I’m British, so when a friend mentioned Canadian boarding schools, I was familiar with the concept. But I’m not uppercrust British, so I didn’t see the need at first. After all, I’m a child of the public school system, and I did all right – so why should anyone spend the extra money on a private school?
And money it is: one school (the example I’ll use here) is St. Andrew’s College, a school north of Toronto, Ontario. You can board, but if you commute like a regular public-school student, the tuition is about $25,000.
So to me, with my lower-class snobbery, the question is: does $25k get you more than I got in regular school? Or to put it another way, if mom and dad had sent me to private school, would I have considered the money well spent?
In the end, I came up with several areas to contrast:
- Future preparation.
- Learning advantages.
Connections. After all, it’s who you know. I commonly see people pay for expensive seminars, not just to learn, but to connect; they go to seminars to meet other like-minded people. We understand this: payments for membership dues, joining local organizations, going to the right university, and so forth. But these are all connections after the fact – what if we could connect with like-minded people even before we go to university? What about meeting up with movers and shakers (or at least their offspring) while in school? I cannot think of a single classmate I could call for a referral, job assistance, or business help – but what if you went to a school where every student had a high-profile parent in business, politics, academia, and so forth?
Future preparation. Looking at St. Andrew’s site, their current class averaged over 4 acceptances per student for university enrollment. How many students in Canada worry about safety schools in their last year of high school? Obviously, with 4.4 per student, this place has safety schools covered – and it’s obviously not a problem for them getting in. Compare that to regular school. But academic preparation is only one point: there’s also preparation for the world out there. A private school means you rub shoulders with people who are aiming high. Instead of getting to know your local McDonald’s order taker, you’re connecting with a future municipal court judge. And you’re striving to do the same.
Learning advantages. How many of us would have gone into a different vocation if we’d known ahead of time what the work was like? So a school that prepared you – showed you a variety of jobs – would be ideal if you didn’t know what you wanted. Public schools can’t afford to give you that kind of experience, but private schools can. When I went to school, I applied to the music program each year – and each year it was canceled due to lack of enrollment. Would I be a musician today if I had gotten in? I don’t know, but I do know that I never had the chance to find out. In contrast, a private school can give you ways to explore – and to be especially annoying, St. Andrew’s features a music program, as this video shows:
In the end, the answer is simple: if private schools didn’t make a difference, they wouldn’t still be around. This economy has tanked so many operations that were poor business models, and yet they remain. So from a business point of view, the money spent on private schools works out profitable for the students and their parents (who after all are paying the bills). Successful people, especially those in business, understand the value of a dollar – so why spend that much money unless something good came from it? Whether you feel that way is another matter, but obviously something’s working out with private schools.