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Why Go Private?

Private Schools 2016

Sending your child to a private school in the US is not a decision to be made lightly. According to online resource site Private School Review, the national average private school tuition fees for 2016-2017 comes up to $9,582 per year per child, which is a significant expenditure given that public schools are 'free' by law. So what makes private school education a worthwhile investment for your children's future? What do you need to look out for when choosing the 'right' school?

Close to a quarter of all schools in the US are private, and their primary advantage lies in the academic variety they offer. While public schools are subject to statewide education policies, supervision and standardized tests, private schools have more free rein over their curriculum and staffing policies. This means that they are able to provide academic programs that may not be available in public schools such as the International Baccalaureate, as well as and a wider variety of Advanced Placement courses.

The trend of better academic performance among private school students is well-documented in surveys and rankings. A report by the US Department of Education found that on average, private school students were subjected to more demanding graduation requirements and were more likely to perform better than their public school peers on standardized achievement tests. This is thought to be due to a combination of factors: a more involved teaching approach, a more stringent admission process and a higher likelihood of the students having socio-economic characteristics beneficial to academic success.

Private schools also tend to emphasise a holistic approach to education in order to develop more well-rounded individuals. Their smaller student numbers make it possible for them to invest both resources and time in building in state-of-the-art facilities and developing robust extracurricular programs. Look at their arts and sports programs in particular when selecting a school; they are invariably much more comprehensive and their importance cannot be undervalued. They teach students valuable life skills such as teamwork, responsibility and confidence – things you cannot learn from books and blackboards.

A key thing to look out for when deciding on a school is the student-teacher ratio in classrooms, as lower ratios mean fewer children in the class and thus a greater opportunity to receive attention from the teacher, promoting more active engagement and academic achievement. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that private schools have consistently demonstrated a lower student-teacher ratio, hitting 12.2 students per teacher in 2013, while the public school ratio was 16.1 in that same year.

A lower student-teacher ratio also enables the teachers to devote more time towards engaging with parents and keeping them up-to-date on their child's progress, as private schools also recognize that giving a child a good education is the responsibility of both the school and the parents. Sending parents regular emails and newsletters on school events and student performance is part of this process, but private schools will go the extra mile by holding social events such as parent breakfasts and fundraiser dinners.

The flexibility of private schools to adapt their curriculum to world trends and their willingness to explore specialized subjects means that they are better placed to develop children with a more global outlook, with the hope that they will carry this mindset with them into adulthood and the leadership roles they may take on in the future. Students are encouraged to examine and address current world issues in their class work, while extracurricular activities may also include field trips – local and international – and community outreach projects for students to understand their responsibility to give back to the community.

In many aspects, private schools are able to offer academic and environmental advantages that public schools cannot, which makes them an attractive option for parents who feel that their children need something more than what the public schooling system can offer. Despite the extra costs incurred, the impact that a good school can have in the long-term development of a child's skills, mindset and character should make prioritizing the quality of your child's education a worthy investment.

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