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Public Vs Private – Making An Educated Decision

By Scarlett Stemler on January 21, 2011 in Other

?It’s something that all of us fortunate enough to have adequate funding will have to think about at some stage in our lives: to go down the public or private education road? Whether you’re a parent or a student it is a complex issue, and having had some experience in both sectors I will give you an insight into opinions on both.

I attended St Clare’s College for Years Seven, Eight and half of Year Nine and found the private school system both challenging and rewarding, though being agnostic the religion side of it wasn’t, let’s say, ‘engaging’. Another downside was the intense focus on uniform, which I believe was totally unrelated to achieving quality education (and was a waste of money). We all know that HSC results are the be all and end all for most questioning parents out there (it’s sad to say), so there is really no need to have matching ribbons and blazers to show how much better one school is than the other.

In 2009 I decided to move to Rose Bay Secondary College for a happier social life, and on announcing this I received some very interesting responses, including “You’re gonna get bashed”; “That is such a dodgy school”; and “Why are you going there?”

For me this established that there is a lot of snobbery surrounding public schools in the private school sector, where reputation and rumour takes precedence over experience and facts. I had decided to give up the long holidays, strict classroom rules and a great school community feeling for a supposedly ‘dodgy’ school – uh oh!

As it turns out, the public school scene is certainly different and I got quite a shock at first. It is more up to the individual to persevere through the rowdy classroom behaviour and achieve academic excellence rather than having a teacher demand silence and give out after-school detentions for incomplete homework.

What I love about Rose Bay is the diverse range of people, which I think is intrinsic in public schools. These schools do not necessarily attract deep-pocketed pupils from posh suburbs, but rather students from a wide range of backgrounds from all around Sydney, which creates a rich mix of religion, customs, and ethnicities.

Both schooling sectors are battling against each other for reputation and numbers and one is winning easily. Over the years, public schools have acquired a ‘bad reputation’, which fluctuates depending on the school and region, compared with the consistent high regard for private schools.  In the Eastern Suburbs there are approximately twenty private high schools and five public high schools, so there is a wealth of choice on one side of the fence and a significant dearth on the other – and people need choice.

Affordability, academic aptitude and location are all factors that influence the education decision and the lack of choice in the public school locally is a serious concern.

Having interviewed some local parents on their opinions on this subject, one point kept coming up – that the private schools have better facilities, resources and more opportunities to achieve academic excellence. Others believed that the education was equal in both sectors and most said that their local public high school had a mixed reputation.

Overall, I think it depends on the student and their needs as to which school they should attend. Some individuals thrive in the public school system despite the adversity. Statistics also show that students who attend public schools achieve better results in university, which undermines the whole education quality argument.  

With that said, I’m off to Sydney Girls High School next year, which is a selective school, and that’ll be another kettle of fish altogether.


  1. With all due respect, you have no idea what you’re even talking about. I go to Manly Selective Campus, which is a public school in the middle of an industrial area of the Northern Beaches. We consistently rank in the top 15 schools of the state and normally the top 10. We’re relaxed yes, but I never felt the need to ‘persevere through the rowdy classroom behaviour’ to reach excellence. There is no rowdy classroom behaviour. I’ve never seen or even heard of a fight in our school – or for that matter in any of the surrounding public schools. I have heard from many St Augustine’s (the local private school) students about fights nearly every week at their school. There was also a fight posted on youtube about a year ago, of Stella Maris (a private local girl’s school) students fighting. We may have an extremely relaxed attitude towards uniform (much to the disappointment of our teachers), but rest assured, our school outperformed all private schools in the state last year, and we will probably do it again.

    I have a boyfriend who goes to one of the most expensive schools in Australia and he doesn’t believe there is any ‘bad reputation’ public schools have garnered. Furthermore, if you’re going to argue that ‘We all know that HSC results are the be all and end all for most questioning parents’, you may want to actually check the HSC results rankings table – the top 8 are public, and of the top 20, less than half are private.

    Posted by: Emma | July 22, 2013, 9:37 PM |

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    • With respect this is her opinion and I am in the same place as she was.She is not saying that this suits for everyone she is just giving out information and helping people who are unsure of their high school and which one might be able to suit their needs.

      Posted by: | February 23, 2020, 8:13 AM |

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