Public or private – which is the best school? It’s a question parents ask all the time. So what is the answer? Ask a different question. The reality in Australia, is there are good schools in ALL sectors – Government, Independent and Catholic. It is not always the case that the more you pay the better the outcome. It’s also not the case that public schools are the choice of last resort where you need to trade ‘good’ for ‘grounded’. The question we prefer parents consider is ‘which school will be right for my child?’
Parents, carers, grandparents, you just want what is best for the child or children in your life. Unfortunately, a combination of marketing, media and special interests in recent years have caused many of you to fear public education or to worry about how you will afford the ‘better’ private school fees. This has reached an extreme with parents even camping outside schools in order to get a place – the education of children in Australia should not be like securing the latest i-phone!
So, to help you in your quest for the ‘best school’, the following are some issues to consider when deciding on the right choice for your child’s education.
All my friends are going to private school….
The majority of Australians have been, and continue to be, educated in the public system. More students attend public primary schools than Catholic and Independent schools combined. Ditto secondary education.
According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2017, 65.6% of all students are educated in the Government (Public) system, with 34.4% in the Non-Government system (19.9% Catholic and 14.5% Independent). In spite of the breathless headlines these ratios haven’t really moved all that much since the mid-seventies!
You get a better result because you are paying….
Well not necessarily, and what is a ‘better result’ anyway? You can argue that some high fee schools should be getting good results because they get a high proportion of ‘good’ students – this applies to both public and private schools. Some public schools with a diverse range of students go above and beyond to produce great gains for the children that attend. Some private schools have been accused of coasting and underachieving for their students and there are many selective entry Government schools that could easily be mistaken for their Independent School cousins.
The point is, each school will be slightly different to the next regardless of the system. Some faith based schools, whether Catholic, Lutheran, Christian or Callithumpian will be more ‘religious’ than others. Some high fee schools will have an absolute academic focus, some will talk about the whole student. Some Government schools will be specialist or focus schools, some will be doing significant heavy lifting for the community they serve.
We want a school with people ‘like us’…. or do you?
We are lucky in Australia that all children are entitled to a publicly funded, secular, education at their local school. We live in a multi-cultural society and our public schools tend to reflect this diversity.
Community means everyone, not just the people we are familiar with – your child won’t have a problem with children who aren’t like them – it is more likely, that you, the adult will desire ‘people like us’ to make you feel more comfortable.
So don’t preclude a school because the students look different. Your child might be missing out on a rich learning environment and some fantastic life skills that will help them in an increasingly mobile, globally networked world where understanding and tolerance of others is vital.
Will it cost me an arm and a leg?
You don’t have to pay thousands of dollars for your child to receive a good education. Public schools are free and there are some wonderful low-fee private schools that will happily accept your child even if you aren’t Catholic, Lutheran, Christian or whatever faith base they represent. Home school and distance learning are also options.
Our advice is that whatever you choose you ensure it is affordable for your family. A stressed family is not a happy family! Here are some things to consider no matter which type of school you pick.
A scholarship is not a discount….
While we are talking about cost please don’t confuse scholarships with discounts. It is not about securing the best ‘deal’ or getting a bonus set of steak knives. Schools can generally tell when parents are simply shopping around and just like buying that pair of shoes on sale – if they don’t fit, they don’t fit, and simply end up being an expensive decision no matter how good a deal they seemed at the time!
But what if I make the wrong choice?
We know that it’s a question that worries you – we’ve had parents tell us that choosing a school is excruciating! It doesn’t have to be that way. Quite frankly, it’s pretty hard to make a bad choice, it’s all a roll of the dice because school is an experience product – you’re simply not going to know whether it suits your child until you try it.
If it doesn’t work out then be assured there is always another school. The school that everyone talks about as the best school may be fantastic for one student but disastrous for another so don’t be afraid to move if that seems like the best outcome for your child.