Is your elementary school assessment really important

School choice : Are Private Schools Really Better?

Missed lessons, ailing infrastructure, social hot spots: State schools often do not do well in the media. Many parents therefore consider sending their child to a private school after the sixth grade. After all, they often have a better reputation. But is it really justified?

“It is correct that the classes are smaller in independent schools,” says Kai Maaz, sociologist and director of the Leibniz Institute for Educational Research and Educational Information (DIPF). The number of lessons given per student is also higher. Most parents hope for one thing above all: the best possible support for their offspring.

In fact, children in private schools tend to perform better than their peers in public schools. However, this has less to do with the institutions than with the social background of the students, who at private schools more often come from educated middle-class households. "The empirical results that are available are sobering," says Kai Maaz. "If you factor out the selection effects of social origin, the lead disappears." Of course there are excellent private schools, says Maaz. But this cannot be generalized, nor can the supposedly poorer quality of state schools. "There are also excellent schools in the public sector, and the equipment is usually no worse."

Parents are asked to do their own research and examine each school separately, says Thomas Koinzer, Professor of Educational Sciences at Berlin's Humboldt University. “Waldorf says Waldorf on it, but state schools have to look carefully at how they are set up. “This is of course more difficult to find out for many parents and costs time.

State schools also follow special concepts

For those who are not only interested in good grades, but also in a certain pedagogical or ideological orientation, private schools are of course an important institution. The selection ranges from Waldorf schools based on the holistic concept of Rudolf Steiner to reform pedagogical Montessori schools and international schools geared towards multilingualism to denominational schools with a Christian background.

But even public educational institutions often follow certain focal points: inclusion, nature education, sport, mint subjects (i.e. math, computer science, natural sciences and technology). "State schools have a great deal of freedom when it comes to structuring their educational activities," emphasizes Thomas Koinzer. And no matter what concept a school has, it is primarily important that your own child feels comfortable there. If Waldorf education or religious education doesn't do anything, a free school may not be the best choice after all.

However, in addition to quality and concept, the social structure of the school is an important factor for many parents. Koinzer does not want to leave the much-voiced criticism that the lack of social mix in private schools is detrimental to a pluralistic society. "In Germany around ten percent of students go to private school, so that is still a very small proportion," says the educationalist. In addition, social diversity is not a particular problem for private schools. "We have this situation at state high schools as well."

The costs say nothing about the quality

The biggest disadvantage of private schools is the cost: depending on the institution, the monthly school fee can be between 100 and 800 euros. But here, too, a distinction must be made. "Most private schools stagger the tuition fee according to the parents' income, and denominational schools are even free in many federal states," says Koinzer. In addition, socially disadvantaged families have the opportunity at some schools to be exempt from school fees or to apply for scholarships.

Ultimately, however, the following applies: “The costs say nothing about the quality of the school,” emphasizes Koinzer. In addition to tuition fees, some private schools also explicitly require parents to be involved, for example when looking after the classrooms or organizing events. This can be a hurdle for those who do not have the time or who do not identify with the school concept.

Education researcher Kai Maaz cannot confirm that lessons at private schools are less frequent, as is often claimed. There are no reliable figures on this. His conclusion: "You shouldn't demonize private schools, but you shouldn't praise them either." Because state schools can have just as good teachers, equipment and pedagogical concepts. Generalizations do not help with the selection, only a close look at the respective school and at what is best for your own child.

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