The Economist on private education

The Economist recently published an article on private schools. It focuses on schools and data from Britain, but I think that a lot of what is said is generally applicable.

The first part of the article discusses how extremely expensive private schools are getting (this is something that is true in South Africa too). However in Britain it seems that there are good returns on paying for private education:

  • Those who left private schools earned on average 35% more than those who left public schools
  • Only about half of this gain was attributed to a better background (contacts, intelligence, etc)

The researchers used some more analysis and research to figure out how private schools achieve this benefit: better exam results. When they compared graduates from private and public schools with equal exam results their earnings were the same!

So it seems that if you can get your kids to achieve good exam results, it doesn’t really matter what school they went to. Perhaps there is a cheaper way of achieving those results?

The end of the article discusses a survey of parents who sent their bright kids to ordinary schools with excellent results:

  • The more average schools paid special attention to their talented students, going out of their way to extend and assist them
  • However, this result does appear to depend on parents playing an active part in their children’s education