Sunday, May 5, 2013

My Private Freedom Of Choice - We Chose Private Schooling

IMAGE : MORGUEFILE.COM | My Private Freedom Of Choice
There is a debate raging in many online forums and TV panel programs currently which tends to get me a little worked up. Although I'm not an expert in the field of its data analysis or the indeed the official pros and cons, I feel very strongly that I'm in a slightly judged group; I've often considered public comment in the past (usually in response to comments made by the Jane Caro audience), but I've never followed through due to the inevitable backlash I'm sure I'd receive. Instead I've done the cowardly thing and 'unfollowed' Jane in social media, not at all because I dislike her (I quite like her in actual fact), but because of the narrow - minded comments from some of her virtual audience members that usually accompany her campaign messages. 

The debate to which I refer, is that of public vs. private education. Let it be said at the outset that I tread very carefully in this one because like many Australians we have chosen to educate our children privately. As I write that, my compulsion is to cover my head with my arms and crouch protectively but really why do I need to feel so defensive about that decision? Largely because of comments like these:

"Depends if you want your kids to grow up as elitists who think everyone drives a BMW or to grow up understanding the diversity of society, ideas and people and that not everyone is handed life on a plate...."

"The ugly truth is that people like private schools because their kids don't have to share a class with poor people."

"Every so often you hear about private school students running wild or stealing on school outings. Drugs seem to be a problem too. Luckily some of them have daddy's money to make it all go away."

Sorry - what? Is that seriously the best argument you can muster in attack of the private school system and why do you have the right to attack its inhabitants with such garbage at all? I dare not dignify those kind of comments with a response but I will say that raising kids who hold the beliefs or characteristics mentioned in the above comments come from their upbringing and parental influence, not from any one school system. Can you imagine how much grief you'd receive as a member of a private school community if you dared to respond to any of these specific generalisations printed in mainstream media outlets? Unleashing the trolls would be an understatement. Perhaps I'm inviting trouble by even commenting but I feel quite strongly that the issue here is not about judging either the private or public school system (there are pros and cons for both) but rather about people's right to make a choice without being criticised and unfairly generalised for it.

When making our choice, we looked at our children, we looked closely at their varied personalities, we weighed up the financial options, we politely absorbed ourselves into various schools (public and private) and we made a choice based on the best possible outcomes for our kids with those factors in mind. Nothing more, nothing less. There are many more healthy debates one could have about the government funding of private education (many arguments I tend to agree with) but in all honesty, I'm too afraid of the backlash. I just want it to be said that someone's choice in these circumstances is their own and they should not be judged based upon inaccurate generalisations and whatever sweeping statements the media and its disciples choose to support.

*creeps off into shadows with hands protectively covering head..*


  1. It's terrible when moderate voices are silenced by extremes or generalisations in any public debate - and see how it skews the argument completely off topic?

    Happens all the time in social media. But then so too do great spaces where points can be made without the hyperbole.

    Well done on creating such a space.

  2. Great comment and much appreciated, OSL - it's such a touchy debate and difficult to comment on without inviting the negativity. Thanks for seeing the point.

  3. We too have chosen the path of private education (which goes against my lefty leanings). However, the question for me is not so much whether I choose public or private (I have the good fortune that it IS a choice), but how the schools are funded. I absolutely don't think the government should be directing funding to private schools. When you see some of the public money wasted on private schools as part of Gillard's BER scheme back when Kev was PM, it seems to me it was a big fat spending spree for many private schools. I can state a couple of examples: a local, fairly exclusive private Catholic girls' school near where we live paved a nice little courtyard and landscaped the front of the school with their BER funding. I wonder how differently a public school might have put that money to use. Also, the school our son attends used the money to build an additional two classrooms - all very sustainable and eco-friendly, etc. - but which actually, due to a trough in enrolments - the school could have lived without. I don't believe the government should be directing funding to a school like ours (especially when we are being bled dry every term!) Public schools are disadvantaged by poor educational policy, and the government totally undermines what should be at least a slightly more level playing field when they direct funding to private schools whose affluent communities simply don't need the leg up that public schools need.

    1. We chose a private high school for our sons simply because the eldest has a learning difficulty that the public primary school did little to support, mainly due to lack of funding and partly due to mediocre teaching. And, we could not send one son private and the other public as we think we should give opportunities to both equally.

      We could see more of the same with the local high school since because we're in a middle class area, funding was all but non-existent when we inquired about it prior to enrolment. We were told they had asked for funding for a Learning Support building and an extra staff member but this has been denied. I know this for a fact as much of the learning support funding was being taken away from our area and reallocated to western Sydney (colleague worked in learning support and her programs were affected).

      We also felt that a learning environment that could not cater to his needs would be detrimental to his self-esteem with such things as bullying (even though it is everywhere, like it or not). We were also not prepared to then have to send him for tutoring after school – we went down that road in primary school and it was not a positive experience.

      We felt we had no choice but to choose a private school because they were/are able to cater for the individual needs with individualised programs and provide excellent pastoral care. If there is an issue, we know about it the same or next day and have answers almost immediately unlike some parents at public schools who don't know there is a problem until the 1/2 yearly report comes home (I have friends who have experienced this at said school).

      The blame falls with the government because they seem happy to provide for Gifted & Talented children with an A stream (our local high school has this) but they see no value in tailoring the teaching and learning to those that need support.

      I am sorry but I feel differently about the government funding private schools - I work 2 jobs and go without in order to pay the expensive school fees. We're not rich, contrary to others' opinions. I drive a cheaper little car and there are no holidays OS for us. Things are very tight but we’re prepared to do it so our sons can learn in an environment where society’s values are upheld and the children want and are expected to learn.

      I work as a casual primary teacher in the public system and have seen with my own 2 eyes the waste of $ in the system. For example, carpet being ripped up and new carpet laid because some idiot in the dept deemed it was due to be replaced even though there was not one hole, rip or thread-care spot. I also witnessed the building of new classrooms, courtesy of the BER only to hear that the school had to wait for the buildings to be completed so they could then pay someone else to run data cabling and electric wiring retrospectively for computers and data projectors – it would have been more costs effective and less disruptive to the children to do so during the building process. Another example is of someone I know being contracted to install air con in an BER admin and classroom building where again there was no provision for the running of data cabling and electric wiring for technology – it was only that he identified this could not be done retrospectively and he mentioned it to the principal that it was done during the building phase. The BER was simply about making the government look good by way of seeing a brand-new building – who cares about how it was fitted out.

      Let's be fair: private schools are smart with how they spend any of the money they receive and I'm sure if local schools received the $ as opposed to Julia or her counterparts telling schools what they needed (think BER) instead of listening to the needs of a school from those who work in them, each school would be far better off.

      As with much of work of the Labor government - their ideas look great on paper but unfortunately their execution has been deplorable. People have died because of it and there has been no value for money.

    2. I am sorry but his Private vs Public education is something that makes my blood boil due to people making judgments when they’ve not experienced it themselves is simply ignorant.

      We should simply respect the choices people make because we all make decisions for a whole host of reasons.

    3. Di - thanks so much for your insightful comments. I found myself nodding in agreement and sighing despondently about the experiences you've witnessed in the public system, not at all surprised that decisions made on public funding are at times ruled by red tape and bureaucratic procedure, rather than based upon need and school individuality.

      Furthermore, I agree that the entire public vs. private debate is infuriating, mainly due to the attack on people's personal choices and the sweeping statements about their family values and circumstances (hence the crux of my post above). Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

    4. Thank you, Mother Load. Lots of things are like water off a duck's back for me. Each to their own and all of that, but educating children is something I enjoy and it really gets under my skin to hear people say that private schools, and I distinguish between a genuine private school as opposed to your local Catholic or independent schools as their fees are generally much lower in comparison, should not receive public funding.

      If my children were in the public system, they would be costing the Dept money so why not allow people the choice? What is so wrong with that? It irritates me that we HAD to make the choice to educate our children privately because the government does not provide adequate funding.

      Yes, I'll agree that there are some super wealthy people that probably could pay higher fees due to their incomes but then again, shouldn't those that contribute a lot to the tax payer's purse get SOMETHING back?

      The private system takes a lot of pressure off the public system. It's a win-win for a lot people.

      And one last comment: I was happy for our boys to go to the local public school as I think the public system works well BUT it lets down those children needing support. A teacher can only do so much with a normal sized class.

  4. Great comment, Lex. I absolutely agree with all of your very valid points. The argument of funding to me is a separate issue to the point I'm making above but I definitely share the view that government funding in education should be reserved for those who need it the most. As you say, we pay enough for the education we are fortunate enough to be able to choose and it should well and truly cover the needs of our school and its student body (in an ideal world).

  5. Are you aware that in many cases it costs the government LESS for a child to attend a private school over a public one?

    There is no way the pubic system could cope if there was a significant movement of students from the Private to Public sector. This information is there in black & white on the My Schools website, and by way of example, my sons receive less funding at their Private school as opposed to the local public HS.

    There are already examples of schools bursting at the seams, particularly in inner city areas where the government has not planned the appropriate infrastructure for population growth.

    1. Hi Anon - thanks for your comment and I completely agree. It's a point that is not often considered by the harshest anti-private school judgers; the public schools may be a little crowded now but imagine how much worse things would be if we all turned our back on the private system? I support both education systems but most of all I support personal choice, free of judgement.