SHAFAQNA- There’s been an explosion of private religious schools opening in this province since the implementation of the new sex-ed curriculum in September of last year.
According to numbers obtained from the ministry of education, 127 new private schools have opened since 2015 — many of them private Christian, Islamic and other faith schools.
It’s not much of a stretch to link the boom to the government’s roll-out of its controversial sex-ed curriculum.
Private schools don’t have to teach the provincial curriculum.
“As private schools operate independently of the Ministry of Education, the ministry does not regulate, license, accredit or otherwise oversee the operation of private schools,” said ministry spokesman Heather Irwin.
It’s only if private schools want the right to grant Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) requirements that they must adhere to the ministry requirements and undergo inspections — but only pertaining to OSSD credit integrity.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticizing private religious schools. Jewish, Muslim and Christian schools do an excellent job of teaching math, sciences and the arts, as well as faith issues.
Premier Kathleen Wynne, in her insistence on implementing the new curriculum, has created a situation where many parents are choosing to opt into faith-based schools.
It was Wynne who, in 2007, battled then-PC leader John Tory in Don Valley West. He’d pledged to fund faith-based schools — and was roundly criticized by Wynne for making that promise.
Tory lost not just the seat, but the general election, because voters feared there’d be a shift from the public system to private religious schools if they were given tax money.
Now it seems Wynne’s sex-ed policy is actually sending more kids to faith-based schools than Tory’s.
There’s a lesson here for the public school system. Why are so many parents voting with their feet? Why are they choosing to make what’s often a huge financial sacrifice to send their youngsters to private schools?
These aren’t the well-heeled parents who send their children posh schools like Upper Canada College or Bishop Strachan.
These are working people, many of them recently arrived in Canada, who are turning their backs on the public school system.
While many worry that the sex-ed curriculum was imposed without parental input, others have other concerns. They want their kids to learn the kind of values and morals and ethics that the public system has no mandate to teach.
Most of the websites for these schools stress teaching excellence — for all subjects. No matter what their faith, all parents want a solid academic grounding for their children.
As the public school system moves towards, “reasonable accommodation,” in a multi-faith society, increasingly some parents are choosing to educate their children within their own faith community.
The message here is clear: Listen to parents, Premier Wynne.
It’s in the best interest of a multicultural society that we not divide our kids into religious silos. A healthy society is one where children learn to get along and learn to understand and respect each other’s differences.
Then again, we do have a fully funded separate school system that sets Catholic kids apart. But we can try.
The one thing we have in common is our diversity.
How ironic that a sex-ed curriculum that was supposed to be liberal and progressive is wreaking such havoc.