Back to School and Public Education

The following survey was conducted by Abacus Data on behalf of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, from August 16th to 19th 2021. The survey was conducted online with a sample of n=2,000 general population adults in Canada. Additional reporting information can be found here.

As back to school begins for students across Canada now is a good opportunity to reflect on public education in Canada- both the importance of equitable access to public education and how a strong public education system can have a positive impact for all of us.

Last month we conducted a survey on behalf of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF/FCE) on public support for public education, and how public education can work to build a better Canada. Here’s what we found.

First, ensuring all children have equitable access to quality publicly funded public education is important for nearly all Canadians, but few think this is currently a reality.

Access to public education appears to be one of those issues that unite Canadians. We find that 95% of respondents believe it’s important that all children and youth have access to high-quality publicly funded national guidelines. With a number this high, it’s clear that public education is a priority for almost all of us, making it one of those rare issues that unite Canadians regardless of age, region or vote.

But for an issue that is important to so many Canadians, there is still work to be done. Nearly the same number (83%) are concerned the current state of equitable access to public education across Canada.

Next, we find that Canadians aren’t just prioritizing public education because of the current realities, but because it’s part of our national identity. When we think of institutions that are quintessentially Canadian health care might be one that comes to mind. But for many of us public education is also at the top of that list.

In the same survey, we found that 89% consider high-quality publicly funded education to be part of our Canadian identity.

Public education is linked to our national identity in many ways. For one, it’s important for our quality of life. Nearly all respondents (94%) agree with the statement ‘high quality publicly funded education is important for our quality of life’.

For many of us, public education is part of who we are as Canadians and has an impact on the quality of lives we lead.

Finally, we find support for public education because of its ability to repair social cracks. During the pandemic, many students across Canada were unable to access in-person learning. But this wasn’t the only thing children and youth were missing out on.

The experience through the pandemic taught us just how many other services and supports our public education system delivers, from the mental health and social development supports provided through in-person interactions, and extra-curricular programs like breakfast programs. It is through the lessons taught by the pandemic perhaps, that Canadians see the value in public education beyond education itself, and as a way to provide social supports.

In our survey we found 91% of respondents say providing all children and youth in Canada with equitable access to quality K-12 public education can help reduce poverty in Canada over the long term.


Our research shows a strong majority of Canadians agree that equitable access to public education is so important to our identity, to our quality of life, and to our future. But upon reflecting on this year and beyond, many are concerned that this isn’t the reality for all children and youth in Canada.

At a time when many children and youth are heading back to school for the first time in a while, it’s clear that we want to ensure all children and youth have equal opportunities to access public education.

Nearly all Canadians see public education as something that is important for all of us- it’s an important pillar of our collective identity, crucial support for those living in poverty and an institution to invest in and build a better Canada for us all.


The following survey was conducted by Abacus Data on behalf of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. The survey was conducted from August 16th to 19th with a sample of n=2,000 general population adults in Canada.

A random sample of n=2,505 panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are typically double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.17%, 19 times out of 20.

The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

Abacus Data follows the CRIC Public Opinion Research Standards and Disclosure Requirements that can be found here:


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