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A Study of the Roles of Interest Groups and the Courts in Canadian Educational Policy Development



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Current educational policy theory recognizes two legitimate levels of educational decision-making, provincial ministries/departments of education and local school boards. The purpose of this thesis was to investigate whether a new, third level (i.e., a judicial level) of educational policy-making is evolving in Canada More specifically, the thesis examines the contemporary educational policy-making context in order to ascertain if the nature of educational policy-making structures, changes in the nature and activity of educational interest groups, and changes in the roles and philosophy of the Canadian judiciary may, in conjunction, be creating an unrecognized level of educational policy-making in this country. In addition, the thesis seeks to examine the possible implications of such an addition to the educational policy equation. Conceptually, the thesis is divided into three parts: (a) a review of the literature concerning interest groups, the Canadian courts, and educational policy-making, and the relationships which exist among these phenomena; (b) a questionnaire survey polling the perceptions of knowledgeable professionals concerning these phenomena and their relationships; and, (c) intensive interviews of 24 individuals representing interest groups and decision-making bodies which have been involved in educational policy litigation. Data gathered in the study supported perceptions found in the literature which suggested: (a) that the educational policy process is becoming increasingly centralized and less accessible to input from groups representing special interests; (b) that interest groups are becoming more numerous, more aggressive and more likely to use litigation as a method of influencing educational policy; and, (c) that the courts are adopting a more quasi-legislative role and a more liberal philosophy, primarily, but not exclusively, as a result of the implementation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In conjunction, these factors appear to set the stage for significant judicial decisions which could fundamentally alter traditional conceptions of legitimate, accountable, educational policy-making. Of particular interest is the possible leveling, or nationalizing, effect of judicial decisions in the constitutionally sensitive area of educational policy.



Education Administration, policy, interest groups



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Educational Administration


Educational Administration


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