Education minster Peter Fassbender reaffirmed the government’s commitment to independent schools during a tour of Mennonite Educational Institute in Abbotsford on Tuesday.
“As a government, we’re committed to supporting independent schools. A choice for parents,” he told MEI staff and board members. “Whether they (students) are at an independent school or a public school, our goal is to ensure of that one thing: that they are successful.”
The tour was part of MEI’s twice monthly Heart of MEI Event (H.O.M.E) that showcases the school to outsiders.
Fassbender said that MEI instilled in students “a sense of community, belonging, respect, caring for each other, supporting each other.”
“I know that the young people that leave MEI will have a great foundation,” he continued. “What was reinforced is, when you have a school like this, where parents make the choice to come to an independent school, there is a higher degree of commitment to that journey for the kids, so that’s a good thing. But I see a lot of that in public schools too. And I don’t compare one to the other.”
Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton also joined the tour, as did Abbotsford-Mission MLA Simon Gibson. Dalton serves as the parliamentary secretary for independent schools.
Both Dalton and Fassbender stood firm that independent, or private, schools – which are 35-50 per cent funded by the government – did not draw resources away from public schools.
“We really believe in educational choices. One thing is that a lot of the parents do make a real sacrifice to come to the (MEI) school. It’s not just for the wealthy,” said Dalton.
Fassbender agreed, adding that both public and private systems offer the same basic education.
“We don’t see it as taking resources away. It’s a choice for parents. The province has supported the philosophy that parents should have a choice. We’ve tried to find a balance between adequate support for the independent system, not at the expense of the public,” said Fassbender.
When it came to quality of instruction at MEI, Dalton found that MEI was “really keeping up with the times, and giving top quality education.”
“I was really impressed with the innovation as far as education, the instruction, the engagement of the students, the parents, and the community,” he said.
The faith-based Mennonite Educational Institute complex consists of an elementary, middle and high school serving nearly 1,400 students.