Independent school
An independent school is a school that is independent in its finances and governance; it is not dependent upon national
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

 or local government
Local government
Local government refers collectively to administrative authorities over areas that are smaller than a state.The term is used to contrast with offices at nation-state level, which are referred to as the central government, national government, or federal government...

 for financing its operations, nor reliant on taxpayer contributions, and is instead funded by a combination of tuition charges, gifts, and in some cases the investment yield of an endowment
Financial endowment
A financial endowment is a transfer of money or property donated to an institution. The total value of an institution's investments is often referred to as the institution's endowment and is typically organized as a public charity, private foundation, or trust....

. It is governed by a board of directors that is elected by an independent means and a system of governance that ensures its independent operation. It may receive government funds. However, its board must be independent.

The terms independent school and private school
Private school
Private schools, also known as independent schools or nonstate schools, are not administered by local, state or national governments; thus, they retain the right to select their students and are funded in whole or in part by charging their students' tuition, rather than relying on mandatory...

are often synonyms in popular usage outside the United Kingdom. Independent schools may have a religious affiliation, but the more precise usage of the term excludes parochial and other schools if there is a financial dependence upon, or governance subordinate to, outside organizations. These definitions generally apply equally to primary education
Primary education
A primary school is an institution in which children receive the first stage of compulsory education known as primary or elementary education. Primary school is the preferred term in the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth Nations, and in most publications of the United Nations Educational,...

, secondary education
Secondary education
Secondary education is the stage of education following primary education. Secondary education includes the final stage of compulsory education and in many countries it is entirely compulsory. The next stage of education is usually college or university...

, and tertiary education
Tertiary education
Tertiary education, also referred to as third stage, third level, and post-secondary education, is the educational level following the completion of a school providing a secondary education, such as a high school, secondary school, university-preparatory school...



In Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, independent or private schools are the fastest growing education sector, and over 85% of them have a religious or church affiliation. In 2009, there were 1,022 independent schools catering for around 500,000 students in Australia. Some independent schools are prestigious and enrolment highly sought after, with tuition fees to match, however since the 1980s the number of low-fee schools catering for 'average' Australians, and in some cases without any religious affiliation, has increased significantly. Independent schools in Australia receive approximately 75% of Federal Government school educational funding.

Independent schools in Australia make up nearly 15% of total enrolments while Catholic schools, which usually have lower fees, also make up a sizeable proportion (18%) and are usually regarded as a school sector of their own within the broad category of independent schools (some independent schools are affiliated with Catholic religious orders). Enrolments in non-government schools has been growing steadily at the expense of enrolments in government schools which have seen their enrolment share reduce from 78% to 67% since 1970.

Australian independent schools differ slightly from those in the United States as the Australian Government provides funding to all schools including independent schools using a 'needs-based' funding scheme based on a Socio-Economic Status (SES) score. The school's SES score is derived by selecting a sample of parent's addresses and mapping these to a Census Collector District from the Australian Bureau of Statistics
Australian Bureau of Statistics
The Australian Bureau of Statistics is Australia's national statistical agency. It was created as the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics on 8 December 1905, when the Census and Statistics Act 1905 was given Royal assent. It had its beginnings in section 51 of the Constitution of Australia...

 Census. The household income and education data are then used to derive an SES score for each school, which places it on a sliding scale of funding entitlement. On average, funding granted to an independent school is 47% of that required to operate a government school, the residual being made up by tuition fees paid by parents.


In Canada "independent schools" refers to elementary and secondary schools that follow provincial educational requirements but are not managed by the ministry; the term "independent" is usually used to describe not-for-profit schools. In some provinces, independent schools are regulated by the Independent School Act and must offer curriculum prescribed by the provincial government. Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

 has the most independent schools in Canada. Some of these include Ridley College
Ridley College
Ridley College is a co-educational boarding and day university-preparatory school located in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, 20 miles from Niagara Falls...

, Havergal College
Havergal College
Havergal College is an independent boarding and day school for girls from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.Named for English hymn composer, author and humanitarian Frances Ridley Havergal, the school was founded in 1894 by a group of men led by The Honourable H...

, Crescent School, and St. Andrew's College.

Many independent schools in Canada meet National Standards and are accredited by a national not-for-profit organization called Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS).

Columbia International College
Columbia International College
Columbia International College is the largest private boarding preparatory school in Canada, with an enrollment of more than 1,700 students from over 70 countries in the world. The school is located in Hamilton, Ontario, in the residential neighborhood of Westdale, near McMaster University and...

 is an independent boarding school in Canada.

Robert Land Academy
Robert Land Academy
Robert Land Academy is Canada's only non-university level military academy. Located in the former township of Gainsborough on the north shores of the Welland River five kilometres west of the hamlet of Wellandport in West Lincoln, Ontario, the Academy began to accept students in 1978.The Academy...

 in Wellandport, Ontario is Canada's only independent military style school for boys in grades 6 through 12.


In The Netherlands
Education in the Netherlands
Education in the Netherlands is characterized by division: education is orientated toward the needs and background of the pupil. Education is divided over schools for different age groups, some of which are divided in streams for different educational levels...

 over two-thirds of state-funded schools operate autonomously, with many of these schools being linked to faith groups. The Programme for International Student Assessment
Programme for International Student Assessment
The Programme for International Student Assessment is a worldwide evaluation in OECD member countries of 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance, performed first in 2000 and repeated every three years...

, coordinated by the OECD, ranks the education in the Netherlands as the 9th best in the world as of 2008, being significantly higher than the OECD average.

The Dutch constitution allows faith-based schools to be government-funded. The Christian political party (Anti-Revolutionaries) won equality in funding for their education, by agreeing upon general voting in exchange in the so called Schoolstrijd ("School Struggle"). The outcome of the debate is that schools in the Netherlands are mostly state funded whilst run independently.


In Sweden, pupils are free to choose a private school and the private school gets paid the same amount as municipal schools. Over 10% of Swedish pupils were enrolled in private schools in 2008. Sweden is known for this school voucher model.

Prior to the 1990s there were only a handful of independent schools in Sweden, mostly tuition-funded boarding school
Boarding school
A boarding school is a school where some or all pupils study and live during the school year with their fellow students and possibly teachers and/or administrators. The word 'boarding' is used in the sense of "bed and board," i.e., lodging and meals...

s. 1992 saw the introduction of a system of education voucher
Education voucher
A school voucher, also called an education voucher, is a certificate issued by the government, which parents can apply toward tuition at a private school , rather than at the state school to which their child is assigned...

s, making Sweden one of the first to follow the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

' model. Schools can be run by charity groups or for-profit companies, and anyone can start one. "Free schools", as they're called, are funded with public money from the local municipality
Municipalities of Sweden
The municipalities of Sweden are the local government entities of Sweden. The current 290 municipalities are organized into 21 counties...

 (kommun) and are similar to charter school
Charter school
Charter schools are primary or secondary schools that receive public money but are not subject to some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each school's charter...

s in the United States or academies in the United Kingdom. Free schools and public schools both receive money from the municipality for every pupil they have enrolled. Economic differences throughout Sweden directly affect how much money each municipality provides per pupil, by as much as 50000 SEK (7150USD, 4375GPB). As of 2008, more than 10% of Swedish pupils were enrolled in free schools. This model has been promoted in the Op-ED section of the New York Times, by the conservative Pacific Research Institute
Pacific Research Institute
The Pacific Research Institute , or officially the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, is a California-based free-market think tank founded in 1979 whose stated vision is the promotion of "the principles of individual freedom and personal responsibility"...


Sweden's implementation of free schools is promoted by economic and governmental figures with the words 'Sweden is a world leader in free-market education'. Per Unckel
Per Unckel
Per Carl Gustav Unckel was a Swedish former Moderate Party politician and at the time of his death the Governor of Stockholm County....

, Governor of Stockholm and former Minister of Education, summarizes the advantages of Swedish system "Education is so important that you can’t just leave it to one producer. Because we know from monopoly systems that they do not fulfill all wishes".

The system is especially popular among right-wing voters in large cities, and has even expanded overseas. Criticism has been expressed that this reform has led to a large number of fundamentalistic religious schools, and that the system results in increased segregation. Some municipal assemblies, for example Täby Municipality
Täby Municipality
Täby Municipality is a municipality north of Stockholm in Stockholm County in east central Sweden. Its seat is located in the town of Täby...

, have sold public schools to private persons, for example the head of the school, for a much lower price than what a school chain would have paid on the open market.

Profit opportunities in education (from public money), but more specifically, education's deregulation in Sweden, contrasts its 20th century socialist trends and history. These two aspects are utilized as economic, social, and ideological marketing levers for claims about the benefits of independent schools in Sweden (see, ideological theory of Alain Badiou
Alain Badiou
Alain Badiou is a French philosopher, professor at European Graduate School, formerly chair of Philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure . Along with Giorgio Agamben and Slavoj Žižek, Badiou is a prominent figure in an anti-postmodern strand of continental philosophy...

). In addition to real public support (and dislike), the desire to promulgate the constituted and constituent ideology deregulation opportunities (and profit making) support claims that the Swedish system is popular.

Two large independent Swedish school chains are Internationella Engelska Skolan
Internationella Engelska Skolan
Internationella Engelska Skolan , or the International English School is a Swedish corporation that consists of several Independent schools . IES was founded in 1993. by Barbara Bergström, an American by origin and a science teacher by profession. She is still the sole owner of the company and its...

 and Kunskapsskolan
Kunskapsskolan is a Swedish school that provides education for students from grades 6 to 9 in elementary school. They also offer a gymnasium schools for grades 10 to 12 in different areas of Sweden...

 (“Knowledge Schools”), which is the biggest school chain. Kunskapsskolan offers 30 schools and a web-based environment, has 700 employees, and teaches nearly 10,000 pupils.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, independent education has grown continually for the past twenty years. In England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 and Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

 but not in Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, the more prestigious independent schools are known as "public schools", sometimes categorised as major and minor public schools. Although some may regard membership of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference
Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference
The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference is an association of the headmasters or headmistressess of 243 leading day and boarding independent schools in the United Kingdom, Crown Dependencies and the Republic of Ireland...

 as what defines a school as a public school (though this includes many independent grammar school
Grammar school
A grammar school is one of several different types of school in the history of education in the United Kingdom and some other English-speaking countries, originally a school teaching classical languages but more recently an academically-oriented secondary school.The original purpose of mediaeval...

s), the term refers to the schools being for the public and controlled by a board of governors drawn from the public.

In Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, those schools which are not state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

-funded are known as independent or private schools. In some cases they are also Merchant's Schools, e.g. in Edinburgh. Independent schools may also be specialist or special schools - such as some music schools, Montessori or Rudolph Steiner, or schools for those with special needs.

Scottish independent schools currently educate over 32,000 students, and employ approximately 3,000 teachers.

United States

Independent schools in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 educate a tiny fraction of the school-age population (slightly over 1% of the entire school-age population, and only around 10% of the 10% of students who go to private school
Private school
Private schools, also known as independent schools or nonstate schools, are not administered by local, state or national governments; thus, they retain the right to select their students and are funded in whole or in part by charging their students' tuition, rather than relying on mandatory...

s). The essential distinction between independent schools and other private schools is self-governance and financial independence, i.e., independent schools own, govern, and finance themselves. In contrast, public schools are funded and governed by local and state governments, and most parochial school
Parochial school
A parochial school is a school that provides religious education in addition to conventional education. In a narrower sense, a parochial school is a Christian grammar school or high school which is part of, and run by, a parish.-United Kingdom:...

s are owned, governed, and financed by religious institutions such as a diocese or parish. Independent schools may be affiliated with a particular religion or denomination; however, unlike parochial schools, independent schools are self-owned and governed by independent boards of trustees. While independent schools are not subject to significant government oversight or regulation, they are accredited
Educational accreditation
Educational accreditation is a type of quality assurance process under which services and operations of educational institutions or programs are evaluated by an external body to determine if applicable standards are met...

 by the same six regional accreditation agencies
Regional accreditation
Regional accreditation is a term used in the United States to refer to educational accreditation conducted by any of several accreditation bodies established to serve six defined geographic areas of the country for accreditation of schools, colleges, and universities...

 that accredit public schools. The National Association of Independent Schools
National Association of Independent Schools
The National Association of Independent Schools is a U.S.-based membership organization for private, nonprofit, K-12 schools. Founded in 1963, NAIS represents independent schools and associations in the United States, including day, boarding, and day/boarding schools; elementary and secondary...

 (NAIS) is a membership organization of American pre-college independent schools.

The NAIS provides this definition of an Independent School:

Independent schools are 501(c)3 nonprofit corporate entities, independent in governance and finance, meaning:
  1. Independent schools "own themselves" (as opposed to public schools owned by the government or parochial schools owned by the church) and govern themselves, typically with a self-perpetuating board of trustees that performs fiduciary duties of oversight and strategic duties of funding and setting the direction and vision of the enterprise, and by delegating day to day operations entirely to the head of school.
  2. Independent schools finance themselves (as opposed to public schools funded through the government and parochial schools subsidized by the church), largely through charging tuition, fund raising, and income from endowment.

Independence is the unique characteristic of this segment of the education industry, offering schools four freedoms that contribute to their success: the freedom to define their own unique missions; the freedom to admit and keep only those students well-matched to the mission; the freedom to define the qualifications for high quality teachers; and the freedom to determine on their own what to teach and how to assess student achievement and progress.

In the United States, there are more independent colleges and universities
Private university
Private universities are universities not operated by governments, although many receive public subsidies, especially in the form of tax breaks and public student loans and grants. Depending on their location, private universities may be subject to government regulation. Private universities are...

 than public universities, although public universities enroll more total students. The membership organization for independent tertiary education
Tertiary education
Tertiary education, also referred to as third stage, third level, and post-secondary education, is the educational level following the completion of a school providing a secondary education, such as a high school, secondary school, university-preparatory school...

 institutions is the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
Founded in 1976, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities is an organization of private US colleges and universities...


Further reading

  • Hein, David (4 January 2004). What Has Happened to Episcopal Schools? The Living Church, 228, no. 1, 21-22.
  • Windrush School.

External links

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