Relocating families are faced with options that may challenge past opinions about state-funded versus private schooling. In a new location ease of admissions, availability of resources, location, length of move or other factors may cause parents to re-evaluate past assumptions and choices.
Today more than ever, the plethora of information available on the internet, from friends and colleagues, makes it complicated to navigate the landscape of education in a new home. It’s hard to know which statistics matter, how to interpret them, who to trust or on what basis to make a school decision. Whether looking at public or private schools or both, we at School Choice International believe that the search should start with the unique characteristics of the child and family.
Factors to take into account are:
1) Location – Public schools most frequently are neighborhood schools, whereas private schools may require children to travel for school, extracurricular activities, and to visit with friends who may come from afar. One should never make assumptions about which school your child will attend based on neighborhood, however. In certain cases redistricting or specialized schools may change the default option.
2) Financial considerations – Private school may be prohibitive although financial aid may be available, even to a non-resident, under certain conditions.
3) Resources – Public school resources may have been reduced as a result of state and federal budget cuts. Find out how these will affect your child’s class size, the teacher/student ratio, as well as curricular or extra-curricular programs in the arts, music and sports.
4) Curriculum and testing – In an effort to raise standards in public schools in the United States, the No Child Left Behind act or legislation that may replace it, and Common Core requirements, have had a major impact on public education. Ask about curriculum changes, testing and assessments in effect in the state, country or school your child may be attending.
5) Religion – In the United States separation of church and state renders it impossible to teach religion in public schools. Private schools can teach religion and have discretion about how to celebrate religious traditions. In other countries religion may be taught and customs observed within the state system. If this is important to you, ask – don’t make assumptions based on where you are coming from.
6) Selectivity – Public or state schools must accept all students. While geographical boundaries and specialized schools will determine the particular public school your child attends, in most cases academic ability will be mixed. Private schools tend to be more academically homogeneous, catering to a particular student body. Whether in the public or private sector, specific schools may require entrance testing or an application process.
7) Special education – In the United States, public schools are required to meet the needs of all students, including those with special needs, within the least restrictive environment. While the education and teaching environments vary from country to country, most countries have a provision for students with special needs within the public sector. Private schools may or may not offer special education support and, regardless of whether or not they do, may not be the right learning environment for a child with special needs.
8) Gifted education – While many publicly funded schools boast “gifted and talented” programs, they are often limited in nature. Private schools, by virtue of their student/teacher ratio, may be able to offer more individualization, based on individual academic needs.
Your decision should be made after substantial research, talking to people throughout the school community as well as visits to both public and private schools. The services of an educational consultant can streamline the process and help you find the right fit.
By Liz Perelstein, School Choice International
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