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.
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.
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