Declining Enrolment in the News -Again

West-side Vancouver parents in the news again on enrolment issues.  Over the last two years west-side parents, , Eric Mazi, Julee Kaye, Greg Lawrence (veterans of the Save QEA campaign), have argued hard to keep their small neighbourhood schools.  Part of their campaign has been to argue that the enrolment drop faced by VSB is not ‘real.’  Part of the attack of the enrolment drop has targeted private schools.  That is, Mazi and others have suggested that VSB is being out competed by the private sector and thus losing enrolment.  I have reviewed census data and school enrolment data for the past several years at several points over the past years and the thing is that private school drain thesis doesn’t hold water (for a previous comment click here).

In my February 2007 comment I concluded:

Based upon the BC Ministry of Education data we can infer that private schools in Vancouver have been able to pick up some students from the public system but the growth in the private sector can not be seen to have occurred totally at the expense of the public system.

Furthermore, declining enrolment is not just a local issue, it’s a national one.  Ultimately, the enrolment issue is a political question being fueled, in this instance, by parents who are working hard to ensure that their access to a privileged resource is maintained.

From the Vancouver Courier: ‘Activists’ question school enrolment information

Parents of Vancouver school students say the school district has misrepresented the reason for continuing drops in enrolment.

Enrolment fell by 250 students this year. Conventional wisdom suggests families are fleeing over-priced Vancouver properties for cheaper digs outside the city, but that argument isn’t borne out in statistics, according to Eric Mazzi, who calls that explanation a myth perpetuated by school boards.

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Update: Vancouver Sun Reporter, J. Steffenhagen picked up the courier story today. She adds the following comment:

This year’s enrolment has fallen by 250 students. The suggestion that families are leaving Vancouver because of high housing prices isn’t supported by statistics, according to parent Eric Mazzi. He says the school-aged population in the city is climbing while the Vancouver school district enrolments are plummeting.

Without the full data it is hard to comment effectively.  However, one thing that I wold be interested in learning is the reduction in international fee paying students and whether that is any part of the enrolment decline.

3 thoughts on “Declining Enrolment in the News -Again

  1. Charles, your posting contains an error in conveying the Courier’s story by stating we “argue that the enrolment drop faced by VSB is not ‘real.’” As a courtesy, I ask that you please read the Courier story and post a correction here in the next few days. [ED’s NOTE: the above posting links directly to the Courier article. Readers can check for themselves the veracity therein].

    The Courier story is about enrolment and the critical funding that goes with it. This is relevant to virtually all educational initiatives and issues, we are not “working hard to ensure … access to a privileged resource…” Are you aware your remarks are insulting and divisive? Would you like others to model your way of thinking? If so, we would assume that all of Charles Menzies’ activities are aimed to benefit UBC schools at the expense of everything else. That’s not only false thinking, but disappointing and counterproductive.

  2. Thanks for following the blog and reading the posting. You will note that i say that, and I quote: “Part of their campaign has been to argue that the enrolment drop faced by VSB is not ‘real.’ ” Note the single quotes to set ‘real’ apart from real.

    Allow me to apologize for not being clear enough. It is my reading of your argument that you are saying that there is no real drop in available school age children in the Vancouver area. And, you use the population ESTIMATES of BC Stats to support this claim. What you say is dropping is the number of these available students attending VSB. You furthermore critique the VSB assumption that declining enrolment in VSB simply reflects overall declining numbers of students You then point to assumed growth of the private school sector and suggest that VSB is losing the competition with the private sector.

    Please note that I am using ‘you’ to cover all of the other (former?) QEA parents quoted in the Courier article.

    I completely agree that a more careful analysis of census and enrolment data is required. What is problematic is when erstwhile researchers reference an estimate as a real data source, link it to commonly held assumptions, and then imply a causal relationship. That’s the message contained in the Courier article. If it’s not an argument that either you or the other quoted people made then your disagreement is not with me.

  3. Data are funny things. Eric used 1998 as a baseline and got a 2.4% increase in the age range of 5-17. If I used 2002 to 2008 as the range (2002 being the year that ‘choice’ was allowed in schools) I get a 2.5% decrease. What the data show is that the population estimates have varied year over year by between 1000 and 1700 in value. There is no smooth growth trend. What is shown is variability in the estimate over time. Depending upon what one wants to show we can select a different start point and end point, find the difference and then call it a trend. That’s not an effective approach.

    39 Vancouver 2000 T 66,037 572,619
    39 Vancouver 2001 T 66,795 581,013
    39 Vancouver 2002 T 68,807 586,728
    39 Vancouver 2003 T 68,479 592,830
    39 Vancouver 2004 T 67,947 598,410
    39 Vancouver 2005 T 67,991 604,353
    39 Vancouver 2006 T 68,191 612,632
    39 Vancouver 2007 T 68,035 623,866
    39 Vancouver 2008 T 67,211 629,905

    The BC stat’s are not census date. On this matter I am not ‘asserting’ anything, if you look on the BC Stats data page is is titled ‘estimates.’ http://www.bcstats.gov.bc.ca/data/pop/popstart.asp AND very often there are differences between the periodic national census data (which is supposed to a snap shot of everyone household at that particular time). The BC stats people make a range of projections based upon key data points such as the national census and post-census regional surveys. So, I make no assertion when I refer to these numbers as estimates, because that is what they are.

    That there is a discrepancy between these estimates and the sum of children enrolled in public and private schools is interesting, but not surprising.

    For example, the estimates are for 5-17 year olds. However, depending upon a child’s birth date, not every 5 year old is enrolled in kindergarten. In addition, while 17 is the cutoff on the estimate, one can find 18 year olds in the school system. Thus there are potential sources of error at both ends of this age category which make comparisons between the data sets problematic without some kind of manipulation to account for it.

    Also not clear is the extent that the BC stats population estimates include or exclude visitors -people staying for a short sojourn, but not planning to become landed immigrants. Does this have any impact on the numbers? Data related to this question can be found here: http://www.bcstats.gov.bc.ca/pubs/pr_mig.asp

    The long and short of it is that comparing these various data sets are fraught with problems. And, as Dawn has said below, this year’s drop is less than 0.5% of the overall enrollment; statistically speaking no change at all.

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