Volume 94, Issue 51

Wednesday, November 29, 2000


Editorial Board 2000-2001

We hate to admit it, but...

We hate to admit it, but...

The privatization of Ontario's post-secondary education system has always been a lightning rod of criticism for the provincial government.

The issue has once again entered the spotlight at Queen's Park with the third reading of a Tory bill which would prepare Ontario's post-secondary educational stable for a new addition in private universities.

Historically, the issue has met with contentious, even heated reaction from students, who view the introduction of private universities as the gateway to a two-tiered education system. Over time, the privately-funded schools would end up attracting the upper echelons of faculty, students and administrators, in turn making their degrees more valuable in the marketplace. The institutions that remain publicly funded could, in effect, be relegated to playing second fiddle to the more prestigious private schools.

The anti-private university sentiment is one rooted in fear of a stratified, doubleŠstandardized educational scheme, the creation of an unbreakable chain in which those without the means could be rendered unable to attend the institution of their choice.

And while these concerns are completely valid, there are also reasons why the decision of whether or not to allow private universities to take root in Ontario soil must not be dismissed outright.

It is the case that a private system of education already exists at the secondary school level. At this level, the duality seems to be working well, while not having any adverse effects on the qualities of education that come from both types of institutions. Many will attest to the fact that a diploma from a private high school does not necessarily outshine a diploma from a public high school. At the secondary level, it seems private and public institutions are working together well.

Furthermore, with the province expecting a 100 per cent increase in post-secondary enrollment when the double cohort class finally graduates from high school, there will undoubtedly be a market for more schools. More schools equal more choice for the thousands of students who will be seeking an alma mater.

Looking at the situation from an international perspective, there is also the argument that only private institutions can gather together the means to eventually put Canadian education on the international stage. This is the argument made by Queen's principal William Legget, who has professed the need for an increased emphasis on projecting Canadian quality to other nations.

While the thought of a private post-secondary education in Ontario would cause many to expel an immediate gasp, the concept must be discussed further. After all, any wise decision considers all the possibilities.

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