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Private School Versus Public School: Which is Better?

Janelle Cox

Results from a study in 2018 indicate that private school is not better at educating children than public school. While research may confirm there is no difference, public opinion still says otherwise. This topic has, and probably will, remain to be controversial. Here we’ll take a look at the public school versus private school debate, the results of this new study, and what the right choice should be when choosing private versus public school.

Benefits of Private School over Public School

For many decades now, the debate has raged: Whether private school or public school is better for students. While each private school is unique, parents that choose private over public say there are many benefits to their decision. One example is smaller class sizes. Research shows that a smaller student-teacher ratio can mean an increase in academic performance. Private school also brings about more parental involvement, because parents are paying for school, which means they are more apt to be involved in and in the loop of their child’s education. Kids at private schools also enjoy more academic opportunities, like advanced placement courses or gifted programs. Students in private school are known to score higher on standardized tests and entrance exams. Lastly, private schools often have improved security, as they have a reputation for stricter standards and low teacher-to-student ratios, which makes for a safer school environment.

However, public school parents (and teachers) argue there are also a few drawbacks to private school. For instance, private schools can cost about $10,000 to $20,000 a year, whereas public school is payed for by local taxes. Private schools often don’t have as many options (or sometimes any) for sports teams or school clubs. The teachers also are not set to the same standards as far as the education that they need to become a teacher, and they often don’t make as money as a public school teacher. All of these things can certainly be a drawback.

Public Opinion

According to National Center for Education statistics, about 5 million children attend private schools, compared to 50 million who attend public elementary and secondary schools. While these statistics show that the majority of children attend public school, the opinion that private school is better still remains. A study published by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and Gallup showed that there is a higher percentage of private school students who enroll in college right after high school, and they outperform their public school graduates. These findings support the idea that private over public may be the better choice.

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Results of the New Study

The new 2018 study, which indicated that private school is not better at educating children than public school, looked at a diverse sample of children to determine if attending private school would predict their achievement (as well as social and personal outcomes) by age 15. The results of the study show that while private school students did outperform public school students, this difference was eliminated when you factor in the parents’ income and education level. Students who came from higher-income families had educational resources others did not have. Also, when you take into account students’ attitudes, risky behavior, and social adjustment, all of which can be associated with public schooling, researchers came to the conclusion that there was no evidence to suggest that private schools are more effective for promoting student success than public schools.

What’s the Right Choice?

When it comes to the debate between private and public school, the right choice will be different for everyone. Cost, class size, teacher experience, special education requirements, college preparation courses, admission requirements, sports teams, school atmosphere, and the quality of education all depend on preference.

Choosing between public and private school is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. There is no right or wrong answer -- there is only a personal preference. The quality of a child’s education is up to the parent. They are the ones who need to make sure they are making the right choice for their child.

Are you a private or public school teacher? What is your view on public versus private school? Please feel free to share your thoughts on this controversial topic, we’d love to hear from you.


 Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.