Making the decision to transfer your child from a public school to an independent or private school is an exciting time for your family and child. Independent schools offer their students so many benefits and increased opportunities, both academic and social, that it’s easy to see why parents get excited about the switch.
But what do the students transferring from public school to an independent school think about making the switch? We wanted to know, so we decided to ask 6 current Friends’ Central students who joined our community after attending public school what they like most about the independent school experience compared to the public school experience. This is what they had to say.
1. More Freedom
“One definite difference about being here at Friends’ Central is that we have a lot more freedom than at my old school. They trust us and believe that we are trustworthy.”
A common complaint of public school students and their parents is the fact that, very often, students are not allowed much freedom—in either their studies or their actions. The reasons for this are numerous but largely boil down to one fact: the teachers have to manage a big group, making it difficult to know students well enough to trust them with the freedom that they want and that is developmentally appropriate.
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Independent schools are not as burdened by regulation and typically have much smaller classroom sizes than their public school counterparts. This enables independent schools to offer their students more freedom to develop their own skills and to develop a sense of agency over their academic and personal growth—an incredibly important component of teaching students who will become leaders.
2. Greater Academic Options
“In my old school it was all math and English. Here there’s room for so much more—like art!"
In public schools much, if not all, of the academic focus is placed on ensuring that students perform well on their standardized tests.
These tests have the potential to impact student placement, making performance important for students, as well as funding levels, making performance important for the school, so this focus is understandable. But when teachers are forced to “teach to the test,” the result is stifled academic exploration and limited time for a child’s curiosity to be encouraged and nurtured, which is the opposite of what teachers want to instill in their students.
Even though independent schools often use some standardized testing, they are far more concerned with growing the intellect of their students in all subject areas than in test scores. This philosophical and practical differences open up many possibilities with regard to academics.
It means that students can delve deeper and have more freedom in the traditional classroom subjects like math, science, history, and English, as well as special classes like art, history, drama, technology, etc., all of which are incredibly important in allowing a student to grow into a well-rounded adult. Not surprisingly, the result is often higher test scores!
3. A More Welcoming Environment
“I love my classes. I love my teachers. Everyone is amazing, and I am really glad I switched.”
“I loved my old school, but I love this school so much more.”
“This is just a really welcoming place.”
In a public school environment, it can be easy for students to feel like cogs in a machine. Too many students and too few teachers can make it difficult for students to feel like a part of a true community.
It’s no wonder that “a more welcoming environment” is the number one thing that so many of our students point to: independent schools, with their typically lower student-to-teacher ratios and greater emphasis on the individual, are able to foster an incredible sense of community among students, parents, and faculty.
When it comes to transferring your child from a public school to an independent school, it helps to keep all of the benefits of making the change in mind—especially when you are explaining your reasoning to your family.
Hopefully, the insights offered above, from some of our students who have made the transition from public to independent school, can help you get your child excited about the wonderful opportunities that switching schools will afford them.