Education is a vital component for the growth and success of Britons, but with a wide range of schools to choose from, it is no easy task for parents to make the choice of school for their children. The choice becomes more difficult when the school system is categorized into two types, private and state. There is no doubt that private school has certainly some advantages over state schools and state schools are outperformed by private schools in A level and GCSE results. But having said that, neither all the private schools are best in education quality nor all the state schools are poor. Besides weighing the performance of public and private schools a parent has to take into account a lot of factors such as family income, ethnicity, religious practice, proficiency of English language and the skill and experience of teachers before deciding upon a school for his child. Before making a choice of school, it is important to take a look at the difference between private and public schools, their advantages and disadvantages and opinion of people in general about them.
Private and Public School
The school system in the UK is little complicated. Due to a host of changes having taken place in last 50 years in the education system of the UK, it has become little confusing for both foreigners as well as residents. In the UK, the school system is divided into two types - State School and Private School. State school is where education is administered free of charge. Their funding comes from either central government or local education authority. State schools are divided into the three based on how they are run:
- Schools run independently under the influence of their governors.
- Schools run under the rules and regulations of local authorities.
- Schools run on the funding by businesses and private donors.
On the other hand, education is a paid affair in private schools. They either raise their funds autonomously or by charging students fees of an exorbitant amount. Interestingly, private schools in Great Britain are called public schools or independent schools. Years ago education was a venture of the rich and the poor people used to go to schools run by charitable organizations. As the charity used to come from public, the schools were referred as public schools. Over a period of time, many public schools started doing very well and became famous and gradually they converted into private schools though the British continued to address them as public schools. About 92% children in the UK go to State schools and the remaining 8% to private schools (BBC Home). Private school education is pretty expensive, the average annual fee hovering between £10,000 and £13,000. Average cost of studying in private boarding school is about £18,828 annually. Public schools can be of three types - full boarding or residential wherein students reside in the hostel throughout the academic year save for holidays, normal wherein students return home every day and mixed with some students going home every weekend and the rest staying.
Advantages of Private Schools
Only about 7% of the children in the UK go to private schools, yet about 45% of them get admission in the prestigious universities of the UK. Some of the illustrious public personalities including Winston Churchill, Lord Byron, current Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg all have studied in elite private schools of Britain such as Harrow, St. Paul's and Eton. Private schools have certain advantages over public school. They are as follows:
- Results & Religion
Students studying in private schools also score good marks compared to that of State schools. Reputed public schools of the UK such as Harrow, Winchester and Eton always top the school league table with outstanding results. That explains why so many students from private schools go to Oxbridge, one of the most prestigious universities of the UK. Some parents send their children to a private school because of it being associated with a particular denomination so that their children attend church congregation regularly. But since most of the private schools these days hold chapel service on a regular basis, hardly few students attend public schools for religious reasons.
- Extra-curricular Activities
There are a lot of private schools offering a broad range of sport, music and theatrical activities, sometimes with international trips to give the pupils an exposure to global culture and frequent visits to theatres and museums. These trips are, however, too expensive to pinch pocket, but parents with substantial fortune are willing to shell out that amount to give their children varied cultural experience.
Disadvantages of Private Schools
There are many disadvantages to private schools. Firstly, private schools are too expensive with some public schools charging up to £20,000 annually (Mary Moor). Some grants are awarded to bright students but the competition is very intense. It is not surprising that only 6% people in the UK can afford to bear the expense. Further, private schools have a class culture. Students who study in private schools usually belong to upper middle class or wealthy families. Hence it is important for a student to come from the right class or else he or she might feel out of the place as class system in Great Britain is still quite in vogue. Because of this elitism, private school students often are labeled as 'toffs' and subjected to bullying on their way home as their uniforms are easily identifiable (Oxbridge Essays). Private schools are autonomous and run by their own rules and policies. So they can easily deny admission to someone without explanation and expel students on small reasons.
Advantages of State Schools
Since states schools are funded by local authorities and central government, education there is easily affordable. Many people feel that private schools offer education of better quality than that of state schools, but studies show that is not true always because the quality of education varies from one school to another. Therefore, it is important to take a tour in the school and meet the teaching staff so as to get an idea about the school faculty and the overall ambiance. In state schools, academic curriculum and educational objectives are determined in compliance with the directives of the government and state requirements. But private schools are free to make their own curriculum which could prove to be an advantage or disadvantage for students, depending on personal choice. State schools unlike private schools cannot deny admission to any student nor can expel a student on small grounds. Most of the state schools offer bus service for students which helps a lot to parents who have problem picking and dropping their children to schools. The students in state schools come from different backgrounds, affluent and poor and hence students get to interact with classmates of diverse social climes. Teachers in state schools are all certified teachers meaning they have the certification required by the state to teach in schools but it is not mandatory for the teachers of private schools to be state certified which often translates into teachers not having proper credentials and expertise for teaching the subject.
Disadvantages of State Schools
In the view of all the advantages and disadvantages of private and state schools, I think the choice for both types of schools could be debatable. States schools have few advantages over private schools and private schools have few advantages over state schools. The feedback and opinion of people regarding both the type of schools vary from person to person. Author and columnist George Monbiot writes in an article on the Guardian, “British private schools create a class culture of a kind unknown in the rest of Europe" (George Monbiot). Having studied in a private boarding school himself, he criticizes the system of private school education harshly and his comment reveals how much impact his class oriented education has left on his mind, “I know I will spend the rest of my life fighting its effects.” But there are many who believe that private schools give better start in life and wish their parents could afford to send them to private schools. While making a choice between private and state schools, it is very important for the parents to review the qualifications and the behaviors of the teachers because children would learn and nurture their knowledge in the teachers’ supervision only. G. Page, a mother has detailed her experience of sending her children to private schools in the UK on her hub page criticizing the class distinction and snobbery existing in the school environment. She now sends her children to state schools because she wants her children to grow up in a mix environment.
Education is a very important factor for the growth and success of children. The age-old debate about private and state school makes it more difficult for the parents to decide a school for their wards. Private school is autonomous and self-funded and state schools are government run and dependent on state funding. Both types of schools have lots of advantages and disadvantages in terms of cost, class size, teachers, quality of education and other factors. Therefore, it is important to carefully note the advantages and disadvantages of both the types of schools before making a choice. It is wrong to conclude that private schools are good because they are expensive and state schools are bad because they are cheaper. After all, the quality of a school is not defined by how much money is spent after the management of the school; it is defined by the individual environment, teaching faculty and curriculum of the school.
"Private School vs. State School." Oxbridge Essays. 2011. Retrieved on 24th May 2013 from <http://www.oxbridgeessays.com/blog/private-school-vs-state-school-704/>
"State school vs. Private school - which is better?." BBC Home. May 2013 Retrieved on 24th May 2013 from <http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/studentlife/debate/2008/42_state_vs_private_school.shtml>
Monbiot, George. “Only class war on public schools can rid us of this unhinged ruling class." January 2008. Retrieved on 24th May 2013 from <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jan/22/publicschools.publicservices>
Page, G."Public vs. Private Schools - America and England." Retrieved on 24th May 2013 from <http://gpage.hubpages.com/hub/PUBLIC-VS-PRIVATE-SCHOOLS>
"Private versus public. “Retrieved on 24th May 2013 from <http://www.greatschools.org/find-a-school/defining-your-ideal/59-private-vs-public-schools.gs>
Moor, Mary. "Private schools in the UK: Overview." Langust. Retrieved on 24th May 2013 from<http://www.langust.ru/review/private.shtml>