The Case for Private School Education
Private schools have been a vital part of the whole educational picture in the western world over the last two centuries. The first schools in Europe and in North America were all privately operated, and it is only with the implementation and development of formal education systems that the place of private schools in society has been seriously debated. Some politicians and community leaders have argued that since the public education system is intended to serve all citizens, there is no longer a need for private schools. Others claim that private schools serve a particular purpose for some citizens, and freedom of choice must be maintained at all costs.
Those who oppose the concept of private schools usually do so because they believe that the children of wealthier citizens who can afford them are being given an unfair advantage. They are all too aware of the high costs associated with public education, and they realize that financial restraints can sometimes affect the quality of instruction in their child’s school. Large classes, shortage of materials, and the absence of non-essential programs are disadvantages that they must live with, and they resent the fact that money can buy a better learning situation for the children of wealthy families.
There may well be some merit to this argument, since education is viewed by governments and citizens alike as a basic societal right. There is no doubt that education is the major key to success in the world, and sociologists everywhere acknowledge that the lack of education is a prominent factor in assessing the occurrence of poverty and disadvantage among the poor. Everyone, then, should have equal opportunity to acquire a fundamental education, and no one should be denied this opportunity because of a lack of funds. Most people would agree with this as far as it goes. But the question is whether or not the existence of private schools affects in any way the possibility of a basic education for all.
Free democratic societies value the right of citizens to make choices that best benefit their families. In a capitalist culture, moreover, it is inevitable that some members of society are more financially successful than others, and it follows that they will be able to afford better goods and services. Individuals who are in an advantageous financial position are not usually denied the right to purchase better services, as long as doing so does not jeopardize the basic rights of others. Private education seems to be a case in point. If some parents choose to decline a free public education for their children in favor of a private education that must be purchased, this would seem to have no effect on the education of children from less affluent families.
Proponents of private school education frequently claim that they choose to have their children attend a private school because of the unique options offered. They may want their children to experience small classes, the wearing of a school uniform, or the advantage of a same-sex environment, for example, and they are willing to pay the cost of these options. Public schools may not offer such choices, and it is difficult to fault parents who are willing to pay for features that are important to them though not necessarily to others.
No one can deny that education must be available for everyone, regardless of financial circumstances. The history of public education in western countries is based on the belief that every citizen must be given the opportunity for fundamental learning and success. Private education serves the purpose of providing certain options that might not otherwise be available, and, as such, should be maintained for those who are willing to pay for it.