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What impact does attending private versus public school have on business outcomes for individuals? Parents across Australia are grappling with this question and many others around education. With a significant number now opting for private education for their children.

The 2023 ABS indicated that primary and high school, private school enrolments (Catholic and independent) grew by 2.5 per cent last year. With about 36% of Australia’s students now currently enrolled in private schools.

Government funding

Productivity Commission data showed government funding for private schools grew by 37 per cent over the last decade. With private schools now receiving between 10-12k per student compared to government schools that receive around 14k per student. When taking into account the fees private schools charge in addition to government funding there is a huge disparity of revenue.

Public school advocate Jane Caro reports here in The Big Smoke that “every public school in Australia, bar a handful in the ACT is currently funded below its agreed School Resource Standard (SRS). Put simply, the amount they need to do an adequate job. Every private school is currently funded above it, except for a handful in the NT.”

Australia is unusual in its approach to education. Paul Kidson is an education academic who has also been the principal of a few non-government schools. He told the ABC in this article titled Are private schools better than public schools?, “there are not a lot of countries that have a non-government sector as big as ours, it’s become such an ingrained part of the culture.”

With a growing number of parents opting out of government schools, what are the benefits of a private school education?

Private school advantage

There are undoubtably advantages for students who attend private schools. The three key areas are:

Academic performance: Private school students often achieve higher academic results compared to their public school counterparts. This is attributed to smaller class sizes, more resources, and a conducive learning environment. The improved learning environment is partly due to private schools being more easily able to expel disruptive and problematic students compared with public schools.

University admission: Students from private schools have a higher likelihood of attending prestigious universities. The network and preparation provided by private schools often give students an edge in gaining admission to top institutions, which can have a positive impact on their career trajectories.

Career opportunities: The alumni networks of private schools are robust and can provide significant career advantages, including job placements and business opportunities. Many private schools have strong connections with industries and higher education institutions, facilitating smoother transitions into the workforce. 

Public school outcomes

Diverse environments: Public schools typically offer more socio-economic and cultural diversity. This exposure can be beneficial in business environments that value diverse perspectives and inclusive practices.

Cost efficiency: Public schools provide education without the high fees associated with private schools. This can alleviate financial burdens on families and enable investment in other areas, such as extracurricular activities and early business ventures.

The role of postcode

While there are certainly advantages for students who attend private schools, research indicates that when controlling for socio-economic background, the performance gap between public and private school students narrows significantly.

Students from affluent areas, regardless of attending private or public schools, often have access to better resources, extracurricular activities, and parental support. Public school students in affluent areas may also benefit from strong community networks and connections that can aid in business and career development.

Additionally, public schools in affluent postcodes tend to be better funded and have more resources, reducing the disparity with private schools.

While attending a private school most certainly can (and often does) provide advantages such as better academic outcomes, stronger university admission prospects, and robust alumni networks, these benefits are not absolute. The impact of postcode, reflecting socio-economic status, can also play a significant role in determining educational and career outcomes. Public school students from affluent areas often have comparable advantages to their private school peers. Ultimately, individual capability, family support, and personal drive are crucial determinants of business success, regardless of the type of school attended.