government school mean on most measures, although there are a few notable differences between fully government-funded separate Catholic school graduates and the independent Catholic school graduates, with the latter, for instance, participating much less in political activity. Graduates of religious home schooling tend to be furthest from the mean on many measures, ranging from being divorced or separated (much less) to donating to religious causes as well as boycotting products for ethical reasons (much more).
Overall, graduates of non-government schools are at least as likely to be involved in society and culture working toward “the common good” as their public school counterparts. In other words, this study shows that the claim that religious and other independent schools do not prepare their students to contribute positively to Canada’s multicultural society is unfounded.
Background and Context
The Canadian Constitution is intended to protect educational minorities, particularly in view of the religious preferences of diverse parents and communities. This study seeks to examine the impacts of diverse non-government educational systems, and especially religiously based ones, through the lens of graduate outcomes. What are the similarities and differences between graduates of non-government schools and graduates of government schools? In what ways does religious schooling make a difference in the lives of its graduates, and thus make a difference in society?
The Cardus Education Survey was launched because of the need for a comparative survey of a representative sampling of graduates from a variety of government and non-government schooling systems. This second study in the series focuses on Canadian data, following on the 2011 examination of private schooling outcomes in the United States (available at www.carduseducationsurvey.com).
If the effects of schooling outside the secular public system can be better understood, more informed discussion can take place regarding the place and contribution of these school sectors in the lives of their students, their families, their graduates, and in society as a whole. This research will be of particular interest to parents who have chosen or are considering alternatives to government school systems for the education of their children, as well as to those tasked with designing and maintaining such non-government schools, whether religiously defined or not. It will also be of interest to the public at large and particularly to policy-makers considering how government, as well as non-government education systems, might be improved.
Purpose of Education
Perhaps the place to start involves the state’s interest in schooling. Education in Canada is a matter of provincial rather than federal jurisdiction. Yet it is remarkable that while great variation exists between the provinces, the “purpose of education” language in the various statutes, regulations, and policy documents shares a similar core set of objectives. A survey of these documents will be detailed below, but the objectives for public education in Canada might be summarized in a general sense as follows:
Across Canada, public education aims to prepare students to:
- be valuable participants in and contributors to the economy;
- be informed citizens who value democratic participation and civic engagement;
- be confident, responsible, self-sufficient adults; be honest, fair, and ethical members of society;
- contribute to a peaceful, pluralistic, and cohesive society;
- live personally fulfilled and healthy lives; and
- value further education and life-long learning.
The first section of the Education Act of Ontario, for example, offers the following: “The purpose of education is to provide students with the opportunity to realize their potential and develop into highly skilled, knowledgeable, caring citizens who contribute to their society” (RSO 1990, Chapter E2, s.0.1). The emphasis is on becoming an informed, contributing citizen.
Similarly, the School Act of British Columbia begins with the following preamble, in which education is geared to achieving both personal and public goals:
Whereas it is the goal of a democratic society to ensure that all its members receive an education that enables them to become literate, personally fulfilled and publicly useful, thereby increasing the strength and contributions to the health and stability of that society; AND WHEREAS the purpose of the British Columbia school system is to enable all learners to become literate, to develop their individual potential and to acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy, democratic and pluralistic society and a prosperous and sustainable economy . . . (RSBC 1996, c. 412).
A final example is from the Alberta Guide to Education: ECS to Grade 12, 2012-2013. The Alberta Education mission is that “all students are inspired to achieve success and fulfillment as engaged thinkers and ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit” (Alberta Education, 2012). The specific student learning outcomes (as rearticulated in this guide to education and first given by ministerial order in 1998) include developing:
- knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will prepare them for life after high school;
- understanding of the scientific method, the nature of science and technology, and their application to daily life;
- understanding of Canada’s political, social, and economic systems within a global context;
- respect for the cultural diversity and common values of Canada;
- desirable personal characteristics such as respect, responsibility, fairness, honesty, caring, loyalty, and commitment to democratic ideal;
- competence in using information technologies; and
- initiative, leadership, flexibility, and persistence
Alberta takes care to achieve such a long list of specified outcomes in order to “provide consistent direction for education in the province while encouraging flexibility and discretion at the local level” (Alberta Education, 2012). As explained later, Alberta offers one of the most diverse educational delivery systems in the country while still encouraging all providers to be accountable to the centrally articulated objectives.
The objectives above are the stated goals of government education systems. What of the objectives of non-government systems? This paper addresses the issue of whether and in what ways the graduates of Canadian non-state schooling also achieve these common personal and public objectives for education. It also examines the school effects in achieving, or neglecting, these outcomes.
Contributing to the Public Good
Common to the varying models of education is the belief that education is foundational for human flourishing, and the belief that education is intended to serve not only individual interest, but the common good of society.
Provincial education laws and policies present a vision of the common good that values not only economic prosperity, but also healthy citizens, democratic participation, pluralism, tolerance, and cohesion. Are religiously defined approaches to elementary and secondary education motivated by a similar vision of the common good? Consider the words of some significant figures in religious history.
Aquinas already in the 13th century A.D. claimed that “all who are contained in any community are related to it as parts to a whole. The part is what it is in virtue of the whole; therefore every good of the part is directed towards the good of the whole. . . . Since every man is part of a state, it is impossible for any man to be good unless he is well adapted to the common good” (quoted in Peter N. Miller, Defining the Common Good, 2004).
John Calvin in the 16th century founded numerous universal schools because he held that “It is an error to think that those who flee worldly affairs and engage in contemplation are leading an angelic life. . . . We know that men were created to busy themselves with labor and that no sacrifice is more pleasing to God than when each one attends to his calling and studies well to live for the common good” (Calvin’s Commentaries, Luke 10:38).
Early church literature and later Catholic doctrine offer rather similar, and more detailed, perspective on contributions to the common good. A second century reference to the common good is recorded in the Epistle of Barnabas (4:10): “Do not live entirely isolated, having retreated into yourselves, as if you were already justified, but gather instead to seek the common good together.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd ed., 2003) defines common good as “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily” (No. 1906). “These social conditions include respect for the flourishing of the individual human person, emphasis on the social well-being and development of the entire society, and peace, stability and security” (No. 1907-1909). The Catechism then goes on to define participation as “the voluntary and generous engagement of a person in social interchange” and claims that “it is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person” (No. 1913). One participates in promoting the common good in two general ways, “by taking charge of the areas for which one assumes personal responsibility: by the care taken for the education of [one’s] family, by conscientious work, and so forth” (No. 1914) and by taking “active part in public life” (No. 1915, emphasis original).
Similarly the 20th century philosopher Philip Phenix, in his book Education and the Common Good, argues that education for the common good must foster not only intellectual excellence, but should also contribute to society by promoting responsible engagement in work and economic life, recreation, aesthetic activities, sex and family life, politics and world responsibility, stewardship of nature—as well as make known the contributions that religion, morality, and reverence have made to culture (Phenix, Education and the Common Good, 1961).
Thus the common good of peace, stability, security, and flourishing appears in great part to rely on the voluntary and generous communal engagement of individuals. In what ways, then, do the various school sectors, both government and non-government, contribute to this public engagement?
As the next sections demonstrate, various forms of religious schooling in Canada are not designed, delivered, or funded by governments. Yet, given the definitions above of what it is to contribute to the common, or public, good, it is the intention of this paper to ex- amine whether and in what ways graduates of such non-government schools do indeed contribute to the public good.
Development of Public Schooling in Canada
It is impossible to describe a “Canadian” system of education. The British North America Act (1867) that established the Confederation of Canada made education the responsibility of provincial governments. The four provinces that constituted the new Confederation in 1867 (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia) retained the legal and policy frameworks that had governed their schools in the colonial period. As new provinces entered Confederation (Manitoba in 1870; British Columbia in 1871; Prince Edward Island in 1873; Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1905; and Newfoundland in 1949), they were given authority as provinces to pass statutes and regulations to govern their provincial school systems. This resulted in distinct education systems in Canada, “each with its own body of law and regulations, its own peculiar nomenclature, and its own administrative arrangements” (Gidney and Millar, 2012, p. 3). Though the Canadian constitution gives the federal Parliament the authority to govern the three territories (Yukon, Northwest, and Nunavut), they too have been given control over their education systems over the years.
For this study, the most important issue with regard to the constitutional limits on provincial authority over education is the rights enshrined for denominational schooling. Now called the Constitution Act, Section 93 guarantees that the rights related to denominational schooling that were in effect at the time the province entered Confederation would remain in effect. This means that in Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, religious minorities (either Catholic or Protestant) had and continue to have the constitutional right to set up their own schools separate from the majority in a school district. Currently, in these provinces the “separate” schools are almost always fully publicly funded Roman Catholic schools. For the purposes of this study, we have identified these schools in a separate category and, given the commonality of their religious approach to education with the majority of non-government schools, have included them in the non-government category when making overall comparisons. While historically some Roman Catholic schools operated within the non-sectarian public school districts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the education systems of these provinces as well as British Columbia and Prince Edward Island have never included separate Roman Catholic schools. The end of the dual confessional school system in Manitoba in 1890 provoked a national crisis. The 1896 compromise that ended the political stalemate made some provision for Roman Catholic teaching in schools, but it did not restore public funding for a denominational school system. Newfoundland eliminated its denominational school system through a provincial referendum (1997) and constitutional amendment (1998), replacing it with a single “secular” public school system.
Despite the differences between provincial systems of education, however, there are some generalizations that can be made about the structure and governance of schooling in English Canada. Provincial (and territorial) legislatures pass laws related to education of all kinds: public, private, technical, early childhood, post- secondary. They guarantee universal, free elementary and secondary public schooling to the end of Grade 12. Provincial ministries of education administer the acts and regulations related to schooling, including financing. For the K-12 school systems, these centralized ministries determine school curriculum and authorize or recommend teaching resources. In collaboration with stakeholders such as provincial teachers’ organizations, they also determine the qualifications necessary for those teaching in the school systems. Within the provincially established structure and regulations, the operation of public schools (and in some provinces, separate schools), however, is the responsibility of local school authorities, usually called school boards, which are governed by locally elected trustees.
An introduction to the structure and governance of schooling in Quebec will be given in a later section.
Current Policy Context and Landscape of Private Schooling
Because education falls into provincial (and territorial) jurisdiction, there is considerable variation in the laws and regulations concerning non-government schooling across Canada. The terminology varies across jurisdictions, so that some provinces call them private schools; in others they are called independent schools. Some provinces make no legislative provision for non-government schools. Schooling is compulsory for children between the ages of five or six, and sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen, depending on the jurisdiction. This compulsory schooling can be delivered in the home or through government or non-government schooling (Allison and Van Pelt, 2012).
The regulation of alternatives to the public school differs by jurisdiction. The amount of public funding available to non-government schools also ranges. Some jurisdictions make no funding available, while others offer up to 70% of the per pupil provincial grants available to public schools for non-government schools that teach the provincially mandated curriculum and abide by a range of accountability measures. Though no statistics regarding enrollment in non-government schools are collected nationally, estimates are that about 8% of all school-aged children across Canada attend such schools (Allison and Van Pelt, 2012), again with considerable variation from province to province. The constitutional restriction on government-funded denominational schools in most jurisdictions, the trend of secularization of the public in the latter half of the twentieth century, and legal challenges that resulted in the elimination of remaining vestiges of religious exercises and instruction in many jurisdictions have resulted in increased enrollment in non-government schools since the 1980s.
As Canada’s most populous province, Ontario historically has had the most school-aged children enrolled in English-speaking non-government schools, though it has not had the highest percentage of children enrolled in these schools. The province requires very little from these schools in terms of compliance with curriculum or other regulation except for high schools that offer diplomas to enable university entrance, but it also offers no public funding. Because of this lack of provincial oversight, enrollment statistics are not reliable. Recent estimates are that around six percent of school-aged students are enrolled in non-government schools in the province (Allison and Van Pelt, 2012). Around half of student enrollment in these schools is in religious schools.
Alberta and Saskatchewan
These provinces offer, like Ontario, fully publicly funded separate Roman Catholic schools, but also make provision for a range of other alternative programs within the public school systems, including some grounded in religious perspectives. Since 1994, Alberta has also been the only Canadian jurisdiction to make provision for charter schools. As a result, these provinces have relatively low rates of enrollment in non-government schools. In Alberta only 4% of school-aged students are enrolled in non-government schools. Around 40% of these are Protestant Christian schools. There are also Jewish, Islamic, and Sikh schools. The vast majority of these schools are accredited, meaning they teach the provincial curriculum, participate in a provincial testing regime, and abide by a range of other accountability measures. In Alberta, this qualifies the schools for up to 70% of the provincial per pupil operating grant of government schools, paying for about 50% of the operating expenses of such schools.
In Saskatchewan in 2010-11, 2.5% of all students in the province were enrolled in their independent schools. Until 1964, Saskatchewan’s separate schools were funded only up to grade eight. However, non-government so-called “historical high schools,” including Catholic and Protestant ones, received government funding since the early 1900s. While other non-government schools have not been funded by the government, funding similar to that in effect in British Columbia (see below) has recently been announced by the government to go into effect for the 2012-13 school year.
British Columbia and Manitoba
British Columbia entered Canadian Confederation in 1871 with a non-sectarian public school system that made no provision for Roman Catholic separate schools. As mentioned above, Manitoba eliminated public funding for Roman Catholic schools in 1890. This is the most important reason these two provinces have the second-and third-highest proportion of enrollments in non-government schools in Canada.
In British Columbia, these schools are governed by the Independent School Act (1989). The Act defines four categories of independent schools representing varying levels of public funding received and differing regulatory frameworks. Group 1 schools receive provincial funding equal to 50% of the per pupil operating grants received by government schools. These schools meet a range of program requirements set by the provincial education ministry and abide by a host of accountability measures. Group 2 schools meet the same requirements but receive 35% of the per pupil grant because their per student operating expenses exceed those of government schools. Group 3 schools receive no funding, being unregulated except for meeting local facility codes. Group 4 schools are schools operated by for- profit companies and are not eligible for government grants. In 2011, just under 11% of all school-aged children in the province attended independent schools, and 98% of those attend schools which receive some public funding (Allison and Van Pelt, 2012). Over half of British Columbia’s independent schools are religious, approximately 21% being Roman Catholic and 40% Protestant. Furthermore, Catholic schools enroll close to 30% of all independent school students; Protestant schools enroll approximately 40%.
In 2010, just under 8% of school-aged children in Manitoba attended independent schools, and 90% of such schools in the province received some public funding, amounting to up to 50% of the per pupil grant to government schools. One third of all of Manitoba’s in- dependent schools are Roman Catholic or Eastern Rite; other religious independent schools are Mennonite, Jewish, Islamic, or Christian.
While legislative requirements and regulations vary among the four Atlantic provinces, enrollment in non-government schools is uniformly low in this region of Canada and no public funding is provided. Nova Scotia legislation recognizes and defines non-government schooling, and specifically allows religious education in those schools. In 2010-11, 2.6% of all elementary and secondary school students were enrolled in non-government schools in the province. Prince Edward Island has had very few non-government schools; indeed there was only one Christian high school operating in the years our survey participants would have graduated from high school. New Brunswick’s provincial legislation makes no specific provision for the establishment or regulation of non-government schools. Despite this, recent estimates are that there are twenty such schools in the province, enrolling about 1% of school-aged students (Allison and Van Pelt, 2012). A few of these are Christian schools. A handful of non-government schools have been established in Newfoundland and Labrador since 1998 when it replaced its denominational school system with a single secular public system.
Yukon, Northwest, and Nunavut territories all define and make provision for non-government schooling in legislation governing education, but there are no such schools operating in the territories.
International Reputation for Excellence
Education in Canada has recently received an international reputation for excellence. The OECD first administered the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2000, and the results for Canadian students have always ranked among the top in the world (PISA 2012, p. 134). A visual comparison of the data interactively displayed on the PISA website shows that the most recently gathered data (2009) again place Canada’s students among the top inter- nationally ranked scores, particularly for reading and math. Given this base of comparison with their government school counterparts, any distinctions pointing to additional success of non-government schools would warrant considerable attention. This report highlights some of those distinctions.
Critiques of Religiously Defined Schooling
As governmenT education in Canada has increasingly become secular education, critiques and concerns continue to be offered regarding religiously defined schooling. Concerns by democratic theorists, for example, about civic and democratic education have been directed at evangelical and fundamentalist Protestant schools (Blacker, 1998; Gutmann, 1987; Macedo, 1991; MacMullen, 2007) with claims that such schools create social enclaves drawing significant boundaries with public life and mainstream culture. Peshkin (1986) argued that faith-based schooling may hinder the development of the civic virtues necessary for participating well in democratic institutions. Others claim that narrow student identities are defined and maintained through the socialization in religious schools (Ammerman, 1987; Rosen, 2005). Christian schools create norm-reinforcing rather than horizon-expanding social capital, others have claimed (Morgan and Sorensen, 1999). Still others hold that such schools are political training grounds for eventual launching of conservative crusades (Diamond, 1995; Reese, 1985; Rose, 1988).
In Canada some of the more engaged contributors to the discussion of the critiques for religious and for non-state schooling include Elmer Thiessen and Eamonn Callan. In Thiessen’s book In Defense of Religious Schools and Colleges, he responds to common objections to religious schooling and argues that a pluralistic educational system better prepares students for productive citizenship in pluralist liberal democracies than does a monopolistic state-maintained school system. Callan, professor of education at Stanford, is a leading thinker in civic and moral education. In his book Creating Citizens, he argues that the liberal state can permissibly show partiality for “common schools” open to all over ”separate schools” that cater to students largely on the basis of religious or other criteria. However, he also says that there may be a coherent case for state funding of non-government schools if these schools accept the basic ends of liberal education.
Outcomes of Private Religious Schooling
Inquiry into the outcomes of private religious schooling, including independent Catholic schooling, Evangelical Christian (more commonly called Christian) schooling, and of religiously informed home education in Canada has not been extensive.
Some empirical literature by American researchers supports the view that religious schools, especially Catholic schools, matter for such behaviours as student volunteering and for strengthening the formation of civic virtues (Bryk, Lee, and Holland, 1993; Sikkink, 2004; Wolf, 2007; Niemi, Hepburn, and Chapman, 2000; Nolin, Chaney, Chapman, and Chandler, 1997; Wolf, 1998). Some have found that Catholic schooling, especially through service learning experiences, increase volunteering by students (McLellan and Youniss, 2003; Smith 1997). While some have found no difference in student volunteering be- tween non-Catholic religious students and public school students (Campbell, 2001; Sikkink, 2009), others have found that fundamentalist schools surpass public schools on volunteering in community (Godwin, Godwin, and Martinez-Ebers, 2004).
Questions about the educational attainment of graduates of non-government religious schools have also been raised, as little is known about the effect of these various school sectors on such items as eventual years of schooling, highest educational degree, and type of undergraduate institution attended. While Catholic schooling has been recognized as a predictor of higher educational attainment (Bryk, Lee, and Holland, 1993; Neal 1997), little is known about the links between other private religious secondary schooling and tertiary education. While some have shown positive correlation between religiosity and academic achievement and secondary school graduation (Glanville, Sikkink, and Hernandes, 2008; Jeynes, 2003; Muller and Ellison, 2001; Regnerus and Elder, 2003; Stokes, 2008), others have found lower levels of educational attainment among Christian schools (Darnell and Sherkat, 1997; Sherkat and Darnell, 1999).
Of course, Coleman, Hoffer, and Kilgore (1982) had much to say in the earlier discussion about the effects of Catholic schooling. The central finding of their report was that Catholic (private) schools in the U.S., which operated on an average cost per student about 39% lower than public schools and with larger average class sizes, had “better cognitive outcomes.” This was the case even after controlling for circumstances such as family income and educational background. They also found that in Catholic high schools, the difference in achievement levels among student from different backgrounds was smaller than in public schools—the achievement gap lessening from first to final year in Catholic high schools, but growing in public schools. The authors concluded that “the Catholic schools come closer to the American ideal of the ‘common school,’ educating all alike, than do the public schools” (p. 144).
Reginald Bibby (2009) concluded from a survey of grade 10-12 Canadian students that students in private Protestant Christian schools follow the news less than Canadian teens in general (25% vs. 40%), are less concerned about environmental issues (38% vs. 51%), and consider racial discrimination to be less serious (37% vs. 44%)—even while they see more need to care for other countries (79% vs. 67%) and have greater concern for world poverty (44% vs. 39%). Bibby’s sample of Christian schools was very small, however, and he does not try to distinguish between the effect of the socioeconomic and religious background of the students and the actual influence of the school. Since little other research is available, the question remains to what extent students in Christian schools are culturally aware and engaged, and how that is affected by the ethos of a particular school.
Harro Van Brummelen and Robert Koole (2011) conducted a study in British Columbia, Alberta, and Washington state which “explored the perceptions of Christian school principals, teachers, and grade 12 students about why and how their schools prepare students for awareness of and participation in society and culture” (p. 2). Their study clearly revealed common goals among principals and teachers in terms of cultivating the development of student social and political awareness and involvement. They found that these schools’ definitions of cultural engagement stressed how to act in society as individuals, largely disregarding “structural and systemic issues” (p. 9). The study found that most students were “both astute and concerned about world problems” (p. 11) and that, furthermore, “fully 80% of all students mentioned, without prompting, that their future plans involved a service-oriented vocation involving public-spirited or philanthropic concerns” (p. 11).
Still, overall, little data exist that can be used for reliable, direct comparison between the graduates of various school sectors. Thus this inquiry should facilitate analysis between sectors in a manner that has not previously been possible. As the main purposes for religiously informed schooling often include academic goals, spiritual formation / religious development goals, and citizenship/community engagement goals, the survey was designed to measure aspects of each of these outcomes, and this report will outline the results within these three headings.
Approaches to Inquiry/Methodology
The first report of the Cardus Education Survey, released in 2011, relied mostly on data gathered from graduates of American public schools—private Catholic schools, non-religious private schools, Protestant schools, and religious home education—but also included findings based on data gathered from school principals and administrators of both Canadian and American schools (Pennings, Sikkink, Wiens, Seel, and Van Pelt, 2011). Four additional, smaller studies contributed to aspects of the inquiry, all of which have been reported in some considerable detail in the March 2012 issue of the Journal of School Choice (see Van Pelt, Sikkink, Pennings, and Seel, 2012; Sikkink, 2012; Van Brummelen and Koole, 2012; LeBlanc and Slaughter, 2012; Candal and Glenn, 2012; and Beckman, Drexler, and Eames, 2012).
This second report of the Cardus Education Survey is based on a March 2012 survey of a representative sample of 24- to 39-year-old Canadian residents who had graduated from secondary schools. In total 2,054 respondents contributed to the survey, of which the following were used: 845 graduates of government secondary schools; 393 graduates of Catholic schools; 297 graduates of non-Catholic schools; 179 graduates of Independent non-religious schools; 113 graduates of Christian schools; and 41 religious home-educated students. Although we had respondents from Islamic schools, Jewish schools, Sikh schools, mainline Protestant schools, and non-religiously-defined homeschooling, the numbers in each category were insufficient to study them as distinct groups, and they could not naturally be collapsed into another category. Thus responses from graduates of these sectors were not analyzed.
Once the respondents from English-speaking Canada were separated from those of Quebec, and only those categories for which we had enough responses were considered, the distribution of the respondents who were used in the report was as follows: 683 graduates of government secondary schools; 368 graduates of separate Catholic schools; 49 graduates of independent Catholic schools; 112 graduates of Independent non-religious schools; 110 graduates of Christian schools; and 34 religious home-educated students.
While Appendix D contains more detail of the methodology of this study, this report includes, wherever possible, school effects. These are determined by controlling for variables such as:
- age, gender, race/ethnicity, region of high school;
- attended public school some years;
- background variables (when respondent was in high school):
- mother and father: educational attainment, religious attendance, closeness, pushed academics, Catholic, conservative or traditional Catholic, conservative Protestant
- respondent: religious service attendance, religious youth group attendance;
- family structure during childhood:
- lived with (a) mother-figure less than 16 years, (b) father-figure less than 16 years;
- lived with two biological parents;
- parents ever divorced or separated
Findings: School Effects on Graduate Outcomes (Excluding Quebec)
This section of the Report summarizes the findings from the comparison of graduates (age 24 to 39) from six Canadian school sectors: Government, Separate Catholic, Independent Catholic, Independent non-religious, Evangelical Protestant (often called Christian schools), and religious home education (homeschooling families in which the mother regularly attended religious services.) Graduate outcomes are described and discussed under three main themes: cultural, economic, and social engagement; academic achievement; and spiritual formation. Throughout, the report emphasizes school effects—the independent effect of high school experiences on various outcomes net of family and individual characteristics—on various life course outcomes.
The data from surveys of graduates, all of whom are residents of Canada, are presented after multiple regression analysis. Two models are presented side by side: first (the left bar in the charts) are the raw data from the school graduates, without any controls for family background differences; second (the right bar) are the results (regression coefficients) after controlling for a multitude of family background variables, in order to isolate the schooling effect. Variables controlled for in this second model include age, race, gender, and parental characteristics such as educational attainment, religious service attendance, academic push from parents, religious affiliation, and family structure.
In all charts the center line, marked zero, represents the control (or comparison) group, graduates of government-run public schools. Therefore, as the charts are interpreted, the second bar, the model including controls, attempts to isolate the specific effect of the school on the independent variable presented. The bars represent the coefficients from the regression model for a particular schooling type. The scale for each chart varies depending on the values of the variable being predicted.
Nearly 200 graphs—far more than are in this report—are available in the Cardus Education Survey 2012 extended data package at go.cardus.ca/data
Cultural, Economic, and Social Engagement
How do graduates of non-government, religious, or non-religious schools participate in society economically, politically, socially, and culturally? Are graduates of these schools contributing to the common good? To what extent and in what ways? Do they take part in the public square or are they isolated from it? Are they contributing to a healthy, democratic, and pluralistic society, and a prosperous and sustainable economy? Are they politically informed, artistically sensitive, and ethically grounded? Are they fulfilled, caring, and healthy? Are they critical and creative thinkers? Do they vote, volunteer, and donate? Are they involved community leaders and political contributors? Are they employed, informed, and connected? Are they engaged in the fine arts and in cross-cultural activity? Do they read? Do they care about the environment, ethics, and work place behaviour? Do they value strong family life and the contribution it makes to society?
A number of indicators emerge from the data collected. This section reviews graduate comparisons and school effects in:
- volunteering, participation, voting, and donating behaviours;
- occupations, jobs, and work;
- political knowledge, conversations, and actions;
- social connectedness; environmental views and activities;
- reading, fine arts, and cross cultural engagements;
- views and attitudes related to cultural, economic, and social engagement;
- obligations and responsibilities felt toward others;
- level of trust and confidence in others;
- political party preference and political views on roles of government;
- satisfaction with life and risk orientation; and
- reflections on how well their secondary school experience prepared them for social and cultural participation.
Before controls for demographic and parental characteristics, the current average household income of graduates of almost all schooling types (other than religious home educated) is not significantly different from that of the government school graduate. After controls, the school effect trends positive for Christian school graduates, indicating a slightly higher current household income on average for Christian school graduates, but the difference is not statistically significant in this sample. Independent non-religious school graduates are trending higher on average than government school graduates, but again the relatively small effect is not statistically significant. The lower levels of current income among graduates of religious home education is accounted for by family background differences between graduates of religious home education and government schools. The overall conclusion from this sample is that school sector is not significantly related to current household income for adults between 23 and 40 years of age.
After classifying graduates as currently married, divorced or separated, never married, or living together, we find some evidence that graduates of all non-government schooling types that we considered are less likely than government school graduates to be currently divorced or separated rather than married. The estimated size of these differences is large though not statistically significant, given the relatively small percentage of graduates reporting that they are currently divorced or separated. Christian school graduates, for example, are estimated to be 2.2 times less likely than their government school graduate peers to be currently divorced rather than married. Separate Catholic schoolers show some evidence of being more likely to be never married than government school graduates, but Christian schoolers in contrast are 1.6 times more likely to be currently married rather than never married even after accounting for family background differences. Besides current marital status, our respondents reported whether they had ever been divorced. The average differences by sector showed a much lower likelihood of ever being divorced among separate Catholic, independent Catholic, and Christian school graduates. These differences remain substantial after controls for family background, though the Christian school effect shows somewhat consistently lower rates of divorce.
In terms of living together without being married, the non-government school sector graduates tend to be more likely to marry than live together. The strongest difference is between the religious home-educated graduates and the government school graduates: the religious home-educated graduates are 7 times more likely to be married rather than living together compared to the government school graduates, and this effect remains even after controls for family background differences. The Christian school effect is also strongly toward marriage rather than living together, though this effect is accounted for by family background rather than school effect.