Caveat emptor: a Latin legal term for “let the buyer beware”
I was recently advised about a private school in the Greater Toronto Area that had its credit-granting authority revoked by the Ontario Ministry of Education (a list of revocations is available here). Meaning? Anyone we admitted with a required course credit from that school may have to have their admission offer revoked. Staff are looking into it, but it raises once again the issue of private schools and university admission.
It’s easy to find stories in the news media about students that pay their tuition to a private school and get a credit (with a good grade that helps their admission chances), but don’t have to do any work or show up in class. I don’t know what was involved in the most recent cases, but presumably the school didn’t deliver the content as required by Ministry criteria. I assume that when students enrol in such places they must quickly realize that it’s unusually easy compared to a proper school, and so caveat emptor is the response when bad things follow, like an admission revocation. Or, are the students somehow fooled into thinking this is OK? It would be interesting to know.
For university admissions, we also look carefully at credits obtained from private schools, especially ones that we haven’t seen much before. Having said that, there are a number of very fine private schools with quite rigorous academics. So it is certainly not reasonable for us to lump them all together as unsuitable, so we continue to accept credits from private schools, as long as they are accredited by the Ministry of Education.
There are certain scenarios that get our attention. Often, it is a student in a regular public day-school who did a single course or two in a private school. Our AIF (Admission Information Form) asks applicants to explain why they took a course outside their regular school, so we look at that information. We also look to see if there is an unusual increase in marks. For example, maybe Grade 11 English was taken in regular school with a 65% average, and then the private school Grade 12 English appears with a 90% average. Sudden improvements like that raise questions in an applicant’s file, so we might start digging deeper. Or, maybe the student suddenly got much more motivated and is doing well. You never know at first glance, so we never leap to conclusions.
Anyways, private schools can be a useful route to accomplishing educational goals for a variety of reasons. Just “caveat emptor” and make sure you get a real credit at the end.