The debate: Private versus public school

Kathryn Drysdale, left, and Lily Cole, right, starred in the remake of St Trinians, about an anarchic school for uncontrollable girls. Source: Sony Pictures.

 

The old private versus public debate can cause fierce arguments between close friends and family and bring out the worst animosity? But why?

It’s usually put down to jealousy, snobbishness or a case of the haves and the have-nots, but not everyone who goes to private school comes from a rich family.

Private school tuition fees vary considerably across Australia, and parents of a Year 12 student could easily be paying an annual fee anywhere between $21,000 and $35,000 to attend an established, well regarded metropolitan private school in 2016 – with boarding fees in addition.

A survey conducted by the Australian Scholarships Group comparing the states shows that a private education from pre-school to Year 12 is most expensive in Sydney (at an estimated $543,334), followed by Melbourne ($504,742), Canberra ($422,635), Hobart ($383,320) and Darwin ($373,421).

So unless your offspring is the next Mark Zuckerberg, 32, CEO of Facebook and worth $54 billion (US), is it really worth all that money?

Two Kidspot journalists who went to private school reveal their experiences, and the decisions they have and would make when it comes to their own children’s education:

Alex Carlton

I went to a private school but I wouldn’t send my son to one.

I was extremely fortunate that my parents could afford to send my brother and me to private schools, with minimal financial hardship.

But was it worth the cash? I don’t think so.

Even if I had the money to send my son to a private school, I’m not sure I would. There’s no question that there were some benefits for me. There was structure and discipline. There were opportunities. But I’m not convinced there was tens of thousands of dollars worth of structure and discipline and opportunity.

In fact, the main thing my private school taught me was how to stand up to authority. I don’t say that facetiously. Our school had a host of archaic rules: Ladies must wear prim navy or bottle green panties. Ladies must not be seen eating in public. Ladies do not publish renegade underground newspapers mocking the school’s archaic rules.

Alex

Alex Carlton went to private school, but isn’t convinced it’s worth the extortionate fees.

I could never understand how these pointless rules would make us better at maths or French

And so I took great pleasure in flouting them. A skill I have taken into my working life as a journalist, where much of what we do is about questioning and bucking the status quo.

But surely there were other, far less expensive ways I could have learned how to rebel, while I learned my maths and French at a much more budget-friendly public school.

How you resolve the public/private dilemma depends on the child, of course. And the parents. But don’t think for a moment that you’re short-changing your child by denying them private school. It’s entirely possible that private school would short-change you –literally and figuratively.

Clementine Livingstone

Private school. I know, I know. You’re probably thinking I’m about to gloat about my privileged upbringing. Yes, I went to a private school. No, I wasn’t wealthy. In fact, Dad left when I was young and he left mum to raise three kids (my two brothers and I) on her own.

There were often times when I’d be ridden with anxiety about returning to school in fear that the fees hadn’t been paid.   My friends would talk about next semester and I’d get this sickening drop in my stomach.

Was it worth it? My Mum and I wholeheartedly agree, yes.

I valued the education that was given to me because of the sacrifices my mum made to keep me there. I played every sport competitively, was in the choir, the school band, debating team, rowing team, you name it. I loved every opportunity and I am certain they have made me the hard-working, independent woman I am today.

By no means am I saying that if I had gone to a public school I would not be the same person. I was taught at a young age to appreciate what I was given and to acknowledge the opportunities my mother had afforded me, as had been given to her. In fact, I’m sure I’d be much the same.

However, I know I would not have been given the same opportunities if I had gone to a public school

There’s no way I’d be part of a rowing team. Who am I kidding? The opportunities were so diverse and I was constantly encouraged to do my best in every aspect of school life.   That saying, based on what my mother had taught me, would I be as involved at any other school? Probably. It’s hard to say without actually knowing.

I think what lies at the heart of the public school/private school debate is how parents instil a sense of value in their children, and in turn, how each child interprets this. It is then up to the child to make use of the opportunities each school provides. And hey, aren’t more opportunities better?

 

 

 

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