Over the last couple days, we have been attending the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF). GESF is a global conference with people from all cultures and backgrounds attending. Being students from a small private school in the small town of Camilla, Georgia, we were eager to attend a session on the role of private schools in the education system. Titled “Is there a place for “private” in education?”, the discussion was controversial and enlightening.
[callout]Mark G is a student reporter covering the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai. In this post, he has chosen to recap the views of a controversial panel on the role of private education in society. While I typically work to remain apolitical and focus on what unites us in education, Mark has been given full liberty to share on this controversial topic. I also want to note that learning how to hyperlink effectively is an important part of blogging and Mark has done this very well, in my opinion. Mark includes the video of the session so you can view it. — Vicki Davis, Teacher [/callout]
There was a distinguished panel that discussed this controversial topic. Jay Kimmelman, CEO of Bridge International Academies, Kenya, John Bangs, Senior Consultant to the General Secretary, Education International UK, Geoffrey Canada, President, Harlem Children’s Zone, and Sir James Mancham, former President of Seychelles.
Each one of the panel members was asked their position on this issue. There was a variety of views on this question. Sir James Mancham said that private schools are crucial to the education system of a country. He mentioned that in his country of Seychelles, their Constitution includes a provision for the preservation of the private school system. Private schools create competition between other private schools and public schools to create a need for constant improvement. He went on to say that private schools are more focused on hiring the best teachers and teaching an important and effective curriculum. He raised an important question about public schools, asking if it was public education or public indoctrination.
Geoffrey Canada remarked that private education is invaluable to the education system, but only middle class and affluent families could afford it for their kids. He said that every parent wants the best possible education for his or her child, and that parents should be able to have the choice to send their children to better schools if they have the money. Mr. Geoffrey was a big proponent of charter schools, saying that they allowed poor students to get a better education than they would receive at public schools. He said that private schools are critical to the education system because they give students a choice in their child’s schooling.
John Bangs and Jay Kimmelman had a slightly different opinion on the topic. Both of them agreed that it is important for parents to have a choice of various schools for their children to attend. John Bangs stated that parents do not only choose between a private and public school, they choose the best possible school for their children, that they can afford. Bangs said that state has a profound role in education, because education is the glue of society. Because education is crucial to the success of a country, he believes that it is the responsibility of the government to educate the people. Jay Kimmelman believes that all students have a right to a quality education. Jay works in Kenya, and has seen much inequality in the education system. He believes that it is immoral for privileged students to have a world class education, while many poor students are left behind in low performing schools. Jay was against private education that caters to a particular class of people, he believes that private schools must cater to all students, regardless of race or income.
All panel members were in agreement that private schools played a role in education; the only discrepancy was the extent of that role. Some members were in favor of private education as the dominant system, others believed that it should play the role of a backup to the public school system. Another opinion was that the private school system and the public school system should be balanced, both contributing ideas and innovation to improve both systems. As students attending a private school in Georgia, and by attending this session with these esteemed panelists, we can conclude that there is a role of “private” in education.
[reminder preface=”If You Comment:”]I encourage you to comment, but please remember that this post is written by a student as a summary of a session. I do moderate comments and hope that you'll model effective discourse as you share your thoughts and opinions on this topic. I reserve the right to moderate all comments. Thank you for being part of this experience as I encourage my students to develop their voice and use their blogging skills for a wider audience.[/reminder]
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I tend to be more concerned about the appropriateness of public schools than private ones. At least in a democracy. I believe that government has to be responsible for making sure that all students get the best possible education so public funding of education is clearly necessary. At the same time it is very easy for public education (meaning government run schools) to become centers of public indoctrination. Unfortunately the more sparsely populated an area is the less practical it is to have different schools. Real choice is easier in urban areas than rural ones.
Great points, Alfred. I think that either way, a good education is never free. It always costs someone something. Learning can be challenging. It takes support from home and so much more. And any time there is a missing link, it is so much more pressure on other points in the education system to make the difference. Public education is important to any democracy, but choice can be as well. The government indoctrination piece was one that came out in quite a bit of the conversation, particularly from those who had experience under dictatorships. It may not be something we think about as much in the United States but it is certainly an issue. Good points and thank you for commenting on my student’s post. He worked hard to capture all aspects.
I read the post before I saw your comment that it was written by a student and I was surprised because I thought I was reading your writing, Vicki. It was very well written and covered all sides of the issue. As a teacher in a private school I was interested to read about the discussion. I do agree with Sir James Mancham that competition makes all education better. All students, regardless of economic status, should be able to attend a private school, so as not to create a class system, but private schools are not funded by the government. So some system, whether scholarships, vouchers or quotas, could make quality education available to all.
As a member of the ‘elite’ in Nigeria I face the moral question of schooling everyday here in a country where the government provides such inadequate public schooling for the masses that ‘private’ schools are normal (even for the working poor). I actually homeschool my children for various reasons but it can’t be right that the entrenched wealthy of any country get to keep all the opportunities for themselves (education is just one such opportunity). Not all private schools are equally wealthy but they should all have a responsibility to promote diversity of background in their admission policies and engage with diverse communities.
Thanks for sharing Vanessa. This is a tough one. Many private schools (like mine) struggle to pay the bills. While we do scholarships with state money it is so difficult. Thanks for sharing your reflections and perspectives from Nigeria. It is so useful to hear thoughts from around the world on this tough issue. Whatever perspective, every child needs a good education. It is a tragedy when there is not one available or accessible to all.
Mark’s comments were a solid summary of the panel discussion. I felt it was well written. As an educator, it makes me proud to see our young people engaging in critical issues so important to society. Just as every classroom matters, every student matters. It is good to expose students to these issues so they can begin to think about the world which they are a part of! Well done!
Every single student matters — you are so right, my sister. (For those reading, Susan really is my sister and it means so much that she dropped by my blog here to encourage Mark.) One of the biggest things is that writing should not be for a teacher’s wastebasket – students respond to a global audience in ways they do not respond writing essays for teachers. Blogging is an essential part of the 21st century writing curriculum as Mark’s post has already been read by thousands. He did a great job on a very controversial subject. This is one reason he was selected to go to Dubai as a student reporter, he’s an excellent writer.