DEBATE: Should private schools be abolished?
Each week we ask two writers with contrasting opinions to answer the question...
The private school education system is responsible, more than any other institution, for establishing the class system which we all know and love in this fair country of ours.
By means of your parents wealth and no ability of your own (as if at the age of 11 you could really define ‘ability’) you are automatically given a far greater set of opportunities in life than someone who went to state school. Only seven percent of children in the UK are at fee-paying schools and yet our politics, media and culture is dominated by the privately educated.
Fifty-three per cent of the Cabinet - which is supposed to represent Britain - went to private schools (with sixty-nine per cent going to Oxbridge). This is grossly disproportionate - by virtue of wealth our next generation of artistic and political figureheads is created, rather than by talent. It also means that we don’t have the same input of experience. How can we expect an Etonian like David Cameron to understand the problems with inner city schools or the problems faced by the unemployed or those who didn’t have the opportunity to go to university?
This distinction starts at birth, but it is most pronounced in terms of education. The best universities also disproportionately take pupils from the most respected private schools, again marginalising the state educated.
The argument given for keeping private schools is usually that they are pretty good. Of course they are, they’re bloody good. Why shouldn’t we all have the opportunity to receive that kind of education? Why don’t we remove the fee-paying process - this will also mean that the well off will have more reason to have a vested interest in state education and pull up the majority rather than supposedly pulling down a tiny minority. The greatest impact will be dissolving some of the barriers that separate and divide our society and allowing for greater chances and experiences in life for all of us.
I didn’t go to school at Eton, I’m not from a family of the social elite and sadly (with this in mind) I probably won’t become the next prime minister. I’m just your regular white, 18-year-old product of the state education system – yet I completely oppose the abolition of private schooling.
I feel strongly that we must have rewards for achieving the goals we set ourselves – otherwise what else is there to stimulate our great achievements? It’s this philosophy that our modern society was built upon and it’s what has driven the industrial and technical revolutions we have seen throughout history.
Surely, if you work hard enough in school and later in your chosen career, you will have rightly earned both the chance and the money to send your children to a good school. And surely, with the education cuts of recent governments taking effect, it’s undeniable that these ‘good schools’ are often found in the private sector?
Yes, the condition of our public-sector education system is truly a national disgrace and yes, there are ridiculous academic discrepancies that exist between those graduating from a state school and those from an independent one, but this is not Soviet Russia. We cannot simply abolish private schools. The general public need to demand the enhancement of our current state school system to such an extent that private schooling becomes redundant. We cannot just depend on the middle classes with a ‘vested interest’ – this breeds social apathy from the majority who should have concerns of their own.
Now of course this process is far from a quick fix, but surely it’s still a goal we must strive for. Until then why not be pragmatic? Instead of ranting about the abolition of the existing, why not campaign for the establishment of something new?
And in the meantime, if you can, why not send your kids to a good school? Yes it’s unfair – but in the words of every mother in Britain – so is life.