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TONI THORNE: Is private really better?


TONI THORNE: Is private really better?

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THE ELEVEN PLUS exam results came out last week. Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to commend all of the children who took the exam. This is simply the beginning and I am very excited to see how many of you will grow into our nation’s future leaders.

Between the top ten students not being disclosed and the many students who were highlighted as the top achievers in the exam mainly being from the private schools, many passionately made their opinions known in offices, supermarkets and on social media.

When I went to Harrison College, the majority of students were from public secondary schools. However, a tide has turned especially with the fact that for the last couple of years the top achievers highlighted are coming from the private secondary schools. This begs the question, “Are private schools better than public schools?”

There is only one private school that I believe any self-respecting black person would and should not send his or her child and that is a personal bias I have against that school. Gone are the days when private schools were reserved for the elite in society. More of John Public are opting to send their children to private schools – even those who cannot afford it. I remember ten years ago sitting at Barbados Community College with some girls who said that private schoolgirls were more desirable and that is why their parents sent them there. With such a perspective, their parents could have saved their money and simply sent them to the standpipe.

The number of private schools has risen significantly. Parents state their preference for the extracurricular activities available, smaller classes and one family friend stated that when you spend money on something, the quality is always better. I suspect he would no longer be invited to our home. I did not attend private school and the two teachers I live with only taught at public school. Therefore, one can only go with the reviews from persons I know.

The refusal to publish the top ten list is being perceived as an attempt not to show the success of the private school system. I opine that the list should be disclosed. Hiding the facts is never a good strategy. If private schools are trumping public schools in the common entrance, congrats to private schools. However, I like to look at things from a holistic point of view. Are private schools really trumping public schools from a holistic point of view?

If you can afford to send your child to private school and you wish to do so, that is your absolute right. However, throwing our hands in the air and sending our children to private school will not fix the problem. I, for one, cannot afford to have a child at this time. If I had a child now, it would have to sit in West Terrace Primary and be taught by Ms Maureen Branch because those private school fees are out of my financial reach and according to my nail technician, “I ain able tuh eat nuh hard biscuit when de day come.”

The fact of the matter is that we all pay for education. I ask my fellow Barbadians, what can we do to enhance the public school system? Perhaps more persons can volunteer their time to at least one school to commence an after-school football, netball or karate programme. Liz Bailey and then Adonia Evelyn have given many scholarships to children who could not afford to do ballet or were not enrolled in schools which already had this incorporated into the curriculum. The Dance Place is all the better for it.

We do not know all the answers and probably never will. However, a system should always evolve. We cannot simply say that private schools are better and send our children there because many of us cannot afford to do so.

Toni Thorne is a young entrepreneur and World Economic Forum Global Shaper who loves global youth culture, a great debate and living in paradise. Email: [email protected]