The Pros and Cons of Private School vs. Public School

 By Bongiwe Zwane-Maseko

The choice between private school and government school has gained considerable attention over the years, particularly in Eswatini – where parents have found themselves having to weigh their options between the two. Perhaps the increase in the number of private schools of late has also made this an option worth considering. Since the decision weighs heavily on parents, it’s important to understand what both have to offer. There are many variables between the two education systems to consider, however, there are some general similarities and differences.

Here are some pros and cons, which have been crafted with input from a retired teacher.  

Pros of private schools:

  • Smaller classes – This is a huge advantage! In smaller classes, teachers can interact with students and personalize their learning. Students get individual attention, and teachers can observe students closely to monitor their progress and implement strategies to help each student thrive. This increased interaction may lead to students being more interested and ultimately, more engaged in lessons, creating a positive learning environment.
  • More advancement in curriculum and assessments – Private schools are not limited to provincial or federal mandates on what can be taught and how students are tested. Opportunities for enriched curriculums play a large role in the benefits of private school education. In addition to standard subjects, private schools tend to offer more curriculum options in areas ranging from STEM education to foreign language and even character development.
  • Meals – Most private schools offer meal options unavailable in public schools. Some have food catered, others have on-site kitchens with staff offering hot meals prepared fresh daily. In addition, it is common for most private schools to place special emphasis on the quality of food and the nutritional value of the meals served.
  • Variety of Instructional Models – Private schools design their instructional delivery around the needs of every student, their personality, and their learning style. Most private schools put special emphasis on science, technology, and hands-on skills, as well as social and emotional education, nature studies, and advanced character development. Parents who pursue a private education are very interested in an educational model found in most private schools since most strive to create enriched learning environments for students.

Cons of a private school:

  • Expense – Tuition makes private schools a financially challenging choice for families with lower income or multiple children. However, some families opt to cut out other expenses or pursue financial aid or grants for their child’s private education. Most private schools offer payment plans to parents who require financing options.
  • Pressure To Fit In – Some children may feel out of place in a private school if you can’t kit them out in all the latest gear or send them on those yearly ski trips. The pressure to be socially accepted is great for any teen. To put them in an environment where they ‘stick out’ is a recipe for disaster. If your child is very bright and has won a scholarship, for example, you need to think hard about accepting it. Are they going to be fully accepted by their peers? Are you going to be able to keep up with the pressure of passing fashion trends or spring break vacations? 

Pros of public school:

  • Cost – Almost always, public school fees are more affordable for most parents. Parents also pay for several costs such as meals, field trips, yearbooks, fundraisers, and other additional expenses. However, it is an advantage in that those costs are significantly less than tuition at a private school.
  • Availability – Public schools provide access to an education for every child in a community.  According to the Ministry of Education, government schools cannot turn students away based on academic performance, income level, or disability. This ensures that every student has the same educational opportunities as his peers. Since education is frequently seen as the great equalizer for society, the availability of education for all is a key benefit these institutions offer. 
  • Diversity – Because public schools admit all children in the community, those that attend the schools are more likely to be in classrooms with other children that don’t think, act, or look exactly like them. Students are more apt to be exposed to students from different cultures or income levels. They may learn to work with other students with mental and physical disabilities. The diversity of the student body can be an important learning experience for all the children that attend a particular school.
  • Wearing of school uniform an advantage – Clothing is a major theme of bullying and peer pressure among school-aged boys and girls. By requiring students to dress in uniforms, schools eliminate the tension driven by fashion trends and name brands. Studies show that uniforms reduce bullying instances, on-campus violence, and discipline referrals, as well as provide a more focused, less distracting learning environment for growing minds.

Cons of public school:

  • Larger classes – Most public-school classrooms have class sizes of up to 30 or more students. While that does not mean the learning environment is always unruly, it is more difficult to give students individual attention. Teachers who bear responsibility for 30 or more students experience many challenges in ensuring their students get the attention they deserve. The learning environment is quite obviously affected, as larger class sizes also have a direct impact on student engagement.
  • Less flexibility in curriculum and assessments – Public schools do not have much flexibility when it comes to curriculum choices. Teachers can slightly adjust how they teach, but they don’t have any control over what they teach. This is a common complaint among public school teachers because the amount of material to cover in a short amount of time leaves little room for creativity. Public schools also have the disadvantage of many more required forms of assessment and accountability measures than private schools, which can adapt and modify assessments based on student needs.
  • Minor consequences for disorderly conduct – Public schools cannot deny enrollment to any student. Students who misbehave continually in the public-school setting face consequences, but only in the most severe circumstances are students expelled. This can compromise a safe learning environment.

In summary, there are definite advantages and disadvantages for both systems. Understanding the differences is key in making the right decision for your child. Taking everything under consideration, be sure to visit the schools you are canvassing, ask questions, and meet the staff and students. By experiencing the environment in person, along with assessing your overall needs and how they will be met, you will have a much easier time deciding which school system is appropriate for your child’s growth and success.

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