February 27, 2016

Private Education – To bash or not to bash?

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:34 pm by aleksan

I am sick of the media bashing private education! I was sent away to boarding school at the age of 7 until 18 – not my choice but I knew my family wanted the best possible for me. Because of my country accent and farming background my father was told “he is not the right material”. This made my father determined to show otherwise, and he got me in to the school – the fees being paid by him and my two farmer uncles equally.

It was not easy and the posh lads called me “Oi” because that is how I pronounced “I”. There were also kind people there, but education and discipline were paramount. The classes were small, the dormitories crowded and it was cold…the Masters were strict and we learnt quickly, partly from fear. No one talked in class, and any form of disrespect for staff was treated instantly and sometimes harshly. I spent much of my time in a fantasy world, where the Masters were Russian spies and I believed I would be rescued by space travellers.

There was sport six afternoons a week in all weathers plus regular PT lessons and gym. On Sunday’s we were free to play in the woods with our sheath knives unsupervised, and belonged to warlike gangs protecting our camps and trying to destroy the camps of others. I was often quite lonely, very homesick and felt abandoned. But I also learned to take responsibility, make good friendships and most of all love knowledge and education. My parents were proud and I was proud of myself too.

Yes, I was very privileged and most other kids did not have these opportunities. This does not mean my education was “bad” because it was private – I now believe it was in many ways valuable to me and to the society I eventually entered as a doctor, later a Child Psychiatrist. These days State Education has much improved, but we are told by the media that top jobs are filled disproportionately by people educated in Private Education. This does not surprise me, and will continue until students and parents value education enough to insist on the best, respect the teaching profession and above all respect education.

British private education is respected all over the world and is now being made available to the new middle classes in the Middle East, China and India. Perhaps we should be taking the best from it rather than bashing it, and make State Education as effective and respected. In private education this is brought about because parents pay for it and therefore have a big share in it – and the students recognise this commitment. The question is how can State Education become equally respected by parents, students and the public?

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