Recently, on a board I frequent, a heated debate is going on regarding the topic “public schools vs. private schools.” It seems to be a powder keg issue. One poster (who doesn’t have any children, by the way) states that she believes that children can thrive in any educational environment, as long as they have been instilled with a love of learning. The parents amongst us simply roll our eyes and ignore her. Schools do matter, and non-parents just don’t get it.
But it got me thinking: are public schools automatically worse than private? I can only speak for Japan (and to a certain extent, NZ in the 70s-80s as I was educated there in the public school system, which was excellent in those days). I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum as a mother. As a child Sonbeam attended a 10k a year private school, where he and I both had a hard time because he had trouble getting to grips with English, the student body was made up of spoilt expat kids, and the teachers – who moved on every couple of years – were only in Japan for the high salaries, and obviously didn’t care about their students. Neither of us regret it though, because he made very valuable contacts there that he maintains to this day.
Later on he attended an inner-city public school that was ranked as one of the worst in Hyogo Prefecture, where he absolutely thrived, and received an amount of pastoral care that astonished me. The overworked, underpaid Japanese teachers there routinely went above and beyond the call of duty for their young charges, some of whom had very difficult home lives. I credit those teachers with instilling in him a love of learning that continues to this day.
So, which is better? I really can’t say, but I do wish to challenge the notion that private education automatically equals better education. That’s not always the case, after all.