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Private School Teaching V.S. Public School Teaching Compare & Contrast Essay

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Updated: Nov 21st, 2019


Since historic times, private schools have an educational advantage over public schools. They employ an independent learning system from that of public schools. Consequentially, the private school’s education is highly valued, and most parents are willing to pay more for the private school’s educational advantages.

In fact, private schools continue to produce most of the ruling classes in many countries. In the recent past, there has been a rise in the demand for education offered in private schools relative to public schools notwithstanding the high cost of private education. Accordingly, the competition by private schools for qualified teaching staff has led to a recurring problem of teacher shortages in the labour market.

According to Chubb and Moe, private schools employ a larger share of teachers despite the small number of pupils relative to public schools (97). In this regard, the gap in the state sector and independent school sector has been widening. However, the most pertinent question is whether the teaching methods employed in private schools are in any way different from those used in public schools.

While the disproportionate number of teachers in private schools relative to public schools may compromise quality education in public schools, the teaching methods is largely responsible for the disparities between the two sectors. Evidently, teachers in the private education sector enjoy better work conditions including working with fewer pupils, longer holidays and better pay than their public sector counterparts do.

This can be a source of the competitive advantage of private schools over public schools. Rigorous evaluation and recruitment of highly qualified staff ensures quality-teaching methods in private schools compared to public schools. The differences between public and private schools cause the disparities in performance.

The Private and Public School Teachers

The demand for private education has been rising. It is in this context that the demand for teachers by private schools has also been increasing. As expected, private schools have more teaching staff per student than in public schools. As a result, the teachers in the private sector are able to teach a relative smaller class of students and deliver a broad range of learning activities than teachers in the public sector.

This provides the rationale for the relatively higher fees charged by private schools. In addition, the increasing pressure for teachers to deliver improved academic credentials and provide a wider variety of curricular activities has led to increased demand for more qualified teaching staff. Evidence establishes a link between academic performance of the pupils and class size (Chubb, and Moe 101). It is clear that, more resources generate better academic results in the private sector.

Thus, the growing demand for high-quality education is manifested in the rise, in demand for private education. Although, the market supply and demand forces influence teacher’s labour market, institutional constraints largely cause the disparity (Chubb, and Moe 99). Hiring of private schools in private schools is mostly decentralized and a prerogative of independent schools.

In addition, historically, the private schools comprise of a small share in the teacher labour market. The private teachers tend to possess specified skills and competencies that differentiate them from the public sector teaching staff.

In particular, subject specificity is evident in the private sector compared to the public sector. In addition, private schools are not bound to follow a rigid national curriculum, which public schools have to keep. Independent schools also teach traditional subjects, which are not taught in public schools such as sports and music. Charter schools possess some elements from both private and public school systems.

Usually, private schools design their curricula and select their teachers independently. On the other hand, public schools have to adhere to federal, state and local educational standards. Thus, teaching in private schools differs markedly from teaching in public schools in many ways. The differences range from educational standards, resources and the level of teachers’ training, which results to the educational disparity between the two sectors.

With regard to funding, the public schools entirely rely on government funding, which means that they are bound to follow educational standards set by federal, state or local governments. By contrast, private schools receive funding from different sources including grants, tuition fees and endowments.

This gives them autonomy to set their own educational standards that confer them an advantage over public schools. With regard to teacher qualifications, public schools have teacher accreditation programs such as the state credentialing program (Chubb, and Moe 102) that all public school teachers have to undertake. On the other hand, since the private schools set their own standards, the accordingly set their own teacher credentialing requirements.

Comparisons between Public and Private School Teaching

Comparisons of private and public school teaching can be difficult given the many factors at play. Furthermore, schools are better evaluated at an individual level over a given period.

Dee posits, “Academic performance in private, public, and chartered schools is variable, ranging from satisfactory to dismal” (421). A study conducted in 2006 by the U.S. Department of Education established that, student achievement, especially in mathematics and comprehension, were higher in pupils in private schools compared to pupils in public schools (157).

Besides the school sector, i.e. private or public, student characteristics including previous academic achievement, economic status, level of motivation and parental support and involvement in their children’s learning also have an impact on performance. Furthermore, school’s characteristics including the composition of the staff and students, nature of the community and the class size may influence the performance outcomes independent of the school sector.

Nevertheless, there are crucial differences in public and private school learning particularly in coursework. Often, private schools teach subjects on religion and ethics, a practice largely lacking in public schools. According to Dee, private schools pupils are required to do more course work in high-school level extending up to a whole year compared to public schools (419).

Much emphasis is laid on high-demand subjects such as science, mathematics, computer technology and languages. Furthermore, students in private schools are more likely to participate in community service as a requirement to graduate. The private school’s curriculums contain diverse topics such as music to nurture talent and exceptional skills. In contrast, such topics and education on morals and religion are not integrated into public school curriculum.

Another difference between the two education sectors arises in the pedagogical methods used. Both private and public schools employ unique teaching methods, as they deem appropriate. Thus, differences in teaching practices range from assessment techniques, student discipline, grading system and standardized tests. Private schools, unlike public schools, usually design their own tests and assessment criteria and set their own rules.

Differences in Academic Programs

Major reform efforts have been put in place to ensure higher academic standards for public and private schools at elementary and secondary levels. One of the goals of these reform efforts is to enable students to handle subjects such as science, mathematics and reading in a competent manner. At the elementary level, various aspects of instructional methods differ between the public and private sectors.

In particular, the classroom instructional methods, handling of homework and time allocated to core subjects are different between the two sectors (Stubbs 161). Ballou and Podgursky found out that, teachers in public elementary school spend, on average, 3 hours more on core subjects (English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies) than private teachers do (399). In contrast, private school teachers allocated more time on subjects such as physical education, art, music and religious studies.

At the elementary level, teachers in both public and private schools employ similar instructional strategies. As Stubbs puts it, “elementary teachers in private and public education sectors explain concepts using a chalk and a board or a projector”, (154).

However, private schools show increased use of information technology, television programs and computer applications as learning aids (Stubbs 156). In addition, private teachers often involve videotapes or computer applications when explaining a concept while public school teachers normally lecture.

Elementary instructional methods between the two sectors also differ with regard to homework. According to Ballou, and Podgursky, a higher percentage of private school pupils handle more homework in a week than public school pupils (394). Besides, private school teachers are more likely to correct and return homework to pupils given the small size of the classes they handle.

The differences experienced at the elementary level also exist at high-school level. Overall, the academic programs in private schools are more rigorous compared to those in public schools. Pupils in private schools are required to study a foreign language and take more units at high school than public school students. Ballou and Podgursky study show that, high school graduates from private schools have studied advanced science and mathematics units such as algebra and trigonometry among others (411).

Besides the curricular differences, academic support and health-related services for students also vary between the two sectors; the availability of these services depend on resources available in the school and the significance a school places on the support services. Given that private schools have more financial resources, they are able to provide a broad range of support services for their students.

Nevertheless, some services may be present in public schools, in line with the requirements of local, state or federal legislations. Private schools also have wider library collections that serve the academic needs of the students adequately. Library and media centers are indispensable facilities in any school as they provide the students access to learning materials.

In addition, the class sizes in public schools are relatively bigger resulting to a higher student/teacher ratio. According to the U.S. department of Education, private schools teacher to student ratio stands at one teacher for 13 pupils against the public school’s 16 pupils per teacher (154). However, this may not be applicable in schools dealing with students with exceptional needs.


Private and public school have show variations in many aspects. Overall, the private schools have an advantage in many respects. The teachers in private schools possess certain attributes that set them apart from their public schools counterparts. The instructional strategies used are largely similar between the two sectors.

Private schools emphasize on non-core disciplines such as art while public schools emphasize on the four core subjects (science, mathematics, social studies and English. The differences in curricula, teacher attributes and instructional methods result to some of the disparities between public and private schools.

Works Cited

Ballou, Darren, and Monhro Podgursky. “Teacher Recruitment and Retention in Publicand Private Schools.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 17.3 (1998): 393-417.

Chubb, John, and Terry Moe. Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools, Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution.1990. 97-102

Dee, Tommy. “Competition and the Quality of Public Schools.” Economics of Education Review 17.4, (1998):419-427.

Stubbs, Marcia. Little, Brown Reader (11th Edition). New York: Longman. 2009: 156- 163

U.S. Department of Education. The Condition of Education 1997 (NCES 97-388).

Washington D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics,2006: 150-157.

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