Whenever major events such as COVID occur, the first cry of battle is “more funding!,” by various interest groups in education. But does more funding translate into measurable results? Let us look at statistics from the education ministry in the Government of Alberta, Canada.
The priciest school in Alberta is an independent school titled Strathcona Tweedsmuir School, which charges about $24,000 in tuition (2019) plus bussing, uniforms, field trips and other expenses on top. They also receive taxpayer funding of 70% of a fully funded public division student, which was somewhere around $7000 per student including CEUs and base rate funding. Their average diploma exam mark for 306 students writing in 2019 was 76.4% across 6 core academic Grade 12 subjects (Math, ELA, Social Studies, Chemistry, Biology, and Physics). To compare, another independent school, Trinity, holds the largest number of PASI coded 600 home education students, and has no distance education or shared responsibility students to obfuscate the home education students results. Trinity received $1670 flat rate per student in funding (2019) of which half ($835) had to be shared with parents to offset the cost of supplies. The average diploma exam mark for 138 students writing in 2019 was 74.4% across the same 6 core academic Grade 12 subjects.
These are just diploma exam marks – not school marks for the same courses which could be subject to grade inflation. The exams are only given in core subjects and the results above are only on the -1 academic stream of subjects. Exams are written at the same time, same day, at thousands of schools and writing centres across the province and no exam is to be opened until the start time, either by teachers, students, parents or administrators. Exams are always written in person with cellphones parked with administrators. All children must write these government exams if they want high school diploma credits for post-secondary entrance and high school diplomas. It is the most objective method of testing academic knowledge and testing-taking skills of students.
This is just a snapshot. It would be interesting to view the results if the government would publish the diploma exam results of PASI codes 600 (Home Education) and 611 (Home Education Portion of Shared Responsibility) students separately from distance education coded students (PASI codes 612, 620, 621). That would yield larger pools of student results in home education taught Grade 12 courses.
The mere two percentage points in objective results between the priciest education option and the most cost-effective education option, could lead one to think that other factors have a meaningful impact on education results, instead of funding amounts. Home education is not only provided by parents but can also include self-directed learning (unschooling) methods where the students teach themselves, and programs where the parents outsource teaching to third party vendors operating outside Alberta’s Education system.
The overall Alberta Education’s school average mark on all Grade 12 core course diploma exams for 2019 was 67% with 68,114 Grade 12 students writing.
Home education is the most cost effective method of education and now there is objective evidence that it is also one of the best methods for academics. Relationships make all the difference.