Education comes in a variety of forms, and choosing the appropriate learning environment for an adolescent student can be crucial to their development.
Parents have long been conflicted by the choice to send their child to public or private school once they reach high school age. The decision is certainly not an easy one, and depends heavily on the teenager’s learning style and personality.
Public School Potential Benefits and Downfalls
Most American high school students attend public schools, getting an excellent education and having a great experience for four years. Paid for by federal, state and city or town taxes, public schools are often the only consideration by parents for their child’s education. It is important to consider more than just financials, however, when deciding whether a child should attend public versus private school.
Students who are naturally motivated and outgoing typically do very well at public school. With a variety of class levels being offered, they fit easily into the most appropriate courses for them; they do not need a smaller environment with more personal attention from instructors. However, if they are not being challenged enough academically, this could pose problems of boredom and frustration, resulting in not only academic, but possibly social trouble.
Social trouble doesn’t always stem from academics, but sometimes simply from personality. If a child has demonstrated having social difficulty in younger years, it may be time for a change come adolescence, to remove them from an environment that they may associate negativity with, and to allow them the chance to strengthen their social skills in a potentially smaller environment. On the other hand, students who may have had a very easy time socially throughout their school years may benefit from the challenge of changing schools and being introduced to a new community of students, so they also can continue to mature their social and interpersonal skills that are so crucial in adulthood.
For students who have particular interests or needs, many states now offer the option to apply to attend a neighboring public school that may have a more attractive program that suits the student’s needs. For example, if a student shows strong aptitude in physics and a neighboring town has a strong science program, they may be allowed to attend that school instead, to get a more challenging education in that area. The other school is likely to have the same size and demographic of student body, making for a similar learning environment, and won’t cost the student any more than their town’s public school.
Private School Potential Benefits and Downfalls
Challenging academics, a smaller student body, and tighter student to faculty ratio are what most people think of when they think of the benefits of private school. But is it important to also keep in mind several other factors, including student body demographic, student community involvement, and parental involvement. These latter few things can very heavily influence a student’s, and a parent’s experience with a school.
Adolescence is a crucial point for personal and social development, and if a student is not comfortable in their student body, then that school may not be the best fit for them. Exposure to a new environment may be an extreme positive or an extreme negative for most teenagers. Depending on how closely they identify with the community demographic they are entering, the experience they have there could very much impact their academic and social growth.
Some private schools mandate participation in sports or clubs, which can be excellent for students who might otherwise be too shy to try, or who are particularly outgoing, but can be a distraction to those who may struggle academically and need more time to concentrate on schoolwork. This lends itself well to students who like be involved in projects at once, or who enjoy teamwork, but not as much to students who like to concentrate their energy in one area or work on their own.
Where as most private schools that promote strong community values often try to get parents integrated and on board with those values, some prefer to keep it strictly within the actual school community, and to have parents on the periphery. It is important to speak to other parents of current students before a child attends, to find out which is the case. Parents who like to have a hands-on role in their child’s education should consider schools that are known for valuing parents’ opinions and support, rather than placing priority on school tradition and faculty decision making.
Though the stigma is that private school is not a possibility for all students, it is not true. Students who cannot afford tuition, who have disciplinary records, or who have learning disabilities can all be excellent candidates for private school, but they will need to choose the right ones to apply to. Scholarships are available to almost any private school, and there are schools that specialize in helping students who have had previous behavioral or learning troubles. If public education has not been able to help in these areas, it may be worth considering some of the private options available.