MySchool 2.0 revives the private vs. public debate
My school is better than yours - it’s the seesawing debate that never ends when it comes to the class divide over state versus private education.
Rather than helping to resolve the argument, the launch of the revamped My School website on Friday – for the first time allowing parents to compare funding levels for individual schools – has drawn criticism from both state and private school supporters and has only deepened the row.
Dispelling the old bang for your bucks theory, the site found the most elite private schools have at their disposal at least twice the income of the average government school, but their students do not necessarily perform any better in national tests than their state school system cousins.
The financial comparisons between the schools revived the ongoing question of whether private schools should have access to taxpayer funding and how much.
Online news forums showed opinion is as split as ever.
Paul argued on ABC Online that private schools should not receive any government funding: “I don’t think any state monies should go to private schools. The government provides schools for all children. If you choose not to use them and want to send your child to a religious or independent school then you should carry the total cost.”
But Tina disagreed: “Why should I also fund a government school at the same time as paying private school fees? If we all chose to send our children to state schools and there were no private schools how much more funding would have to be found to build all the extra schools and pay all the additional expenses?”
Then there were those like News Rider on PerthNow, who called for equal funding of all schools: “Every school is unique, no matter whether it is a private or a public one. Every student should receive the same financial support in the same country, no matter whether he/she is a public or private school student.”
However, funding is only one element in choosing a school. Most parents want a school that will allow their child to achieve to the best of their ability. Not surprisingly, there was little agreement on which schools produced better students.
Grinch 2, writing on PerthNow, thought students at government schools achieved equivalent or better results than their private school counterparts: “While private schools can have better resources, they can’t make kids learn if they don’t want to. I have many friends who have paid huge amounts to send their kids to very expensive private schools and these kids aren’t doing any better than those in the public system. Yet I have other friends who sent their kids to public schools and paid for tutors (because they could afford to as they weren’t paying private fees) and their kids did or are doing fabulously well.”
On the other side of the debate, Grace of Melbourne commented to the Herald Sun: “Private schools offer discipline. This is something that’s sadly lacking in most government schools. As for the standard of education, anyone who thinks the average government school is on a par with independent schools obviously hasn’t received a job application from a public school student recently.”
But Mother of 3 wrote on AdelaideNow: “It doesn’t matter what school your child goes to. If they are happy at that school and are willing to learn, and have all the support they need emotionally, physically and mentally, then that is the entire ingredient of success. No amount of money will make a difference.”
In a similar vein, Rex on PerthNow homed in on another possible determinant of student results: “The biggest factor as far as I’m concerned is parental upbringing. Having a well-balanced upbringing which involves a mother and father who show consistent love, discipline and care for education will work wonders for a child no matter which school they go to.”
Nevertheless, deciding where to send your child to school is one that parents still agonise over often from the time their offspring is born. The choice has never been greater - with an expanding range of religious and independent schools in the mix - and comparing schools has never been as complex.
So while the MySchool 2.0 site has come in for a battering from all sides of the debate, Courier-Mail reader Sue was one of the grateful ones: “I understand there may be teething problems in getting this level of reporting spot-on, but I commend the effort in providing greater information for parents. It seems a lot of schools have been dining out on their ‘reputation’ without delivering the goods. I’d hate to think that such an important choice would be made on purely ‘word on the street’.”
For many parents, it will be back to studying the comparison tables to see how each school stacks up.
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