Independent Education, au Canada

by Yule Heibel on June 18, 2003

Canada is quite odd in some ways. In the US, a private (“independent”) school is a private school, and squeezes money out of the parents, alumni, and community via tuition and fundraisers. A public school receives per capita funding from public sources. But in Canada — at least in British Columbia — private schools get taxpayer (public) funding. It’s a substantial amount: from 35-50% of operating costs get covered out of the province’s coffers, provided the school follows a provincial curriculum (standards). According to the Vancouver Sun article here, the government pays out around $160M per year to private schools.

Now the government has taken an unprecedented step in giving a new independent school in Burnaby, a Vancouver suburb, a $250K start up grant. The Mediated Learning Academy, a K-12 school, is geared toward special-needs kids — from every spoke of that umbrella term — and will employ a method called the Mediated Learning Experience, which was developed by Lev Vygotsky and Reuven Feuerstein. It will teach to about 180 kids, with a 10:1 student:teacher ratio. The mediated learning philosophy maintains that “intelligence is not fixed but can be enhanced,” which isn’t news to anyone who has pulled their child out of the factory school. Obviously, one-to-one, or even one-to-ten tutoring, is going to have a major impact on any child’s learning. This program is being publicly funded, however, at a time of huge cutbacks to BC public schools: teachers here are facing fewer resources, are being run off their feet with increasing demands, and are looking at increased class sizes. The newly-formed private school will still have to charge tuition (between $10-12K per annum per pupil), although it expects to be able to give some need-based scholarships to families.

If the Mediated Learning Academy could function as a pilot tug that eventually compels public money to be spent for implementing mediated learning in factory schools, we might see more 21st-century-appropriate public education for everyone.

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