Thursday, 28 May 2009

Poor "isolated" in private schools

Speaker’s Corner item

The Institute of Education at the University of London has done a research lately about the effect of private schools on poor children. The results show that poor children who were studying in private schools often felt isolated and alienated. These students were able to study in a private school because of fees from the government and other access projects. This chance for poor bright students was Thatcher’s idea in 1979. It was abolished 18 years later when Tony Blair became Prime Minister of the UK. Thatcher’s project was called APS (Assisted Places Scheme) and was meant to give poor students better chances.

But the research shows that it was not such a good idea: many of the poor students that went to the private school often felt set aside because they could not participate in out-of-school activities, school excursions or foreign exchanges. The parents of these students did not have the money to pay for the long journeys to school and other weekend activities.

Another problem was that normal schools lost their bright pupils and this brought the level of the school down.

My reaction

When I first read this news item I was very glad that Margaret Thatcher thought about the poor bright students. This was a good idea. But, the story has two sides.

Bright students who come from poor families should have the same chances than rich students. If their families cannot afford the costs of private education, the government and other organisations should help them.

The dilemma: is private education really the best thing for poor students? Are they not going to fail and drop off because of their social background and the fact that they are not accepted by the other rich students and because they cannot keep up with the way of life the rich students have? Or is this fact actually a very good motivation for poor students to do the best they can and finally get the same status in society as their rich classmates?

Another dilemma: if we put all the bright poor students in private schools, would this be the end of common schools?

Must the government create a new kind of schools for bright students from poor families with the same education system private schools have? Should these schools be financed by the government?

What do you think about it?