Scholarly Considerations

Parents in some countries may have to think about if they’ll send their child to a private school or a public school. One question parents have to ask themselves is if private school is worth it or whether they should support public education.

Received wisdom is something nearly everyone believes to be true, but usually is not.

The received wisdom is that private schools provide better education. In Australia, where I’m from, this is certainly true for primary schools. According to a report in The Australian newspaper, seven of the top ten schools were non-government schools. But, the top ten high schools were all government schools. In the top hundred, a few government schools might be doing well, but the non-government, or private schools, are doing a little better. Of course, all schools receive some government money. Non-government schools located in wealthier areas receive less.

Even though the UK has a long history of private schools, confusingly called public schools, enrollment is a bit lower. Less than 10% of British pupils attend some form of private school. The top ten schools in a Financial Times list were all private schools except one grammar school. Going through the list of the top 150 shows there are more independent schools. State schools are mostly represented by the selective grammar schools.

In the US, the proportion of students going to private schools is about the same as in the UK. But there is a difference. Among the top ten US schools, most are public schools. But there are many different types of public schools in the US. Some are run by local governments, some schools take students from different areas and there are also charter schools, which receive less money but have more freedom. So what’s the difference between the US and the UK and Australia?

If you cater to someone, you provide special treatment to them. ‘The cruise catered to families, with lots of activities for kids.’

Interestingly, the US has a strong history of public schooling going back to the 19th century. But, the public nature of the US education system is quite decentralized with much of the funding coming from the districts. Australia and the UK are a bit more centralized. Schools which can cater to students often do better. They can invest in better staff or more teachers, better equipment and books. But, public schools in wealthier areas are often better funded because wealthier people can contribute more money.

There is no easy solution. Making all schools the same ignores the fact that students and teachers are different. But, it seems unfair that the advantages of an education tend to cluster where the wealth is.

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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Parents in some countries have to think about if they want their child to go to private school or public school. Is private school worth it or should they support public education?

Received wisdom is something nearly everyone believes to be true, but usually is not.

The received wisdom is that private schools provide better education. In Australia this is true for primary schools. According to a report in The Australian newspaper, seven of the top ten schools were non-government schools. But, the top ten high schools were all government schools.

The UK has a long history of private schools, confusingly called public schools, but enrollment is lower. Less than 10% of British pupils go to private school. The top ten schools in a Financial Times list were all private schools except one grammar school.

In the US, the proportion of students going to private schools is about the same as in the UK. But there is a difference. Among the top ten US schools, most are public schools. So what’s the difference between the US and the UK and Australia?

Interestingly, the US has a strong history of public schooling going back to the 19th century. But, the public nature of the US education system is decentralized with much of the funding coming from the districts. Australia and the UK are a bit more centralized. Schools which can meet the particular needs of students often do better. They can invest in better staff or more teachers, better equipment and books. But, public schools in wealthier areas are often better funded because wealthier people can contribute more money.

There is no easy solution. Making all schools the same ignores the fact that students and teachers are different. But, it seems unfair that the advantages of an education tend to cluster where the wealth is.

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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When you’re a parent – at least in some countries – you start to ask yourself whether to send your child to a private school or a public school. The soul-searching – or perhaps that should be school-searching – starts early. Some of the more prestigious schools have long waiting lists so parents want to get their children on as early as possible, even while the kids are still in diapers, to ensure they stand a chance. The question is not only whether it’s worth it but whether parents should try to support public education.

Received wisdom is something nearly everyone believes to be true, but usually is not.

The received wisdom is that private schools provide better education. In Australia, where I’m from, this is certainly true…when we’re talking about primary schools. According to a report in The Australian newspaper seven of the top ten schools were non-government schools. In contrast, the top ten high schools were all government schools. Presbyterian Ladies’ College, the most highly ranked private school came in 20th. However, scrolling through the schools in the top hundred reveals a rich vein of non-government schools. A few government schools might be rising to the top, but the non-government, or private schools, are averaging a little better. This may be the reason why enrolment in non-government schools has risen from about 20% of students in the 1970s to almost a third of students today. Perhaps it should be pointed out that all schools receive some government funding, though non-government schools located in wealthier areas receive a lot less.

Despite the UK’s long history of private schools, confusingly called public schools, and the prestige these institutions enjoy, enrollment is a bit lower. Less than 10% of British pupils attend some form of private school. The types of schools include faith based schools; so-called tutorial schools, which provide tuition for students above the compulsory schooling age; Steiner schools, Montessori schools and various schools from foreign countries. The top ten schools in a Financial Times list were all private schools except one grammar school. Going through the list of the top 150, shows that independent schools are overrepresented whereas the state schools are mostly represented by the selective grammar schools. Comprehensive schools – which provide schooling to students regardless of academic ability, appear less often.

In the US, the proportion of students going to private schools is about comparable to the proportion in the UK. The types include religious schools, ‘alternate’ schools, special needs schools and private military schools. However, the results are quite different. Among the top ten US schools, the majority are public schools, though the term ‘public’ in the US, includes ‘public’ schools which are mostly administered by local governments, ‘magnet’ schools, which draw students from more districts, and charter schools, which receive less funding but have a bit more freedom. So what’s the difference between the US and the UK and Australia?

If you cater to someone, you provide special treatment to them. ‘The cruise catered to families, with lots of activities for kids.’

Interestingly, for a country which tends to favour market economics, the US has an established history of public schooling going back to the 19th century. Private schooling, while older, mainly catered to religious minorities at first, special interest groups later. Yet, the public nature of the US education system remains quite decentralized with much of the funding coming from the districts. Australia and the UK are a bit more centralized. Schools which are freer to cater to students and thus foster talents tend to do better. They can invest in better staff or higher numbers of teachers, improved equipment and have well-stocked libraries. But these aims depend on the funds and the public system may hide a difference. Public schools in wealthier areas tend to be better funded because wealthier people can contribute more money. Some people have argued that this district based funding system can mean ‘geography is destiny.’ Where you are born determines your future success through the type of schooling available.

The sad truth is that there is no easy solution. Making all schools the same overlooks the fact that students and teachers are different. Yet at the same time, it seems unfair that the advantages of an education tend to cluster where the wealth is.

Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia

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