In recent research, I have been reading arguments for and against sending a child to a private school, especially in the United States and the United Kingdom. They challenge the perception that private schools give children a better advantage in finding employment, or that the expense is worth future earnings.
This got me thinking about public and private schools in the Philippines. Apart from knowing from experience (painting walls) and politician-quoted statistics that public schools are sorely in need of basic upkeep, there is little I know about why they would be a better choice than privat schools. First, to provide contrast, let us look at the UK and the US.
Choosing Between Public and Private Schools in the US and the UK
Is the Amount Spent on Private School Tuition Worth Their Future Education?
This is, in fact, the central concern for most parents, since it is the most likely to affect their everyday lives. For parents who can only afford private school by foregoing savings, a retirement fund, and investments, this is probably the largest concern. The first concern has to do with something called double-taxation.
The argument of double-taxation is as follows: Part of whatever I own goes to taxes. Part of those taxes goes to publicly-funded education. Basically, I am already paying tuition whether I want to or not. I might as well just send my child to a public school. Another argument would be: I should be exempted from part of my taxes if I send my child to a private school.
The second concern when comparing public and private schools is whether or not it makes a difference to their future careers and employment. Monetarily, studies show, it definitely does. The Institute for Fiscal Studies states that graduates from private schools tend to earn 7% more than their peers who are in the same jobs, on the same career track.
Another study even says they earn 12% more on average. Rather than the quality of education, both studies talk about non-academic benefits of sending children to public schools. According to the Institution for Fiscal Studies, private school graduates had more ambition and self-confidence than their public school counterparts. This was because of the positive perception that students from such schools can and should do well.
The counter-argument, however, is that that 7-12% difference between the earnings will never be as much as the annual tuition fee expense. In other words, with the difference in the earnings, a student would not even be able to pay back his own tuition. Tution is also the least of any parent’s worries. The cost of a field trip in, say, PDS Memphis would probably be higher than that in an average public school in the same city.
Public School or Private School in the Philippines?
In Favor of Private Schools
Teaching of the English Language
The new K-12 guidelines require the mother tongue to be used through the first few grades, and then a mixture of Filipino and English afterwards. After all, Filipino and English are both official languages. However, English in the Philippines has been on a recent decline. Malaysians are No.1 in English excellence in Southeast Asia, not Filipinos.
This is a concern because the Philippines is a major outsourcing center. If Filipinos lose their edge in English, it will affect their future careers, and the economy of the Philippines as a whole. If parents still wish to give their children the edge in English the Philippines used to be known for, only private schools offer the level of English training they want.
The Presence of Basic Utilities
According to a 2015 UNESCO report, gaps in basic utilities have finally been closed, very recently. A need for 66,800 classrooms in 2010 was ended in 2014, with 66,813 classrooms built. A textbook gap of 61.7 million in 2010 was closed, with a 1:1 student-to-textbook ratio. A 2.5 million chair gap was also closed in 2012.
Basically, the Philippines has just barely reached the point where it can start focusing more on teaching quality, although that is not so much of a concern at the moment (explored in the next section). With this catching-up so recent, public schools have yet to beat out the perception of “lack.” A parent who sends a child to a private school is assured that the basic utilities are more or less intact.
In Favor of Public Schools
Teaching Quality is Evening Out
The Philippine Government raised the wages of public school teachers, so that they are competitive with those of private school teachers. Private schools can no longer draw teachers using higher wages. Unfortunately, without raising tuition fees, they cannot raise teacher wages. The result is that some teachers are even leaving the private sector for the public one.
There may be a definite advantage to private schools, for tending to have smaller classes than public schools. In that, the teaching quality may be comparatively better in private schools, because the teacher is able to give the students more individual attention. Beyond that, even textbooks have been standardized, so they all teach from the same book; making it harder for private schools to distinguish themselves.
The Elite Schools are Public Schools
The Philippine Science High Schools are among the elite schools in the country. Every student in a Science High School is on a scholarship, and they enter and stay in by merit alone. All of these are public schools in the sense that they are government-funded. Basically, if a parent wanted to ensure a child’s future in math or science, preparing him or her for a Philippine Science High School would be the way to go.
Public and Private School Disparities in the Philippines
When it comes to deciding where to send one’s child for school, naturally more questions are asked than the ones brought up here. The questions have to do with bullying and friend groups, with a school’s general reputation, with class size, with teaching quality. When it comes down to it, however, it seems the differences between the schools are wearing away. As time progresses, it looks as if private schools will have to do their best to keep up with the public ones, or at least to emphasize their differences.