Saturday, February 16, 2008

Public Education

There seems to be an increasingly prevalent view in Australia (and probably many other countries), that public education is substandard. Many parents seem to think that they would be letting their children down by sending them to a public school. They will go to any length to afford the exorbitant fees charged by private schools, often going into debt or enlisting financial support from grandparents. While private education may have benefits, I can very confidently state (based on 15 years of experience teaching in both systems) that public education is by no means a second rate education. While private schools may have superior resources, teaching standards in the public system are definitely superior.

Due to government funding policies and income from fees private schools can boast of facilities public schools can only dream of. For example, sporting and technology facilities in private schools are far more extensive than those that public schools can access. However, public schools are able to provide more than adequate facilities in most cases. If this were not true, how is it possible that public school students attain top rankings in highly resource dependant areas such as computing and science?

Many people seem to think that teacher training courses at universities are easy to get into. In 2005 a UAI of 80 + was needed; a more than respectable attainment. Many of my colleagues at teacher’s college had come from successful careers in areas such as medicine, engineering and business. They turned to a career in teaching, not for increased financial rewards but because they sought fulfilment in a more people oriented field.

All teachers in public schools have undertaken intensive, specialist training in education. Teachers in private schools are only required to have an undergraduate degree. In fact, early in 2005 a small scandal erupted when it was revealed that a number of private school teachers did not even have these qualifications.

Not only are public school teachers required to have a higher level of tertiary education than their private counterparts (a post graduate diploma of education being the minimum requirement), they can also access ongoing professional development throughout their teaching careers. I have attained several additional, university accredited qualifications in areas such as English as a Second Language, literacy education and technology through professional development programs. I can personally attest to the fact that the standard of teaching at my own (public) school is of an outstanding level. Through an innovative approach to the resources available this standard continues to improve.

Perhaps parents are guilty of letting down their children by not sending them to a public school…

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