Before you choose private over public school

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By Nkiruka Ezedinugwu

 

Later this month, schools across Nigeria will go on end-of-session vacation and some parents will have cause to change schools for their children. This prompts the inquest into what parents seek when they search for new schools for their wards They often find themselves in a dilemma of choosing the best school for their children. In this publication, reporter, NKIRUKA EZEDINUGWU takes a look at the major factors parents should consider before they decide on which school (private or public) is best for their children, while AFUNUGO AMAECHI looks at the problems of education and values in Nigeria.

 

TODAY, education is a complex and compelling topic in national dialogue. Questions about school quality, accountability, curriculum and teacher training arise daily as the discourse come up in the country.

Education is an important part of raising children and preparing them to live successful lives in adult age. For many families, finding the right school environment is not as easy as just enrolling at the nearest school. With the information currently available about learning differences and 21st-century skills, not all schools can adequately meet the needs of every student, how do you determine if the local school is meeting your child’s needs and if it’s time to switch schools? The time calls for comparing schooling options and perhaps consider alternative options for high school or even younger grades institutions.

What this means, as you try to decide on the best school for your child, is that you have to do your homework. Choosing a school for your child is one of the most important decisions you will make. To do a good job, you have to educate yourself so you can be a savvy consumer. That means researching, networking, and making sure that you understand all the choices available to you and your child.

A common comparison is that of public schools and private schools. As many public schools are facing budget cuts that lead to larger class sizes and fewer resources, many private schools are continuing to flourish. However, a private school can be expensive.

And the question many parents would ask themselves is: Is it worth the investment? Find out if you should choose a private school over a public school, despite the added tuition fees.

However, the distinction between public and private schools is no longer as straightforward as it once was. It may be that your local public school is a better educational match for your child than an exclusive private school with a national reputation and a price tag to match.

And although some research shows that private schools tend to have superior academic programmes, it isn’t always the case and the gap may be narrowing. Despite their sometimes negative press, public schools are actually getting better. If you want a good, general, all-around education, a really strong public school might be your best bet.

At the same time, however, private schools may be more affordable than you ever realized, and shouldn’t be ruled out on financial ground alone.

There are generally some factors for a family to consider when determining which is right for them (public or private school) according to a number of stakeholders, comprising parents, teachers, students and people of all walks of life that bared their minds on the issue. They include:

Academic environment and scope of teaching: The academic environment is also a factor that influences learning. The academic environment differs in schools. Public schools are generally supervised, monitored and controlled by the local and state governments while private schools are being managed by individual proprietors or proprietresses, but are supervised by the state government.

The academic curricula of public schools are being prescribed by the governments, thereby imposing streamlined syllabuses, approved tests and exams not minding whether the students are well taught or not.

This does not give the teachers autonomy to teach outside the scope laid down by the government.
Private schools, on the other hand, have qualitative academic curricula that are being given by the school management, not subjected to mandatory tests or scope of teaching.

They have flexible ways of teaching students and they are not stereotypic in their teachings. In most private schools, syllabuses are reviewed after each session to make sure it is still trending with the latest development in the society.

Parents are therefore advised to find out about the curricula of the school they want to enroll their children in, whether the syllabus meets up with the required standard or out of standards.
The number of students in classrooms: Extensive studies have shown that class size and the amount of one-on-one time between teachers and students has a significant impact on how students perform, making this a major consideration.

The sizes of classes in public and private schools are completely different. In public schools, there are larger classes where the teachers sometimes do not know all the students in his or her class.

Public schools are most times financially limited and cannot hire as many teachers as they would like and this results in far larger class sizes, and this in turn drags alongside it the negative implications on education quality that comes with it. Many public schools have student to teacher ratios in the 30 to 1 or 40 to 1 range.

This is not so in private schools where a small and limited number of students are in a class. This is because with additional funds available for the private schools, they can often hire more teachers, which will in turn result in lower class sizes.

 

This allows good teacher-student relationship, and gives room for proper ventilation. Teachers in private schools know both the strengths and weaknesses of their students compared to teachers in public schools. So parents are advised to check the classroom sizes of the schools they intend to enroll their children into.

Quality of education: Many people assume that the quality of education at private schools is better than that at public schools. However, some studies suggest this might not always be true. The quality of education depends on the school. When considering either a public or private school, it is important to tour the school and meet teachers, so you can see the facilities available and can get a feel for the school atmosphere and the faculty.

Absence of strike actions: Strike action is one of the ways used by trade unions in protesting and contesting for their rights, when workers are being deprived of their rights. Strike actions are common in public schools where workers fight for increase or non-payment of salaries, which disrupts and interrupts the smooth running of academic calendar. Strike and disruptions of studies are rare or almost absent in private schools.

The academic section remains the same and there is no elongation in the academic calendar except for public and federal holidays.

Accountability: It had been observed that in public schools, teachers and administrators often display a shocking lack of accountability where the number of years’ service in the local union are rewarded more than performance.

The public school system also has a great deal of administrative bloat when compared to private schools. When you consider the funds and individuals committed to school boards, unions, school support staff, the total administrative body is enormous. This bureaucracy makes accountability almost impossible in public schools.

On the other hand, private school teachers and administrators are incredibly accountable for the performance of themselves and their students. Poor results mean they could lose their jobs so every year they are pushed to ensure they deliver the best quality of education to their students.

Private schools also tend to have less bureaucracy as extra staff mean extra costs and administrators are responsible for managing their costs. This often means they are more responsive to stakeholders (students and parents) and can adapt to changes in education practices and technology.

Engagement in extra-curricular activities: One of the factors that contribute to academic excellence is engaging in social activities like sport, athletics, and clubs.

The popular saying: ‘all work and no play make Jack a dull boy’ explains the importance of extra-curricular activities. When a student is subjected to learning for a long period of time daily without a break to exercise his muscles, his rate of assimilation will be reduced, which will not enable him to perform well.

But in a situation whereby sports facilities are made available for the use of the students, they tend to perform better in their academics and relate well with their colleagues. Clubs and other social activities help the students to discover and develop their skills and talents.

An important factor is the availability of these facilities. These facilities are available in both public and private schools. Some schools have sports facilities, such as the swimming pool, cricket court, football pitch etc. but do not make use of it.

This is common in public school, where the available infrastructures facilities are not taken care of or maintained. On the other hand, private schools still offer the best of the social and sports facilities. Inter-house sports are being organized whereby students are randomly distributed into different houses to compete with one another. This serves as a way of promoting unity among the students, keep the body fit, improve and develop their skills or talents. All these are an essential prerequisite to academic excellence.

Cost: A major factor in determining what’s right for your family is the cost. Not just of tuition, but in terms of time and commitment. Most private schools require students to be driven to and from school and there are significant obligations for students to participate in activities outside of normal school hours.

This means a lot of hours and miles for families every week to make it happen.

A family needs to weigh the financial costs, time investment and other factors. While on the other hand, most public schools are located in the neighbourhood, making it possible for the children to trek to and from school.

Again most public schools don’t engage much in extracurricular activities, thus the cost of engaging in many extracurricular activities is ruled out entirely. Costs of education in public schools tend to be cheaper.

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