private school benefits
It is said that there are better life and career outcomes for the privately educated. But how much weight is there in this belief? Source: Shutterstock

There are now more pupils in private schools than ever before. According to ISC Research, there is a record 536,109 pupils in 2019 at its member schools. This is the highest number of pupils at ISC schools since records began in 1974.

The number of international schools are increasing too. A 2018 report from ISC Research counts a total of 9,605 English-medium international schools worldwide, representing a year-over-year increase of 6.3 percent.

As they become more popular, parents are tasked to weigh the age-old question: What are the benefits of private school? Are they better than public schools? Should they invest their money into these institutions? Which would be the best for my children?

We aim to help answer this question with what recent report and research have to say:


Private school graduates are more likely to enrol and gain admission to college

Do graduates of independent schools have better life outcomes and well-being? Do private school students receive greater benefits in terms of college admissions?

That’s what the National Association of Independent Schools and Gallup investigated in their study published in winter 2018.

private school benefits

This young lady is on her way many more experiential learning and extracurricular opportunities in college. Source: Shutterstock

The answer is yes. More independent school graduates enrolled in college immediately after high school compared to their public school peers (85 percent versus 69 percent). Almost all independent school graduates go on to college. More than half of this cohort were admitted into some of the most selective colleges and universities.

They also do better than their public school peers in terms of seeking out many key experiential learning and extracurricular opportunities in college.

Across the Atlantic, private school graduates are twice as likely to get admitted into one of Britain’s elite universities compared to state-educated children.

There are more alternative pathways to university

Year 13 exam results this year reveal that nine out of 10 independent schools are placing students in exam alternatives to the popular A-Level study route.

The number of schools offering BTECs (Business and Technology Education Council), Pre-Us and EPQ (Extended Project Qualifications) are rising, according to the results published by the Independent Schools Council (ISC).

TES noted 2019 saw 14,901 independent school entries for alternative qualifications, including the International Baccalaureate (IB). The A-Level course, however, continues to be the most dominant, representing 92.4 percent of this year’s cohort.

Private school graduates are likely to command higher salaries

With higher levels of educational achievement, they are “more likely to secure a high-status occupation and also have higher wages,” according to research published in the British Educational Research Journal in 2017.

“It is commonly conjectured that the broader curriculum that private schools are able to deliver, coupled with the peer pressures of a partially segregated section of society, help to inculcate cultural capital, including some key ‘noncognitive’ attributes,” the researchers wrote.

As a result, they command a wage premium that goes as high as 35 percent for males at age 42 and 21 percent for females. This is after allowing for differences in family backgrounds. The research also found that they are usually in jobs that require significantly greater leadership skills, greater work intensity and offer greater organisational participation/


It’s very expensive

The average international school tuition fee for the 2017/18 academic year rose 4.2 percent compared to the year before. China’s international schools are the most expensive, averaging more than US$40,000 per year, followed by Belgium, USA and France. All three countries have an average tuition fee of more than US$37,000 per annum.

Even in poorer countries like Angola, Mongolia and Nigeria, the average tuition fee at an international school in these countries are and US$37,071, US$36,346 and US$31,228 respectively, placing it among the top 10 most expensive countries in the world.

The report by ECA International also found that many schools charge extra fees, such as application and registration fees, uniforms and exam fees. These are compulsory and are increasing at similar rates with tuition rates.

Income influences student success more than private schools

Researchers from the University of Virginia found that while private school students may be outperforming public school students, the difference is eliminated completely when you control for family income and parents’ level of educational achievement.

Born into a high-income home, these children from birth to age five, have conditions that will carry on through the child’s school years. Similar findings were made in Australia.

After examining the data, they came to the conclusion that there was no conclusive evidence to suggest that, “private schools, net of family background (particularly income), are more effective for promoting student success” than public schools.

The study followed about 1,300 kids, that were born in 1991 at 10 different locations across the country, all the way through ninth grade in high school.

“It was the family factors that carried the day in determining the children’s performance in high school. It wasn’t the school that they went to,” said Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia and one of the study’s authors.

It’s argued as the root of inequality in Britain

In the UK, data shows that only nine percent of the UK school population are private-school attenders. At the 99th rung of the income ladder – families with incomes upwards of £300,000  – six out of 10 children attend private schools.

It is fees that limit regular folks’ access to these schools. Fees at prep schools average at £13,026 – that’s around half what a middle-class family in the UK makes. These fees climb much higher at secondary schools and sixth forms.

private school benefits

The top echelon of British society are dominated by products of private schools. Source: Shutterstock

Several studies have shown how these private school graduates go on to dominate positions of public influence. Nearly three-quarters of judges (74 percent) are privately educated, as are a third of top business executives and its Members of Parliament.

A 2017 study found that among the new entrants to Who’s Who, an annual guide listing the British elite, the privately educated remained at a constant of around 45 percent.

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