The State should encourage access to private education

By Antonia Anisy. Antonia, 21, has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Massey University and works as a Policy Adviser in Wellington, New Zealand. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below. *Shortlisted for the NUHA Blogging Prize 2011*

Purpose: The purpose of this exposition is to provide analytical discussion and commentary on the rationale for why the State should encourage access to private education.

In an age of descending church attendance rates, the demise of the stable, nuclear family structure and the presence of mass media saturating our nation with questionable, superficial ideals, the role of quality education has become increasingly paramount to ensure stability and sensibility in the generations to come. As the 21st century progresses, the education system will be instrumental in upholding traditional values, retaining the strong virtues from yesteryear and protecting the moral fortitude of society. However, trapped in a grim reality of overcrowded classrooms and rising social problems undermining the mainstream education system, public schools so often fail to deliver on even the most basic academic expectations. Indeed, it is the private education system that will conform the youth of the nation into citizens that have not only attained superior scholastic and cultural achievement (as one would expect from elite, fee-paying schools) but who have also been sculpted by strong traditional values, scrupulous morals  and meticulous discipline.

From The Guardian (Sunday 19th July, 2009) to the Time magazine (Wednesday 10th October, 2007), prominent, well-respected publications periodically publish material in praise of the private education system. Why? It is because the evidence to support the merits of the private education system is irrefutable.  From Barack Obama and Condolezza Rice to Bill Gates and John Maynard Keynes, private schools from across the globe have produced many of the greatest academic and political minds in history.  Long after the students have hung up their blazers and sung Gaudeamus Igitur for the last time, their nonpareil education leads them to lives marked with success and greatness. To provide just one example of this, one can note that in 2003, 84 percent of senior Judges in England and Wales were educated at independent (that is, ‘private’) schools.

Yes, there is no doubt that those individuals who experience a private education attain greater academic credentials, have the opportunity to engage in a wider range of extra-curricular opportunities than their public school counterparts and are exposed to more stringent discipline and regulation that will prepare them for life as self-controlled and restrained adult citizens. But why should the State undertake any responsibility to encourage access to this private good? What is the rationale to support State intervention to alter the market equilibrium for the supply and demand for private education?

The rationale to support why the State should encourage access to private education is encompassed by two primary factors. The first reason, as elaborated on in earlier paragraphs, is that students who receive private education go on to achieve greater outcomes academically, vocationally and, ultimately, financially. Taking a strategic, longer-term perspective, this reason demonstrates the potential for the State to reap the benefits of today’s private education in future generations. As those with private education move past the education system and into the work-force, the skills they have gleaned in their youth will rise into fruition. Ultimately, the wider population benefits from the skills and talents that they bring forward into the world through strong political leadership, innovative research and development and the collective significant contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) created through higher incomes and sound investment.

The second reason is the economic argument derived from the fact that taxpayer money funds the public education system. Every pupil who attends a private or state-integrated school reduces the burden on the over-stretched public education budget.  If the State successfully encourages more students to attend private schools, then there is more funding available per student for those remaining in the public school system, facilitating a better student-teacher ratio and creating a better outcome for all.

With rising national debt, the aftermath of the global financial crisis and an ageing population to support, the need for fiscal constraint means that the State does not always have money to be pouring into the public education system. Hence, the imperfections and inadequacies of this system remain. Although the private education system is by no means a flawless, perfect utopia either, it is paramount that the State recognizes its benefits and encourages access to it. Tomorrow’s greatest leaders will not be born, bred or created by luck – they will be the product of high quality education and appropriate grooming for the role.  As the Duke of Wellington once said, “The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.” So, let our State recognize the value of these words and wisdom of this notion and encourage access to private education for the greater public good.

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