How to choose between private and public education?

Choosing the right education sector for your children, especially in the elementary years puts down the foundation that can be built on for years to come. Choosing between a private and a public education can be a difficult choice if you are concerned about tuition costs.

Many people make the private school choice based on religious preferences while many people make the choice on the belief that you pay for what you get. However, is this the right choice? Will it make enough of a difference to justify the cost?

What do private sector schools have that public schools don’t?

Private schools do get government funding whether in the form of tax breaks or outright checks. In addition, private sector schools are more flexible in their curriculum than public, state run schools, which tend to “teach to the test” simply because teachers are under so much pressure to make sure standardized tests are passed. In fact, many state run schools allocated budget can hinge on the pass results of those standardized tests.

It is also worth remembering that private schools have actually become more affordable and it can cost as little as $4,000 per year for your child to experience private education.

Things you are likely to find in a private school:

  • Nicer facilities
  • Smaller classroom sizes
  • Better resources
  • Higher salaried instructors

In most cases, a private school offers nicer facilities because their budget is higher thanks to the fees that parents are paying. A nicer facility is more inviting and enhances the students desire to attend class.

Class sizes are also a crucial aspect to a stronger education. The average class size in most private sector schools is about 15:1 while public schools are often overcrowded depending on where they are located.

Public schools do not have the ability to turn away students. Usually a public school system is broken into districts and any child living in that district has to be accepted into the age appropriate school within that district. This practice often leads to overcrowding situations and can adversely affect the teacher’s ability to teach and provide critical individual attention.

Teaching resources are also a big role player in enhancing teaching ability. Private schools typically have the budget to buy the better resources such as the latest computer technology. It is not uncommon for a private school to have a classroom full of students using iPads for example, although to be fair, more public schools are starting to introduce modern technology. ICT resources tend to be internal for the private sector, where as public schools tend to outsource their ICT to a third party vendor such as this school IT support company for example.

There are always stories of public school teachers purchasing supplies for their classroom because there is just not enough money in the schools budget to buy the items that are needed for use in the classroom. Often private sector schools offer elaborate trips as part of their curriculum while public schools have to depend on fundraisers to get simple items like pencils and crayons.

Private schools often pay their instructors a larger salary. Money can be a great motivator in how hard an instructor works to teach. Public schools are largely dependent on tax revenue, so if you live in an affluent area where the tax base is higher than your public school may be a great institution but if you live in an area where the tax base is lower than your schools may very well be lacking some important attributes like a decent salary for your teachers. Of course, higher salaries attract the most talented professionals as well.

Statistically speaking…

A good indicator of how well a school is doing is by the number of graduates. Clearly, it is the goal of any school to see their charges succeed.

At Baccalaureate Levels a chart prepared by Decisions Based on Evidence a think-tank shows that the difference is minimal between private and public schools although the public schools do seem to fare a bit better.

Elementary and secondary schools in the private sector often claim graduation rates as high as 95%. Many of the private schools do enjoy graduation rates that high, but some can be as low as 80%. Public schools do not typically share graduation rates as high as the private sector does with rates hovering between 60%-75%.


Ultimately, like most things in life, the decision will probably come down to money. However, it is important that private sector schools are no longer exclusive, hard to get into and out of reach financially. All indicators suggest that if you can afford them for the lower grades they are worth it. The playing field seems to even out at the higher level of education (college level) so a private university may not be worth the money.

Helpful resources:
1. The good school guide –
2. Private schools guide –

Angela has written various education articles for numerous blogs and websites around the world. Angela has a keen interest in all things relating to the education sector.

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