I remember walking home from school one day with my friends when we saw a bus filled with other kids our age. We all gave them the finger and in return, they yelled insults at us. There wasn’t much difference between us, except that one group went to private school and the other went to public. I’m not sure if we knew much about private vs. public education yet, but there was definitely and air of cheeky rivalry between us, even as ten year olds.
This rivalry, no doubt instilled in us by our parents by one degree or another, is the beginning of an enduring ideological debate that still continues: Private vs. Public School.
In debates about public vs. private education, things can get red hot. No parent wants to be told that they are doing their kids a disservice by sending them to a certain school, just as no student wants to be told that they are somehow getting a raw deal.
In 2015, about 65% of students attended public schools while the other 35% attended private, so which is better?
The common assumption is that because private schools are better resourced, they will, therefore, garner better results and better preparation for students and university.
Surprisingly, this is not the case, at least not in primary school.
The largest longitudinal study of primary school students in Australian history, released last year by the Queensland University, claimed that whether privately or publically educated, it had “no significant effect” on a child’s development. An indicator that is much more significant (and kind of obvious) is how many books children have at home – the more books they have, the higher their test scores.
When it comes to high school though, data suggests that private schools perform better than public schools, and therefore the proportion of students choosing private high schools is rising.
At a university level, these statistics are reversed: students who came from public schools actually perform better at university level than those from private schools who entered university with the same grades. And this has been shown consistently since the 1980s.
The research also suggests that those who attend co-ed schools perform better at uni than those at single-sex schools, and that those from lower fee paying private schools perform better than the higher fee paying private schools.
Advocates of private education sometimes consider their public counterparts as underprivileged and undisciplined – even though this is rarely the case. Similarly, public school advocates sometimes unfairly dismiss private schoolers as condescending and arrogant. Private schoolers are wankers and public schoolers are grubs – depending on which one you attended.
Ironically though, most students don’t get to choose which one they attend. And realistically, how well you perform at uni is more dependent on how much you study, not which school you went to.