It’s probably fair to say that most parents, at some time or another, have questioned whether their child’s school was right for them. Many feel despair at public schools, and wonder if their child would perhaps fare better in a private school. In fairness, there are negatives and positives for both, and often the decision rests not only on whether one particular educational system is right, but is more about finding a school that meets your (and your child’s) needs.
Do your research.
In many parents’ minds, private school equates to better results and a higher standard of education. However, this is not necessarily the case. Although there is some evidence to suggest that private school students do perform better, it’s not conclusive, and doesn’t factor in other considerations. There are fantastic and appalling schools in both sectors, so before you make any decisions, arm yourself with as much information as possible, paying close attention to your child’s individual and personal requirements. Here is just a handful of the pertinent questions you will need to consider before deciding on the best school for your child:
- Does your child have any special needs?
- Are they are gifted, or particularly talented, and would perhaps benefit from a school that could help nurture their talent?
- Do you have any specialized requirements, such as school with an emphasis on a particular religious belief?
- Do you work long hours and need established after-school and summer-school programs?
- How far are you willing to travel, and what transport connections are there?
- How do private and public schools in the area compare with regards to results?
- Can you afford tuition fees?
On average, private schools have smaller classes than their public school counterparts, with a ratio of teachers to students significantly higher than public schools. This gives private schools a more close-knit feel, which means that children are less likely to get lost within the school system, subsequently allowing for any issues or problems to be identified quickly. Private schools are not governed by the state, and as such, are less bound by constraints and bureaucracy. This means that they can choose where they spend their funds (school books and computers are usually of a higher standard), and allows the school to be flexible with curricula, giving teaching staff far greater autonomy in deciding what should be taught. Although, conversely, this freedom could actually lead to a lack of diversity in subjects offered.
Although a more intimate learning environment can offer irrefutable positives, it doesn’t encourage diversity: fewer children means less choice in clubs or activities. Furthermore, the tuition costs involved with a private education does mean that it is not economically viable for everyone, and as a result, the student body is less diverse, with a limited range of backgrounds and walks of life; public schools tend to be more culturally eclectic. Similarly, the admission process is highly selective, with the school picking and choosing who they want to attend; this can also impact on the diversity of the students attending, especially if the school is specialized. Public schools, on the other hand, are required by law to accept all children living within predetermined boundaries.
The Demands of School Life
Competition to be the best (both academically and across all other arenas) within private schools is rife, with immense pressure for all students to perform well, at everything. Although some may argue that this gives children the incentive they need to be successful, it also creates a stressful, demanding atmosphere that not all children will respond well to.
Because private schools are independent of the state, they need to raise their own funds, which usually occurs through tuition fees, and fund-raising events. This means that private school students (and their parents) often have extremely full social calendars, which is either positive or negative, depending on your viewpoint.
Private establishments are more likely to offer after-school, and summer programs for students. This is important for working families that are unable to take time off during school vacation, or have a job where the hours are irregular. However, public schools have a much better transport network to get students to and from school, which is often lacking with private schools.
Children with Special Requirements
Private schools are less likely to offer special help and guidance to talented children, with larger public schools more able to support and encourage gifted students. In a similar vein, private schools are under no obligation to follow state law concerning special-needs children, and as such, are not required to make any alternative or additional provisions for them.
Although there are undoubted positives for both systems, there doesn’t seem to be any real evidence to suggest that either one is better; they’re just different. Therefore, make sure you put the research in: draw up a shortlist of prospective schools in your area and then visit each one, and ask questions that are important and relevant to you. This will give you a real sense of what they are trying to achieve, and whether it is right for you and your child.