Public Versus Private

This week was the cut-off for enrolling our oldest son into Primary school.

It’s been a highly stressful time for my wife, who’s been agonising over our choices: public, private, Catholic.

Not me.

I’m a big fan of public schools, especially for primary school. And so, when I went along to the open day for our local public school I asked just one question:

“Who is your school banking with?”

My wife rolled her eyes and then proceeded to warn me against writing about this highly contentious topic:

“You shouldn’t write about public versus private schools … you’re going to to upset a lot of parents who’ve already made their choice.”

Excellent point. But I’m a finance guy ‒ and I don’t give a semicolon.

So here goes:

In Australia, around 35% of kids go to a private school, which is one of the highest percentages in the world.

And it’s bloody expensive. Private school fees have been growing at twice the rate of inflation. Australian parents spend, on average, $50,000 on their kids’ education, according to a report by NATSEM (the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling).

And many parents can’t afford it. The Australian Financial Review recently reported that a quarter of parents borrow for their kids’ private school education, and one in seven run up a credit card to pay for school fees.

So is it a good investment?

Well, multiple long-term studies have proven that there is zero correlation between school fees and academic results (if you want to get a real eye-opener, read Free Schools by David Gillespie).

Still, some parents argue that if you send your kid to a private school they won’t be hanging out with a bad crowd. Then again, the best drug dealers go to private schools (or at least they did when I was a teenager).

So if school fees aren’t a predictor of a child’s success, what is?

Well, the biggest predictor of your kid’s happiness and success in life is how much time you spend with them.

Here’s the point: parents are often forced to work longer hours just to pay the ever-increasing fees. Personally I’d rather dial down the cost and spend more time with my kids, which would make me less stressed to boot!

So our son has been enrolled in a local public school. I think he’ll be fine. After all, I’m going to put my hand up to teach the school’s financial education class.

Tread Your Own Path!