An ethical dilemma: Private or public. Faith-based or same-sex?
The Canadian educational system resembles many other market-driven systems. More than ever before, Canadian families have a wide variety of options available when it comes to school choices. Public, private, or homeschooling? Secular or religious? The local neighbourhood school, French immersion, performing arts, international baccalaureate, or traditional school formats? This wide menu of choices has evolved in part from demands made by families.
|Dr. Jeffrey Morgan|
There are, however, ethical questions that arise from the marketplace model of education. Is it fair for academically focused private schools to take the best students out of the public system? Do schools of choice within the public system also skim off the “cream of the crop”? Do religious schools limit students’ awareness? Do the academic advantages of same-sex schools outweigh the lack of contact with the opposite gender?
UFV Philosophy professor Dr. Jeffrey Morgan is in the midst of tacking such questions. In the second year of a project funded by a $26,000 grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, his work is also being supported by the UFV Research office and the work-study program at UFV.
“We all want what’s best for our children, but we also have to be concerned about the ethical questions that arise from separate school systems and choices within the public system,” Morgan says. At the heart of his research lies the question of equality of education. “School choice necessarily makes children unequal in their educational opportunities. Some kids will have the opportunity to attend schools with lower class sizes, better facilities and more able classmates than other kids. Whether this is legitimate is part of my concern”.
Morgan is aware that these are sensitive issues, and stresses that he understands the desire of families of various faiths to educate their children within their religious tradition. He also says that we cannot generalize about faith-based schools. There is a wide spectrum within this sector. Some accept students from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds, and others only accept members of a certain church.
The solution may be to expand the public system to include faith-based and more academically focused schools that would be open to all students, Morgan says, noting that this would in turn lead to additional concerns about streaming of children.
Morgan is investigating the current literature on the philosophy of education, incorporating the data generated from researching the private and public school system and educational policies in Canada, and applying contemporary philosophical principles to his work.
He is also drawing comparisons with other countries that include India, the United Kingdom, Singapore and New Zealand. He is currently writing a book that discusses the results of his investigation.
Read more about�Dr. Morgan's research program.