Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Are ALL Private Schools Better Than State Schools?

My daughter goes to a private school. I bought into the 'private education is better than state' narrative quite early on when she was little. Lucky for us, her school is a good one and she has thrived. I use the word 'lucky' because I know of private schools that are being run purely for profit motive where the child's emotional and academic wellbeing is not prioritised. Another thing I have learnt is that the British class system stratifies everything which translates into some private schools e.g Eton, Harrow sitting at the top of the private school pyramid. The 'middling' private schools will produce children who still stand a good chance of doing well but without the assured connections that will automatically open doors into well paid jobs. There is more meritocracy inherent in the latter type of private school than the former type.

Also, children at the top level of private schools do exceedingly well because they are selected on the basis of what they are achieving already i.e top grades. Children in middling private schools are selected on the basis of promise but have to be able to demonstrate some capability in the entrance exams before they are taken on. Most state schools, as I understand it, select children based on postcodes. Isn't that why parents rent or buy or pretend to do both in attractive catchment areas?

My point is that there is NOT a level playing field among private schools. More is the mystery to me then when Michael Gove announced that he wanted state schools to level themselves up to being as good as private schools. What about the state schools in places like Hampstead and parts of Kent which boast such excellent results that parents spend a huge amount on tutoring hoping to get their children into one of these schools?

We live in a diverse country and diversity, unlike what most people think, is not confined to including black people in things that white people do. Diversity is also a reflection of different systems and different methods of achieving common outcomes. Mr Gove asked the question: 'Why shouldn't our state schools be the best state schools in the world?" Indeed, why not? But what I don't understand is why the private arena of education has to be the benchmark. Can a high standard not be achieved by state standards?
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