Private Vs Public
School: Which Is Best?
Thinking of sending your kids to a private school? If you’re on the fence about government/public vs private education, you need to make your mind up, quick smart. Waitlists for some sought-after private schools can extend for up to a decade.
Comedian and columnist Catherine Deveny has strong views on the subject. She thinks parents should stop searching for “some fantasy school” and instead, “send ‘em to the local [school] and stop trying to give your perfect child that perfect trajectory into the perfect life.”
“What is best for kids is not the idyllic school environment as perceived by their anxious, hovering parents,” she said in a recent column.
“Kids just want a place to play chasey, some teachers who know their name, and a few mates they can laugh and swap lunches with. Most kids don't give a rat's about the improvised music workshops, organic gardens and interpretative dance classes they do at school!”
That’s not everyone’s view, of course, and the right school choice for one child will likely be different to his best friend, depending on a range of factors. So, here are a few things to consider as your weigh up your options.
The first (and often most pertinent) factor to consider is your finances. To attend a government school is virtually free, save for the costs of uniform, books, stationery and the odd school excursion – around $500 per year. Private school fees start at around $3,000 per year at the very lowest end of the spectrum, up to $15,000+ at the top end.
At a faith-based private school, the teachers are likely to reflect and teach relevant religious values. That’s not enough to guarantee your kids’ a quality education, however. “What I saw in the private system were some teachers who I suspected had been chosen for their commitment to the school's religious values, which did not translate into good teaching,” parent Cathy Sherry reveals to SMH. “Enforcing the values and standards of the school certainly took up an inordinate amount of time and energy, at the expense of real academic achievement.” And who could forget the experienced, much-loved Queensland teacher who was fired from a Christian college for being pregnant and unmarried?
While both public and private schools will arrange regular extracurricular activities for students, those offered at private schools are often more extensive and expensive than at public schools. Think overnight trips to Canberra to visit Parliament House, and you start to get an idea of the scale and expense of private school excursions! On the plus side, your children may gain broader experiences with different people, cultures and communities – but on the downside, you need to be prepared to pay handsomely for it.
It’s not surprising that research published in The Australian Economic Review in 2011 (based on NAPLAN results) found that private schools produce better results than government schools. But when you consider that on the whole, private schools generally take fewer students with special needs, fewer indigenous students and fewer students whose first language is not English than their government counterparts, it’s no wonder their academic record is stronger.
Where you decide to send your children is obviously a big decision and one of the most important factors to consider is that you and your partner are on the same page. Adds Sherry, “If a child comes from a deeply dysfunctional home, no school – private or public – can fix that… and if a child comes from a family that is coping or thriving, with parents who value education, they are probably going to be fine, no matter where they go to school.”