In a nation where education is compulsory from the age of four until we’ve completed GCSEs, then apprenticeships or A Levels at 18, how have things become so unequal? School should be the key to enhancing our own knowledge, and accessing a life better, or just different, than the one into which we were born.
There’s barely even a tangible conversation, committed to change, behind abolishing private schools in the UK. Grammar schools are contested – why are we deciding, at 11, who is more likely to be ‘clever’? – but it seems as though private schools have some sort of untouchability, a power to exist always.
I am disturbed by the fact that, from the age of four, a child can have an entirely different world of opportunities opened to them, because their parents have money. How wrong is it that we segregate children based on their household income, that from four-years-old, their educations, and thus selves, are valued entirely differently? My education, up until university, cost me nothing, whereas some people’s cost them upwards of £300,000. Does that mean that their knowledge is worth more than mine? Does it mean that what they have to say is worth more than what I do, because it is grounded in a finer quality of knowledge, from a more highly regarded institution?
Personally, I don’t believe that I received a lower class of education because it was free, I don’t believe my teachers were any worse educators for having fewer resources, less curricular freedoms, or a lower salary. But what I do think, is that it is wrong to limit those whose educational access is free. Private schools thrive, pump money into computing, science, sport, art, extra-curricular activities. This forms part of their marketing strategy, which promises to make their students supposedly ‘rounded human beings’. In my opinion, I think you are far less rounded if you’ve had your perfect, high-achieving life, handed to you on a silver platter. I think I am better off for having gone to a normal school, having to have worked that little bit harder than my university classmates did to get into my top university, but I don’t think that makes it fair.
Honestly, I would argue that I value my education much more than the majority of those who paid for theirs do, but I don’t think it’s right that they had access to theirs in the first place. Obviously, having never attended a private school, I know very little about how they actually work from within. But I do know how much more they had than we did – the scope of teaching, the classroom sizes, the one-to-one timetabled support and that extra push to succeed incentivised by mummy and daddy, who wrote another cheque for it, so it better be worth it.
However, I don’t think state schools are lacking when it comes to the quality of teaching, and I don’t think we are lacking when it comes to those with whom you spend 11 years of your life. A private school is an echo chamber; everyone there (bar scholarship students, of course), is there because their household has a particular view when it comes to education, and when it comes to finance. It surrounds people with people who are, more or less, just like them. A state school couldn’t be further from this. Everyone comes to school with their own widely different lives, sets of beliefs, prior knowledge, but we are all given the same quality of education.
Money should not mean that your learning experience is ‘superior’ to someone else’s. Compulsory education was not meant to give certain people head starts in life, it was meant to develop us from an equal platform, and for that to truly be the case, we have to get rid of private schools.