Is private schooling worth the cost?

By Leith van Onselen

As an Australian parent in 2018, the public versus private school debate is hard to avoid. With two children aged 7 and 10, and living in a fairly affluent area of Melbourne, I am continually asked “which private school will you send your kids to”? When I respond that I am planning to send my daughter to the local public schools (my autistic son goes to a special school), I am often greeted with blank stares or comments like “but don’t you want to give your child the best possible education”?

My usual response is to either ignore their comment or retort with something like: “there’s no guarantee that private schooling leads to better outcomes” or “I cannot justify the cost”.

As noted by Dr Cameron Murray way back in 2012, school choice is merely one factor determining vocational, personal and emotional skills during adolescence.  Genetics, parenting, the home environment, socioeconomic status, peer groups, sports and other club activities, amongst many other factors, all contribute to shaping young minds.

Without the opportunity to conduct controlled studies, for example, by studying twins who attend different schools while holding all else constant, the best analysis of the measurable benefits of private schooling would be a statistical test of various measures of ‘success’, controlling for external factors such as parental intelligence and education, household income and location, and child’s intelligence prior to arrival at the school.

Moreover, there’s other considerations that must be considered. For example, does a public school with more diverse student backgrounds give a better social experience and equip someone better for real life? Or does a private school offer more valuable professional connections?

Actual studies comparing private and public schooling are rare, but there has been a few.

One pioneering study showed that after controlling for demographic factors public schools were in fact better at increasing grades in mathematics during primary school years than private schools.

A follow up study tracked student achievement through from kindergarten to eighth grade has this to say:

It is worth noting how little variation school type really accounts for in students’ growth in achievement.

Economists have also examined the ‘house price premium’ in catchment areas of better performing schools.  A process which clearly reinforces the school performance divide through selection bias even between public schools themselves, furthering clouding the issue for researchers and parents alike.

Whereas social scientists have examined which factors lead to the choice of private schooling and, not surprisingly, found a bias towards private schooling by parents who attended private schools.

In any event, the evidence suggests academic benefits of private schools are, at best, very marginal.  While at the same time, the costs of private schools are extremely high and increasing rapidly. This plays into my retort that “I cannot justify the cost”.

Back in July, University of Melbourne released the results of a study, which found no career gain from a private school education:

University of Melbourne ­researcher Jenny Chesters says parents may be wasting their money on private primary and secondary schools, judging by post-school outcomes.

“Attendance of a non-­government school was not ­associated with an increased likelihood of being employed on a full-time basis, being ­employed as a manager or ­professional or with higher earnings at age 24,” she said.

“Unless parents and governments are seeking non-monetary returns to their investments in private schooling, they may be over-investing in primary and secondary school education.”

Dr Chesters examined the salaries and jobs of more than 3800 private school students at age 24 who did year 10 in 2003.

She found the students’ achievement levels reflected the social-economic status of their parents, not the type of school they attended.

Her findings come as the fees at some top private schools edge towards $40,000 a year…

Whereas The Guardian has published a detailed report on the public vs private schooling debate, casting further doubts over whether private schooling provides value for money:

…if you’re only interested in academic achievement, the results from most of the 30-odd Australian studies since 2000 suggest that private schools are no better at progressing students’ learning than state schools, once you’ve controlled for socioeconomic background. That’s also been the case for Australia’s results in the past three Pisa tests, the OECD’s international comparison test for student learning…

“On average private schools superficially appear to achieve higher student outcomes,” concedes education researcher and public schools advocate Trevor Cobbold. “But public schools enrol the vast majority of disadvantaged students … and this is what largely accounts for differences in school outcomes.”

The Grattan Institute’s yet-to-be released study of five years of Naplan results contrasted students’ progress between Naplan tests rather than the raw scores, because it says that is the best measure of what value a school is adding. Comparing like with like schools by socioeconomic background across sectors, it found there is no significant learning advantage conferred by private schools.

Researcher Peter Goss says, “it’s a pretty clear finding that the differences in progress between the three sectors are just not there…

There is, for example, some research to suggest that public school kids do better at university than private school kids with the same Atar. The researchers say this may reflect the ability of some private schools to maximise tertiary entrance scores for their students, who revert to “underlying ability” once they’ve left…

Whatever it is, paying high fees for private school is not an economically rational decision, says Sean Leaver, a behavioural economist specialising in education choices. He compares it to a luxury consumption decision, like buying a top-end BMW over a good cheap Toyota. Both will get you there.

“As an investment? Clearly no,” he says. “There’s no real benefit from attending a private school compared to a public school once you take into account that private schools skim the best kids and screen the worst kids out.”

Call it confirmation bias, but the above reports support my view that private schooling is a waste of money.

I’ll sleep comfortable in the knowledge that I won’t be hosing tens-of-thousands of dollars down the drain each year.

[email protected]

Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

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Comments

  1. I tend to agree. My boys will be going to the local high school (which luckily is a good one). If they need academic help we can get tutors.

    • Josh MoorreesMEMBER

      Private, one on one tutoring is pretty much the best education you can give a kid since they get that personalised education tackling their areas they are specifically struggling with. You can buy a lot of private tutoring time with $40k a year.

      • Agree this is a poorly formulated debate. Further that projection or expectation that all parents send kids off the private school for the prestige and networking is not true for all.
        Senior college, two years should do the job if needs be.

        My child was part homeschooled for his sake and mine, after state and private school teachers found correct answers given by a five year old incorrect, and in one class there was a record kept where he had to give 32 correct answers per day.
        For example diving into a shallow pool and breaking neck severes the spinal cord, wrong, how many corners on a cylinder? Infinity, WRONG ..till public high school in top gifted class in WA and several years accelerated called a moron by the teacher who could not understand him.
        So a nice co-ed private school, inexpensive in Perth was great. No bullying by kids or teachers. Accelerated again mid year. They said just get him into a nice co_ed private school when we left for Melbourne. That was Wesley, so did not have to be orange boy for the jocks as in one vile sicki old private Melbourne school, weekend team sports not forced. He repeated year 11 at 14 because it was so nice. Said those kids had no idea how lucky they were the teachers wanted them to succeed and no bullying. No the standard was not great, but he could do the international baccalaureate. I taught him English because he had half a dozen incompetents over the time. For him it was a calm relief with no attacks, no 23 year old refugee lads with knife fights in the playground… I stopped one as at Swanee. No award winning maths teacher not giving him the homework 5 minutes before the end of school, then full lunchtime next day doing 150 repetitive stupid calcualtion as punishment…Wesley chemistry teacher was a psycho, but bottom line the school gave him mostly peace and safety. The 2 private schools were the only ones which did.
        I know of private girls schools where the I B started in year 10, that girls were given essays each week, fully marked for resubmission and were trained and trained.
        Wesley did have Chinese with blue contacts and triad fathers, beautiful fully tanned all over blonde girls, ferals, young and old, 18 in year 11. everything, if they could enter the gate they were accepted, and we could hear ex students doing wheel work down at the corner at midnight now and then. And they could talk and fill in forms.

        My career was in teacher education, I never cared for education system., I went to a central school in the country. At Sydney uni sitting in the top hundred class in chem, the lads next to me had done it all and were years ahead thru extreme school subject matter. I expect a private school to have trained teachers.
        IMO primary school is irrelevant, mostly a waste of time, providing the kid can read and write and does maths regularly. Gets a life and learns to learn by itself. WA at that time had secondary from yr8 and studes graduated at 17. No poor little kids in year 7 high school. Sons best friend, parents physics researchers, took his year off to skate the streets with his crew as many took their 17th year as a break year.

    • Youve already selected by paying the extra to live in an expensive area. not an option for low incomes in outer burbs.

    • Depends how elite the private school I guess – it may not lead to superior educational outcomes but it nurtures and maintains the web of social contacts the top end of town use to cement their position at the top of the societal structure.

      WHO you know can be at least as important as what you know, if not more so.

      • Agree, being able to talk and be comfortable in social settings helps. In Melbourne medicine in the 2001 year there was as I recall one student who had gone to a state school. State kids might not have had a good enter or start but they generally managed better when no spoon feeding.

  2. curl of the burl

    It depends on the area. In affluent areas like say Ascot in Brisbane, the state school is as good if not superior to the local private schools. Go to Daisy Hill on the southside of Brisbane and John Paul College is in a different universe compared to Daisy Hill State school.

  3. The Horrible Scott Morrison MP

    Private schools are great for avoiding children with lice. Use your go at a fair go to get a good job so you don’t have to send your kids to poor schools – which is basically child abuse.

    • Tassie TomMEMBER

      Plus if you send your kid to a private school you get an “in ticket” to network with the other kids’ rich parents.

      • Network with all those wine and cocaine addled yummy mummies..
        I was in Western Suburbs in Perth a while ago having lunch at Sushi Train, 12.30 Saturday in walks this well kept mummy no wedding ring and a 4 year old fresh out of Ballet class. She orders for her and the tot then hands the waitress a bottle of red and says please empty this into a glass. I was shocked but apparently its a thing out there.

      • Know a few Knox staff and former pupils – networking is dead, and has been for decades…

        I think some of the article information above is selective, pushing an agenda. Some Sydney school surveys I have seen, state selective schools out-perform, hands down. interestingly, the difference between private schools and Catholic (which basically accept everyone) – the Catholic schools have a materially better educational outcome. Fees for a catholic school are $2,500 pa, versus what ever private school you send them to.

        State schools are clearly last.

        I am from the state school system, similar in structure and background to a typical Catholic school, but there is a world of difference between the two. Not sure what it is, pride maybe?

        I suppose if you combine the state selective and normal state schools, maybe the results are the same as others? not sure…

        But I can say, there is a massive variation between schools. And if you are in the wrong area, then maybe sending your kids to a private school is the only option.

        But UE sounds he is already in a good area, so that is probably not an issue. But his background and bias cannot be applied elsewhere.

      • Tassie TomMEMBER

        RT, usually I disagree with you, but despite my satirical comment I must admit that what you have stated just then is (in my humble opinion) absolutely correct and logical.

        I live in Tassie now but I grew up in regional SA (went to the local high school), and I know that some people who weren’t particularly exceptional students in year 8 or 9 who then left our local state school to attend one prestigious Adelaide college or another, who did much better in Year 12 than they otherwise would have, got into a fancy uni course, and are now doing much better than they would have done had they completed school at my school.

        I also know of Adelaide high schools in the “bad” parts of the suburbs that really, really struggle (way worse than my regional high school). The teacher-student ratio is so low, and the number of “difficult” kids is so high, that there is very little time left for the teachers to spend with the other 80% of kids. How are you supposed to learn and achieve if you don’t get to spend any time with a teacher?? You might as well never attend school and just read your curriculum on the internet.

        What’s the value of a teacher if you can achieve just as well at a public school essentially without one as you can in a private school without the “difficult” kids and with smaller classes when you have much more access to one? It doesn’t make sense.

        I’m not pro-private school by the way, and I hate the fact that you’re right.

      • Bias is strong. In everyone.

        I was lucky at the schools I went to in Hobart (stayed in a hostel). I know if I went to the local institution, well lets say, the cliental interesting genetically! We were the first new blood farming family in our small region. Five families by surname, two married each other, the other three married each other… and no, I am not making this up!!!

        My wife taught in the Outback WA, and it was a challenge to get kids staying full time at Primary school. Great kids though, helped to run annual Camps. Substance abuse prolific.

        In regards to teaching, I think the future is App driven, teachers are no longer that critical. Yes, explanations important now and then. But all teaching to a certain point, will be online. The results better, and dropouts more readily identified.

      • Yes Tassie Tom, have a dopey nephew whose parents have a business near the ACT. By sending him to the top boys private school he learned to be entitled, be a bogan (his term) whilst calling others bogans.

        . It meant he was exposed to the sister school and met his wife and married well young. Then had helpful contacts thru the region and felt entitled in his occupation, able to tell others what to do and pretend to be superior, despite being a dope.

        So it was a very very worthwhile investment in this particular case. Worth noting imo.

  4. I find private schools normally make things a little easier.
    Yes you can get your own tutors/councillors etc, but private schools normally handle many of the smaller problems, you normally have to fit in somehow when you’e busy.

  5. no

    private school students only outperform public cuz they are smarter on average going into the school

    control for the relevant psychometry and theres no difference in outcomes

    • Private schhools filter and scholarship. Why do they deserve govt subsidy when they can exckude. the local catholic college says its open but puts you on a waitlist till lthey see your kid cv and naplam results. Inputs give outputs like the afl draft.

    • I have seen very average kids in the senior college of a private school and just be left behind. Went to one home and son had a big office with a large desk and chair and parents had no idea that school was doing buggerall for their son despite the huge expense.knowof others, parents struggling to help their child and teachers saying he is doing well and end with a very low score. Should have been better llocally, but that town is dominated by Visy and drugs and dangerous state school.
      Best schooling imo is homeschooling up to year 7, couple of hours in morning, afternoons meet others, excursions, acrobatics swimming. Whatever.

  6. Tens of thousands of $ are a big ask, but there are private schools with much lower costs than that.

    I went to a private school which was around $4k/pa (still well lower than $10k today). In Year 12 I had classes with fewer than half a dozen students in them, probably not a ratio you would see in the public system. That said there were fewer subject choices, which was limiting.

    “Genetics, parenting, the home environment, socioeconomic status, peer groups, sports and other club activities, amongst many other factors, all contribute to shaping young minds.”

    I think this is true and whether the private school system would benefit an individual child would probably depend on the child themselves e.g. if you put a child with motivation to learn, who has a specific interest in the subjects available at a private school and where the teacher-child ratio is low, they would probably stand to benefit more so than at a public school.

  7. “but don’t you want to give your child the best possible education”

    Before we ask the question whether private schools provide “better education than public” we should answer more fundamental question:
    Why would parents want to give their kids “the best possible education”? by education here I think about formal education – schooling

    What if better formal education comes at the expense of real education?

  8. GunnamattaMEMBER

    Most parents arent sending their kids to private schools for the academic cache, they are doing it for the ‘network’ – and in my experience most of them arent backwards in owning up to that.

    A good friend who is the head of ‘boys’ at a relatively prestigious private school (after being churned out of a government school in a larger regional Victorian town) summed it up nicely for me……..

    ‘You send the same kid, who is an ordinary academic achiever, out into a private school and there is a fair chance that a decade down the track the kid will be your local bread and butter – maybe the local real estate, possibly one of the well-connected tradies or a smaller business type, more likely one of the local accountants or conveyancing types, or possibly even a few rungs up the public sector ladder. For many parents that is a comfortable option – they dont give a rats if the kid isnt the next Einstein or tech genius or acting prodigy, they just want comfort and a comfortable life for their kids.

    ‘You send the same kid to a local high school, and you might get any of those outcomes, still, but the likelihood of it recedes – and there is more pressure on the family environment, with greater risk of distractions. The kid is more likely to be hanging around with kids from impoverished, welfare dependent families, more often scarred by divorce, more likely to be exposed to drugs, tatts, the unwanted paternity event, or the kid might get stuck into the joys of spending supported by part time hours at McDonalds or Harvey Norman, which starts to prise the fingers off further academic progress as the kid enjoys life.’

    ‘Much of that is just the social set of the kid, but the better private schools will go out of their way to provide nicer access to experiences – the trips overseas, the boats the skiing, the farm stays and what not. The same attempts at those experiences in the public system, have a greater risk of turning into binge drinking, or worse, with an overworked teacher or guardian turning a blind eye. The shared experience in the private scene is more likely to be cherished and less likely to be looked back on with embarrassment.’

    ‘All that said, dont think for a second it is laid on in the private sector. If you get in and pay the fees there is always the risk of a phone call late in year 9 or 10 where someone suggests that junior isnt going to make it as well as you like in an academic sense – and that maybe a vocational course is something worth looking at. From there, there is a cocoon effect encouraged fairly overtly in nearly all private schools – despite what they may say about respect. The kids get sucked into the private scene sports and arts and music and plays, and simply have less time to hang out with kids they were having sleepovers with just a few years earlier – and before you know it you havent seen those guys in a couple of years, and feel a little embarrassed when you bump into them’

    I have my own kid coming out of primary school later this year. He will be going public, but in trying to nut out the implications of what I am doing the above words are a direct quote. Personally I figure I can keep the home environment together, and educational, and can provide my kid with a few breaks later on – mainly the fact that he will speak two languages fluently, and that I can get him tertiary education (free) elsewhere, as well as use contacts to possibly give him a break offshore (and can I just add that I think more Australian families should look at sending kids to University in Europe). And I just cant justify the cost, and I cannot for the life of me see why governments provide the funding they do for the private sector schools.

    • Much of that is just the social set of the kid,

      I understand that that is in fact the biggest determinant but I can’t lay my hands on the study. It’s not independent or public that matters most, but the peer group of the children in their teenage years.

      See fisho’s comment below on Sydney selective schools.

      [The study was reported in The Age earlier this year. It showed that the best explanatory variable for income was post code during teenage years.]

      • GunnamattaMEMBER

        There have been a few studies not that tendency i think and a load more suggesting that private schools do sweet FA for academic achievement, so i tend to buy the idea

    • if the network affect exists, then it should be quantifiable…is there any evidence for it?
      In a globalised world, who gives a bugger where you went to school (except if you live in SA where the answer is “everybody!”).

      • GunnamattaMEMBER

        It is a ‘thing’ of the English speaking world i reckon. The Poms, the Americans, Canadians, Kiwis, white Saffers, Paddies (with a heavy catholic overtone) and us. The only bods whoever ask ‘where did you go to school?’ Are the angliskiis

      • Gunna – mostly when Americans ask where you went to school they mean undergraduate. Schools don’t matter so much but where you went to college is a big deal.

    • Ronin8317MEMBER

      Unless you are one of those that doesn’t bat an eyelid on the cost of private school, it’s a status symbol. Going for ‘network’ doesn’t work because the rich boys and girls won’t have anything to do with someone who is not. The ‘materialism’ is really scary.

      Going to a private school often means the wife cannot work full time, unless you’re rich enough to hire a chauffeur. My sister has two children in private school, and she spent the last decade being a free ‘uber driver’. Beyond the pickup and drop off for the schools, there is also music lesson and sport on Saturday. When you add it all up, she had spent at least 6 months of her life stuck in traffic transporting the kids. @[email protected]

      • GunnamattaMEMBER

        What my mate was referring to above was not about networking to hang out with the uber money set, but networking to hang out with people just like what the parents want their kids hanging out with. Networking with banality if you prefer…..

    • kiwikarynMEMBER

      Totally true. Studies also show that peer pressure is a bigger determinant of outcome than parental influence after the age of 11. So you have to pick your kids friends very very carefully. Do you really want them hanging out with the kids of drug addicts and criminals at the local state school. Or spending time at the house of a single mother because she is never there and the kids can do what they like? Or associating with kids from families who dont value education, dont bother with homework, and whose kids are more inclined to be truant? If you want your kids to succeed academically, the best thing you can do is surround them with other kids who are being pressured to succeed – whether thats by the private school or by their higher socio-economic parents, it doesnt matter. If you can find excellent high performing social cohorts at your local state school, and an absence of negative influences, then take advantage of it. Otherwise, go private.

  9. Isn’t private school education just another pass into mixing with the ruling elite of the establishment?

  10. I went to a Lutheran school in Brisbane that was fairly highly priced in the 1970s. It’s haunted me with foul memories and night sweats ever since.

    All our kids went to public schools in Brisbane – preschool to grade 12 – and the experience has varied between them.

    The one needing help to cope and deal with issues got help and graduated with good marks and good prospects.

    The one that was way above average got pushed higher and higher so he was doing uni subjects in grade 12 more than regular classes.

    The more-or-less-average child had a productive happy trip through the entire process.

    All our kids have their uni fees paid by us, their parents.

    Other parents our age around us are financially exhausted after private schooling fees, and unable to pay the 20% contribution for uni fees and their kids are forced into HECS & HELP debt.

    • If your kid is smart and motivated, they will do well anywhere.
      Private schooling pushes/cajoles etc the kids who don’t have any innate drive. Busier, less well resourced schools don’t have the time to push kids who just don’t want to go it. That’s not a justification, but it does permeate some parents thinking.
      And there are a lot of people in that circle who have ever been to a non private school- even to visit. I think my mother in law thought she would be attacked by dragons when she first very reluctantly visited the local primary school, which is in a pretty upper middle class area.

      • “If your kid is smart and motivated, they will do well anywhere.”

        Correct. The benefits of private school are mainly: less brawling, drugs, social problems and way more extra-curricular activities. The public system is atrocious when it comes to the extra-curricular stuff.

  11. I went to both – the behaviour of the students in the Catholic school was way better. The infrastructure was better maintained too.

    I do not know if Christian schools are willing to expel bullies. Government schools are probably extremely unwilling to expel bullies. Look at Jon Venables – there is no rehabilitating some psychopaths.

    I have no idea if private schools pay teachers more.

    If you lived in the poorest suburbs, I would imagine it is better to send your kids to the cheapest private high school in the area for 6 years – if you can afford to – rather than the overcrowded local government school full of recently arrived immigrants who do not speak English.

  12. Just to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment.

    Instead of asking:

    “Do I get a benefit from sending my children to an independent school?”,

    you might ask:

    “Do I have duty to send my children to an independent school?”

    I can’t lay my hands on the study released earlier this year, but the gist of it was that the main determinant of income was the peer group of children in their teenage years. Peer groups at young ages don’t matter, nor later in life. But peer groups in teenage years are key.

    For parents living in wealthy and/or aspirational school catchments, they get the benefit of a good peer group free of charge (or paid for by the State). One could argue that they’re “free-riding”. And this might not be capturable through land prices. An “aspirational” suburb need not be a weathy suburb.

    At least if they go to an independent school, they’re paying more of the cost of accessing good peer groups.

  13. For more of a Sydney focused view, you’d need to ask the question:
    Are Select Schools better than Private Schools?
    Academically speaking it’s no contest, the select schools win hands down, year in year out it’s the same select schools delivering at least 9 of the top 10 results.
    With that fact in mind, is it any wonder that Rob Stokes (NSW education minister) wants to open up the Select school system for allow Local kids to attend. Hmm lets see that means that parents can now Buy their way into a Select school education the traditional Aussie way (expensive house in just the right school district) and with the added benefit that it wouldn’t be long before the dilution of the Select school intake resulted in them loosing say 5 of the top ten slots. Naturally these places in the top 10 rankings would be replaced by Private schools.
    Win-win situation…what can possibly go wrong.

    • I don’t mind Rob Stokes’ reforms. The “selectives” aren’t really working as I don’t buy that 90% of all gifted kids are Asian.

      The select schools “win” by just creaming the most academically gifted. Teaching wise, they are still public school teachers and you can get lucky and unlucky (and the principal has less discretion to hire and fire).

      And gifted is a strong word to throw around. I worked in banking and we would regularly source top grads and a high proportion were from selective schools. Sure, some impressive guys and girls but still quite a few you scratch your head and think this person went to a selective school?

      The biggest issue with selectives is that they detract from having good comprehensive public high schools as all the clever (or ambitious and coached) kids are drained from the comprehensives with the result being public schools might get a lot of the top ten spots but they also lock up the bottom 50.

      https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/27/hothoused-and-hyper-racialised-the-ethnic-imbalance-in-our-selective-schools

    • Ronin8317MEMBER

      Rob Stokes is an idiot. He is the ‘STEM is just a fad’ education minister. The local real estate agent and developer would love the idea though, and we may see plenty of apartments that nobody lives in, whose only purpose is to provide an enrollment address for children. (I actually know someone who is doing this already for their primary school children..)

      As to the idea that it’ll someone increase the number of non-Asians kids in selective school, on the contrary, the entire catchment area near the school will be NOTHING but Asians.

      • As to the idea that it’ll someone increase the number of non-Asians kids in selective school, on the contrary, the entire catchment area near the school will be NOTHING but Asians.
        Haha I agree completely ….but isn’t that the true purpose of this proposed change?
        As for Rob Stokes, I don’t know if he is smart or dumb but everything about the man grates on me. Every word from his mouth seems to serve some narrow purpose and reward some group that he is associated with, nothing is ever done for the greater good. The sooner he gets moved on to Federal politics the better.

  14. I went to a selective state school. My kids are attending private schools.

    I have no doubt that where I live a state school education would be of a high quality and the peer group pressure and parental involvement would drive good outcomes.

    The real issue is that the selective schools in the area have developed a tutor intensive / tiger mum / swot culture which doesn’t allow for a happy and full childhood experience.

    These schools can no longer support football and cricket teams and other forms of traditional Australian childhood engagement. The kids are required to compete day in day out against kids suffering under a form of parenting some might claim is close to child abuse.

    So instead parents are forking out tens of thousands of dollars a year for private schooling. Over many years of education and multiple children the impact on family wealth and lifestyle can be severe.

    Only a generation ago the same education came more or less free and combined good academic outcomes and a measure of childhood happiness.

    Its a hidden additional cost of Australia running such an unbalanced population ponzi economy.

    • It is definitely true that a Select school education comes with it’s own unique set of problems created by the ultra competitive pressure cooker environment. For kids that really belong in these schools it’s not an issue however for those that kind of snuck in (pushed past the post with lots of primary school tutoring) the select schools become a very unforgiving environment the natural remedy for which is even more Tutoring and direct home work assistance.
      There’s also the perspective that Sydney Select schools are absolute racist havens with many of the top schools having kids 90+% Asian backgrounds and the kids make it very clear that regardless of how clever little whitey is he/she ain’t welcome.

  15. Andrew PeglerMEMBER

    We have both kids at public school. We invest in good tutors and save about 40k a year. Both doing well. I went to private schools for my whole schooling and can confirm the non academic advantages do include a certain “finesse” and aspiration to success but the much vaunted old boys job network is being white anted by platforms like LinkedIn. But when all is said and done it’s what goes on at home that drives curiosity, confidence and ambition. Have dinner together and talk about current affairs and ideas!

  16. People who are in a position to know.. tell me that many kids at the select schools are on Ritalin, not for any behavior issues but apparently it focuses the mind and makes one a clear thinking, rational, calm and confident person, leading to great academic outcomes. There is also now deep liquidity in the secondary market for the pills.
    Through my limited experience on this earth, I have decided my son would do best if I can give him a wide range of experiences and be involved in his life so I can keep an eye on his progression.
    I don’t know what future is install for this generation of kids… I can see many of the current professions disappearing altogether. They will need to adapt and possibly have education experience overseas as they may need to ditch this anus of the pacific.
    Maybe open one of those teeth whitening clinics in Beijing

    • Absolutley correct
      One cannot predict even 2 years into the future based on any of the 20 years of the past
      the future is a new horizon.
      Atlassian hired 1 in 150 applicants and the applicants were screened before the atlassian interview.
      if the remuneration of CEO’s is any indicator, performance in your chosen business is the key
      and by performance it usually means diverse problem solving ability, and no failures.
      the youngsters are not gunna get that by living in a 20msq highrise, nor from parents who are wage earners.

      • Thanks Ill check it out. I notice they are now marketing vitamins to children nice and sugar coated to get them used to taking pills. When you have a life problem reach for medicine cabinet.
        My kid was being bullied at school.. Pediatrician wanted him on anti depressants.. I said no damn way in hell.. He could not understand my resistance…I made the school deal with Bully and taught the kid to box. 6 months later happy boy and no mind altering pills.

  17. These studies seem way too general to be any use. It’s not surprising that private schools on average aren’t much different from public schools on average. But the averages hide the variation within the public system and the public system. You can be sure that a public school education on the north shore of Sydney is very different to one in the south western suburbs, and there are big differences between private schools too.

    Averages are meaningless when it comes to actual decisions. Parents don’t choose between the average public school and the average private school. They choose between the public school where they live and private schools they can afford, where their child can get in and which isn’t too far away.

  18. harry petropoulosMEMBER

    ive been sending 3 kids to private schooling since 3 year old kinder……………I have seen the merits as they are exposed to different avenues apart from academic studies…………………however it does not justify the COST!!!!

  19. The biggest determinant of success for most folks isn’t where they went to school but who they chose to marry. Sure you need to think about career but this now impacts who you might marry. Divorce is so costly and being a single dad or single mum must be a terribly hard gig.

    Choosing wisely (or poorly) is the easiest way to make (or lose) a million dollars.

    The ability to choose well isn’t confined to public or private but I intend on having a number of discussions with my kids (both boys and girls) about this as finding a good partner is actually the biggest thing. And one of my favourite thoughts on assortive* mating (that’s what its called) is allegedly from F. Scott Fitzgerald: ‘don’t marry for money, move to where the money is and marry for love.’ In that regard going to a good school might get you in on the ground floor Kate Middleton style.

    * Years ago doctors married nurses, lawyers married secretaries, now doctors marry doctors, lawyers marry lawyers etc.

    This is a seriously good read – USA focus but some corollary to Aus …
    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/06/the-birth-of-a-new-american-aristocracy/559130/

  20. We have friends that sent their child to Sydney Grammar. Our son went to a public selective school. Similar outcomes.
    Most kids end up in public universities, so no wonder their earnings are similar. No doubt private schools also have their own socio-economic stratification. So, there are no guarantees your child will be friends with the school’s elites. For example, some kids go to Europe for their holidays, while the ones of moderate means stay home. It’s not just the tuition that’s expensive, it ain’t easy keeping up with the Joneses either.

    The best investment is the time you spend with your children from the time they are born, teaching them to read, enabling them to learn a musical instrument, playing sports, etc.

    • “Similar outcomes.”

      Your conclusion probably suffers from a little bias. Also, if they are just at uni it is far too early to say that the outcomes are similar.

      Private schools aren’t just about getting into university*. I went to a far less academically demanding GPS school (and boarded there). I am who I am today because of it – although in my case a lot of the life lessons were from the boarding part! One of the biggest things I took from school was participating in sport. I kept playing rugby until my late 20s, toured Argentina and South Africa with a university team – great times. I know boys at Grammar and whilst academic I admire that they also get into their sport and co-curriculars – to an extent I am pretty sure a selective school would not.

      * but even the getting into university bit, the private might give you a broader horizon … mine gave me the confidence to go do university in the USA at an ivy league school. Of the 5 aussies in my year all private school boys (one grammar, another GPS, 2 Sydney CAS and 1 melbourne private).

      • Possibly self selecting there given the cost of attending a US university? Any one who could afford that would have no problem paying private school fees.

  21. Read this the other day on here:
    “It’s really embarrassing for me as an Australian when I contact a Chinese engineering contractor who has experience in heavy civil infrastructure projects and they proudly list the number of professional engineers by academic attainment, lets see 90+ civil and mechanical engineers at PhD level, 200+ with a masters degree, and another few hundred with a bachelors Degree.
    It’s embarrassing for me as the reason “they” give why we cannot deal with the Chinese on this planned mega project is they don’t meet the grade for design engineering skills despite having all those PhD engineers and those completed mega tunneling projects under their belt.”
    WW. Yr kids are never going to out do the academics from offshore, there is just too many of em Where the Aussie kids have the advantage is in using the diversity of life to problem solve at all levels necessary to run those projects. And if that involves taking the bully out the back of the toilet for a workover, u need those skills too.
    All those offshore academics probably do not have site skills like say Chris Corrigan

    https://www.afr.com/business/infrastructure/ports/chris-corrigan-on-the-waterfront-dispute-20-years-on-20180404-h0ycmw

  22. Sad to see the market so dominant in another area of life.
    My kids go to public schools, the eldest to a selective one, but we have discouraged the others from that approach.
    I save my $25k p.a. fees and plow it back into volunteering at the school, fundraising, helping out, trips abroad, a year on exchange, music lessons, choir, band, sport, and being an active participant in the kids schooling.

    How about keeping the fees but contributing to make your local school great?

  23. You make an excellent point here.
    “Where the Aussie kids have the advantage is in using the diversity of life to problem solve at all levels necessary to run those projects. And if that involves taking the bully out the back of the toilet for a workover, u need those skills too”.
    There are millions of people in Asia and elsewhere that can do hardcore mathematics, engineering, coding. But what will they do when a problem blows up on site, or their biggest client is about to walk after a dispute ? Or an employee is being a shit and needs to be terminated..These are the skills which will be needed, and can only be gained through broad education including socially, sports etc.

  24. michael francis

    Forget private schools unless you fancy architectural design classrooms, uniforms by Versace and stadiums built to AFL standards.
    Save the money and pay their HECS. Or better still encourage them to get a trade.

  25. I’m kind of surprised that know one went here:
    Surely you don’t send your kids to private school because it will be advantageous to them but rather because it is advantageous to you.
    Maybe that’s the real nature of the dilemma that Leith is struggling with.

  26. Should we mandating that the children of temporary work visa holders go through private education?

    Why are we allowing our public schools to be drowning in student numbers and poor facilities, at the same time we expect temporary workers to get health insurance?

  27. Not all public schools are equal, hence this is a poorly formulated debate. This is not an either or decision as it depends on the particular situation, the child strengths, interest, educational objectives and numerous other factors. It’s not a binary debate. The debate needs to be recast as the public school in your catchment vs viable alternative options. The average VCE score at our local school is 26 so academically, it’s a poorly performing school. I’d prefer not to send them there if I could help it. I’ve experienced reverse snobbery which isn’t great either, so I don’t discuss it anymore as people have their own prejudices and biases and some people are very narrow-minded.