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Monday, 10 December 2012

Why Are There So Many Private Schools?

I just read an article that there will be three more private schools opening in the Ottawa area.  This has occasioned the usual comments about two tiered learning and schools catering to highly specialized groups.  My response?  So what.  I have news that may come as a shock to some people - rich people have more opportunities than poor.  Is this fair?  No, but it is a fact.

Shouldn't all children have a right to a good education?  Yes, and according to the Education Act, that is precisely what the public school system offers.  However, neither the Act nor most of the public can define a good education.  That is because we all have our own idea of what a good education entails.  Some want what they had.  Others don't want their children to go through what they went through.  Some want strong academics.  Others want applicable, useful skills training.  And the public system is supposed to do its best to accommodate all these different goals and ideas.

But, let's be realistic, can one system meet everyone's needs?  Can one grocery store offer all kinds of food?  Can one hospital specialize in all areas?  No.  So the society compensates by offering options.  And those options are private, because our public system is a huge monopoly that acts more like a big business than a public service.  We need to separate the concepts of  "a strong public system" and the current public system.  I am in support of the former but not the latter. 

I wonder at the people who get upset with the existence of private schools.  Do they really think that these schools will weaken or diminish the public system?  That really doesn't make much sense.  If they are only for the wealthy, then only a few will ever attend. The loss of wealthy parents from the local school will have impact only if the parents were happy with the local school.  In which case, they have no reason to leave.  Unhappy parents do not support that school which is not meeting their needs.  And, just in case you have forgotten, parents of children in private school still pay public school taxes.  Some claim that the private schools are taking the best and brightest.  If this is true, then why aren't the public schools doing something about this?  Why aren't they meeting the needs of the best and brightest? 

Why are there so many private schools?  Because parents are willing to pay for the education they think their children need.  If there weren't unsatisfied parents, there wouldn't be private schools.   As with all sectors of our economy, there is only a supply when there is a demand. 

The increase in number of private schools and homeschooling families should be a wake up call to the public system.  Is the alarm loud enough?  I hope so.  I would love to see my grandchildren get a good education at their local public school. 

Don't believe in private schools?  Then don't send your children to one.  But if you  want something different from what the local school is offering, there are options. 

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