Private school versus public school – which is better?

Recently, I’ve had cause to think about the choices we make as parents regarding the type of schools we prefer for our children. I’ve had experience with both, having gone to Catholic school during my entire childhood and having taught in public school for the last 17 years. At the risk of oversimplifying the matter (and hopefully getting my blog followers to pipe in!) I offer my humble opinion: Students are capable of getting an excellent education in both public and private schools that are well-funded and enjoy parental support. In other words, I’m not sure that a private school that costs $15,000 a year necessarily provides a better education than a good public school.The emphasis here is on “good.” There are plenty of bad public schools. However, might it be argued that there are just as many overinflated, under-performing private schools?

Naturally, students who attend religious schools do so for the additional religious instruction they will receive and most likely, a belief that peers will emulate some of the same values and beliefs.They want to pray openly during the day, reference God in their discussions, and give equal time to their religious studies. I think we can all agree that those elements are key reasons parents choose these types of schools.

But the big question remains – is one better than the other? What are the advantages and disadvantages associated with public and private schools? I would love to hear about your experiences with either, your judgments regarding their value, or why you chose what you chose for you own kids.

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4 thoughts on “Private school versus public school – which is better?

  1. I think there are private schools that are better than public schools but the whole discussion has to be premised on the fact that public schools are tasked with teaching everyone and private schools have a filter of some kind on the student population. Higher socio-economic status and the willingness to choose a different school but greatly change student populations. If you account for that, what is the private advantage (aside from the possibility of religious instructions for families who want that)?

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  2. “…students who attend religious schools do so for the additional religious instruction they will receive and most likely, a belief that peers will emulate some of the same values and beliefs.They want to pray openly during the day, reference God in their discussions, and give equal time to their religious studies.” But is this really worth $15,000 per year? As I former Catholic/private school student I can also add that there are bad Catholic schools out there as well. There will always be good and bad teachers. Also, what good is it for a child to be surrounded peers who “emulate some of the same values and beliefs” when the rest of the world they will eventually be interacting with as an adult is so diverse? Personally, I think the parents have to be active participants in their childrens’ education regardless if the school is private or public. I understand the appeal of a private school offering smaller class size, but again, is that really worth $15,000/year?

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  3. Our oldest daughter went to Catholic grade school for 8 years. She wanted to go to public school when she went into high school. So we relented. She left Catholic school as a B-C student. Her first semester in the public school system, she was an A student. We were delighted. Let me interject here that our local public school was known as one of the better schools in our area.The second semester was a complete reverse. She was lucky she got by with C’s andD’s. Also behavioral problems began. With that result, she was back in a Catholic school. I might add she was not happy, but we didn’t care. Her education was of utmost importance to us. At the end of her 3 years in Catholic high school she graduated still as an average student. But she had the benefit of discipline and religious instruction. In fact, when it was time for her younger sister to start high school, our older daughter advised us to send her to the Catholic school. Our youngest daughter went to the same Catholic high schol and did extremely well with no behavioral problems. But she was the type of child who probably would have done well no matter where she went. We will never know.
    Both our girls chose public education for their children. The story was – the children of our youngest girl did quite well in public school. The oldest daughter’s children did not. Perhaps they would have done better in Catholic school, but their father would never have paid the tuition. Again, we will never know.
    For my husband and myself, we feel we did the best thing for our family regardless of cost. Others may have differing opinions and that’s okay too.

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  4. A couple of years ago a friend asked me this same question as we had both attended the same 12 year Catholic school. We had each sent our children to public schools. I agree that there are very good and very bad public and private schools. The private schools that I am familiar with do not seem to have as wide a variety of course offerings as one might find in most public schools. For some students for whom honors classes, an above the norm GPA and advanced placement is the goal they may be drawn to the public system. Other families may find comfort in private schools if discipline, morals and faith are important to them (not saying they are absent in public school). And then there are the families who feel their kids will have more playing time on the football or swim team if attending a smaller, private school. When my mother suggested I move to the public school for my high school years, I fought the move as I did not want to leave behind my friends of eight years. I was taught by nuns and I am not sure that they had formal education. Many of my fellow classmates, my siblings included, have gone on to lead successful lives, both professionally and personally.The answer I gave my friend is that in spite of the lack of ‘top notch’ teachers and a limited course offering, I feel that I and most of our classmates have achieved success. We turned out all right…So what is that attributed to…. values taught at home, our own innate abilities, socio-economic factors or chance? Both mine and my friend’s publicly schooled children have also gone on to become successful, young adults. The private vs public school debate is such a personal family decision and there is no easy answer. Personally, like bunny babe above, I believe we made the right decision in choosing public school for our children.

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