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Parent Education Program: Articles

Independent Schools

By Kerry Elfström, B.Ed., M.A.

Pacific Spirit School (PSS) is one of many independent schools BC has to offer. Independent schools are those that are not owned and operated by the province of BC, which are regulated by the Independent School Act. In BC, approximately 12 per cent of the province's K-12 student population is enrolled in independent schools.

What is an independent school?

The BC Ministry of Education says that independent schools offer parents an alternative to a public school education. Similarly, the Federation of Independent Schools of BC says that independent schools are committed to providing educational choice for K-12 students in BC. This sentiment is shared among independent schools, many of which belong to FISA. Independent schools provide education for 10.8% of all students enrolled in BC elementary and secondary schools. Each school sets its own policy, not only with respect to entrance requirements but also with respect to foreign student placement. According to FISA the number of independent schools in BC as of 2008-09 was 368.

Independent schools are ones that are independent from the public and private schools within BC in terms of funding and governance. To finance operations, they are not dependent on any level of government funding and do not rely on contributions from taxpayers. Rather, independent schools are funded by a combination of government grants according to a provincial funding formula (independent schools receive 35 to 50 per cent of the per-pupil grant of public schools), tuition fees, gifts, and in some cases the investment yield of an endowment. Each school is separate from each other but they all meet the core curriculum guidelines of the province. Independent schools are governed by a board of directors elected by the members of a non profit organization which owns and operates the school. As such, the board is independent of government and presides over a system of governance that ensures that the school meets the educational outcomes set by the provincial government and that its operation is effective and sustainable.

Are independent schools and private schools the same?

Independent and private schools are often perceived to be the same; the terms are commonly used synonymously. However, they are not the same. The main difference is in their funding. Private schools are funded in whole or in part by charging their students tuition which they claim to use to pay higher salaries for the best teachers and provide enriched learning environments including small class sizes and services such as libraries, science laboratories and computers. They also retain the right to select their students.

What is Pacific Spirit School?

Pacific Spirit School (PSS) is the flagship program of the New Learning Society which supports children in developing the foundations they need to live genuinely fulfilling lives. PSS is an inclusive, independent, K-7 school located at Jericho Hill Center, a parkland setting adjacent to Jericho Beach in Point Grey. The school offers a small class environment where the BC Core Curriculum is met or exceeded. PSS's motto sets it apart from other independent schools - "supporting the growth of the whole child". The school supports the development of children as whole people, with importance placed on emotional, social, physical, and academic learning. Each child's spirit is nurtured and their innate interest in learning is fostered. Everyone associated with the school - directors, administrators, educators, parents and children - believe that healthy relationships are the foundation of well-being and the school strives to promote each child relating towards themselves and towards others with an attitude of compassion and respect. The school's philosophical foundation is that children can learn that life can be fun and that work can be play.