The price of privilege

Hazel McCallion Senior Public School
Mississauga, Ontario

By Carla G. (Grade 8)

Rich, smug, spoiled young men and women row upon row. Incredibly intelligent and athletic "rich kids" whose parents shipped them away so that they would acquire the ‘right’ education. This is a common opinion attached to the individuals who attend private schools, however, in the ’90’s, this is simply not so.

Since private schools are most often thought of as schools for the more intelligent and wealthy members of society, many people may automatically assume that these schools are not right for their offspring. Currently, this is not the case. Many students attend private schools not because they are advanced but because they are behind. "I would have loved it if my kids could have been successful in public school" states Susan Hunter, a mother of twins, now in private schools. "But they just needed more attention than they could get in an under-funded, understaffed system."

It takes a rather keen person to thrive in a classroom where they are given less individual attention, than it is to shine in an environment in which there is a lot of specialized assistance. The student to teacher ratio is six to one in private schools. Most often there is one computer per every two children. Also, many athletic activities help the student succeed not only academically but most often in sport-related events as well. Given these most fortunate circumstances, it seems quite difficult not to succeed.

It seems as though students benefit in many ways academically, but what about mentally and socially? Private schools seem to have the same problems that plague public schools and society in general such as drugs, racism, and teenage sex. Private schools have an advantage over public schools in choosing who is admitted and retained in their program. Thus, parents indirectly have more control over the students with whom their child associates.

With all the rewards, what could possibly be keeping the pupils from flocking to private schools? For many, the great barrier is the overwhelming price tag. This generally ranges from $4,000.00 to $14,500.00 for a day pupil. There is a fee of an additional $10,000.00 for those who board. This requires great financial sacrifice on behalf of the parents. Many parents are choosing private schools over universities and try to just stay focused on the present and worry about post-secondary education when the time arrives.

Students seem to achieve incredible marks in private schools, rising above those in public schools. But does this trend continue? Do these students generally have more success in life? Nancy Smith, Dean of Students at Toronto’s all female Branksone Hall, states, "We have no basic or general kids - all our kids are headed to university."

But why do they do so much better? Is it the discipline, the strict schedules, or the attention they get from the teachers? Perhaps it is a combination of all these factors. Or maybe, it is the fact that many private schools have discriminating standards. Most private schools only accept the cream of the crop who would likely rise to the top with, or without, the training provided by private schools. They will also have an advantage over the students attending public schools because of the connections established at this early point in their lives.

Private schools have many things to offer indulgent parents who are looking for the best education alternative for their child. These students will have an advantage over students graduating from the public schools - but not without a price.

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