How Public and Private Schools Impact Knowledge Acquisition

An ever active discourse regarding the differences in learning outcomes in private and public school endures. Most academicians draw attention to two fundamental questions: Do private schools result in better academic outcomes than public schools. If private schools outdo public schools in performance, is it because of better students or better schools. Both questions are intriguing and obscure. The causal relationship between school type and academic performance is confounded by many factors, including the possibility of self-selection into private schools. Wealthier parents tend to be in a better position of enrolling their children to well-funded private schools. The opposite is true for parents from low socio-economic backgrounds. Moreover, private schools may require enrollees to adhere to a more stringent admission criteria. Literature is inconsistent about the effect of school type on academic performance and knowledge acquisition. This paper explores how public and private schools impact knowledge acquisition and cognitive development.

            Many parents consider the value of investing in private school education. A majority believe that private schools are better because they offer customized curriculums and programs that are not available in public schools. Even so, private schools may isolate learners and reinforce inequalities in educational opportunities. Attendance of private schools, increases, with education levels. This means there is a small percentage of primary school pupils that attend private schools compared to secondary schools. While attendees of private school have access to greater financial resources and an attractive reputation, there is no consistency in research regarding a direct relationship between the prevalence of private schools and academic performance. Some scholars, however, have claimed that private schools outperform their public counterparts. For instance, it has been recorded that private school produce better outcomes in the OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in about 25 out of 45 countries (Vandenberghe & Robin, 2004. In Qatar, for example, the average difference in performance between private and public school attendees is 108 points, which translates to almost three years of schooling. In contrast, in only four out of 47 countries do public schools outperform private schools. The four countries include Hong Kong-China, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, and Luxembourg. Generally, the socioeconomic background of private school attendees is higher than that of public school attendees across the world. Public and private school students with comparable social backgrounds tend to perform equally in PISDA surveys. Hence socio-economic status is a significant factor in the assessment of performance scores.

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            In cases where private and public schools produce different outcomes, differences may be attributed to differences in school composition and student characteristics. Most private schools ask for considerable fees from parents. Thus, the social background of students in private schools will distinct from that of students from public secondary schools. This is especially true when one considers educational, occupational, and financial characteristics of parents from both types of schools. As a result, students from favorable backgrounds are likely to attend private schools, a factor that may lead to the enhancement of the social composition of the student population. Students in favorable social environment have a better chance of reaching higher levels of academic achievement. Better teaching and learning conditions in private schools add on to their advantage.

            The aspect of deliberate school choice is also considered to be pivotal in the supposed academic quality of private schools. The deliberate choice of opting for an unconventional school instead of a common school may increase the chance that the former school type consists of a better academic community. However, it is important to note that both public and private schools are community of shared values and social ties that can affect achievement. Given that private schools account for a greater share of deliberately elected schools, it is not surprising that this selection bias poses substantial influence on performance. Stakeholder of deliberately selected schools will expect more effort from each other and will tend to create a community of shared social ties and values.

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            Another critical aspect to note as regards knowledge acquisition in private and public schools is the different conditions for learning, teaching, and school administration. Private and public schools have disparate conditions for learning and teaching (Dronkers, & Robert, 2003). Public schools are fully dependent on the state for administrative and financial support while private schools rely on school fees, private charity, and private investment. It is easy to notice that private schools have optimal conditions for learning compared to public schools. Nevertheless, the influence of differences in such conditions on performance is debatable. There is also a notable difference in the administration systems applied in private and public schools.

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            Different school climates are also a probably factor to consider. Given that students, parents and social compositions of school populations are dissimilar in private and public schools, different patterns of behavior may develop. These behavior patterns can affect the mode of learning as well as the quality of instruction in a school. Behavioral patterns that are cemented into the procedures and processes of learning and teaching result in a unique school climate. School climate can affect teaching morale, which can further impact the effectiveness of instruction.

            The final factor in the evaluation of how public and private schools impact knowledge acquisition is type of curriculum. A stronger core curriculum integrates policy and structure of schools in the learning process. Private schools have been known to utilize less differentiation in curriculum compared to public schools. This emerges as a limitation. Nonetheless, the lack of differentiation can be linked to the smaller school size in the private domain. Private schools have relatively less student population and have limited access to resources. The limitation of curriculum differentiation is also attributable to long-standing traditions about the ideals of educational programs.        

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In conclusions, there are multiple factors that influence how learners acquire knowledge in private and public schools. Most of those factors are accredited to the differences in funding, social make-up and expectations of stakeholders, socioeconomic status, school climate, and different conditions of learning and instructions. Another noteworthy factor that was highlighted in this paper is a difference in school composition and student characteristics. Most private schools ask for considerable fees from parents. Thus, the social background of students in private schools will distinct from that of students from public secondary schools. These factors collectively create a distinct set of conditions for each school type and consequential differences in cognitive development and performance.

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