Public v Private

Let’s start off by saying that this is not a rant directed towards private school kids. I have a very many friends who are intelligent, caring, compassionate, and wonderful people who all received their education at private schools. They never once besmirched my public school education. You are not the sort of people who would hold a conversation ragging on public schools kids. However, that being said, this article is directed towards those that do besmirch it. To the students in my tutorials who bash on public schools without knowing that I am sitting in the same room.

Attending a public school does not automatically make you a slut, an idiot, a no-nothing, or a low-life. Attending a private school doesn’t make you stuck-up, rigid, bitchy, or self-absorbed. The hard truth is that the same people who attend private school, also attend public, we aren’t any different, except for maybe our dress codes.

I come from a long line of public school teachers: grandfathers, cousins, aunts, and parents. So when I hear people making snide comments about the students who graduate from these systems, I get a tinsy bit riled up. After all, I am sitting in the same room as you. I achieved the same academic results (I’m talking ATAR here) and that’s why we are sitting in the same tutorial, learning the same content, and doing the same assessments. Explain to me how the work my family has undertaken to get me here is not good enough for you. They worked extremely hard (just as your parents did) to get not only me to university, but also all of their students. The fact that they aren’t private school teachers doesn’t mean that their work is not as equally important and as equally commendable.

Want to know the major difference between the private and public education systems? It’s tuition fees. According to their website, one high-ranking private school’s tuition fees in 2015 for year 11s and 12s costs $28, 440 per annum. I realise I chose an expensive school to make my point, but you can’t get past the fact that private schools are costly. I went to a flat-out public school, meaning it wasn’t a religious school, nor was it selective, or a sports school. We have a ‘Voluntary School Contribution’ that (from memory) was around $40 a year. So if we had all the costs of my schooling from kindy to year 12, fees would reach a grand total of $520. Let’s say I’m wrong and it was actually $40 a semester, my schooling would be at $1,040. And let’s add in $5,000 for excursions, uniforms, and school equipment. Hell, let’s add in another $5,000 just to be sure. Add another maybe $500 for course consumables when I took elective subjects. That’s a grand total of $115, 40. Makes you think doesn’t it? Seeing as I’m right where you are. Not to mention that it is in actually fact, voluntary. Because why would I want to see children suffer without an education, simply because they couldn’t afford one?

But let’s be clear: my private school friends had a great time at school.  They had fun, they learnt their studies and now they’re at great universities. If your family can pay for you to have a private school education that is, by all means, fantastic, then how awesome is that!? They’ve been able to provide you with a wonderful education. All I’m asking is that you don’t look down on those families who can’t afford it. Because since coming to university, I have found a wonderful campus that is completely accepting of many different peoples, from many different cultures, and yet there is still a stigma against public school kids.

I mean, what was so different between our schools? My school had two computer labs, plus a library, so we always had technology. We had a gym, a footy oval, a tennis court, a netball court, and a basketball court, so it’s not like we didn’t have space. Sure, sometimes our gym doubled up as our assembly hall, and our theatre, but I don’t think that anyone really minded. Didn’t we all study the same texts for the HSC? Your books might have had brand-new covers but that doesn’t change the words inside them. It doesn’t automatically give you further insight into the text. It doesn’t make you understand it any better. To be fair, your canteen probably sold better food.

The argument could be made that the teachers are better. That that is what you’re paying for: quality. But you know what? My teachers got me here too, so obviously, they’re doing something right. Academic success happens when you have students that want to learn and teachers that want to teach.

I’ll admit that I rag on my school a bit. I mean who doesn’t joke about their high school days? Looking back, my skirt was probably a bit short compared to the private school uniforms, and I did have some unusual experiences. But who says that those experiences are different, doesn’t make them bad to have. The point I’m trying to make is that my education is not worth less than yours. My parents’ jobs are not to be looked down on. The way I got to this university is not to be looked down on.

I want to offer a sincere thank you to my private school friends. To the people who have made me change my view on private school kids. You are genuine, loving people, who have never made me feel lesser because I went to a public school.  At the same time, I want to offer an equally sincere fuck you to all the private school kids who automatically think that I’m not good enough to associate with you because of my education. And yes, that has happened.

It’s time to put all the stereotypes to bed. To stop making assumptions based solely on where we received our educations. After all, no one would know the difference if we didn’t make it known.


By Clare Aston