Public or private school: Which is better?


Fact Box

  • The oldest private school in America is Collegiate School in NYC, founded by the Dutch West India Company and the Classis of Amsterdam in 1628 with a mission “so that first of all in so wild a country, the youth be well taught and brought up.' 
  • As of 2018, there are 91,276 public schools and 32,461 private schools in the US. 
  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average public school class size is 25 students while the average private school class size is 19. 
  • A 2017 Gallup Poll revealed that 71% of respondents believed that private schools provide students with an excellent education, while 44% said public schools do.

Matthew (Public)

Are private schools really responsible for better academic achievement? Conventional wisdom says so, as standardized test scores are higher at private institutions. However, research shows that if private school achievement results are controlled merely for family income and educational attainment, public school and private school achievement differences vanish. In other words, setting family money and degrees aside, private schools do not build better students; they start with a self-selected higher caliber of students.  

However, there is a measurable difference between the two when comparing public school teachers with their private school counterparts. Based on various metrics, public school teachers come out ahead. On average, public school teachers are paid better, have more classroom experience, earn more professional development, and have more master's degrees--all the better to support students. 

Another factor in comparing public and private schools deals with demographics and culture. Public schools are more racially diverse than private schools, as only 27% of them have a 90% Caucasian rate, sharply contrasting with the 43% of private schools that do. A racially diverse setting can minimize prejudices through exposure to and cooperation with different categories of peers. Public schools indeed have more students per classroom, but with this potential handicap comes an underappreciated cognitive benefit. Many public school students experience a greater amount of classroom cultural diversity and the critical, creative thinking, and solution-seeking ideas that go with it. Students at integrated schools are better prepared for leadership in multicultural business placements later in life.

Unlike the achievement bubble that private schools perpetuate, public schools better prepare their students for life with superior teachers, varied demographics, and a more challenging learning environment. 

Maha (Private)

Due to the small class sizes and large campuses characteristic of private institutions, allowing for students' in-person attendance during the COVID pandemic, there was a surprising uptick in temporary private school enrollment. And according to reports, around 41% of parents plan on shifting their children to private schools for good. What these parents discovered is that students--and their families--benefit from choosing private schools over public institutions. 

For starters, private schools have a flexible curriculum that isn't mandated by the State. Therefore, teachers can innovatively use collaborative work and projects to ensure a lasting impact. Combined with smaller classes, a flexible curriculum best addresses students' needs.  

Lower student-teacher ratios offer several benefits as well. Students receive individualized attention. They also feel more comfortable participating since they develop stronger relationships with their teachers and peers.

Private schools also have more and better resources on hand--ensuring superior education. This was especially apparent during the pandemic as private schools provided 'online luxury learning.'

Another advantage of private schools is mission-driven education. Each school has its own set of values and unique philosophies, enabling parents to choose a school that best aligns with their priorities, such as single-sex, co-ed, religious, or non-denominational. 

Finally, parents can safeguard their children from bullying, a phenomenon that over 71% of students say is a problem. Private schools can combat this through smaller classrooms, close monitoring, and signed handbooks that form binding contracts between students/parents and schools. 

Because of these benefits, students thrive academically, as ACT research shows private school graduates are better prepared for college. 

So, with ways available to reduce the financial burden, parents shouldn't rule out private schooling for their children.

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