Which school to choose

Public or Private School?

Before making any major decisions about your children’s education, it’s important to consider their individual ability, character and requirements.

Which school to choose

This is of particular importance if you’re able to choose between public and private education, when the following points should be considered:

  • How long are you planning to stay in the US? If you’re uncertain, it’s probably better to assume a long stay. Because of language and other integration problems, enrolling a child in an American school (public or private) with an American syllabus isn’t recommended for less than a year, particularly for teenage children.
  • The area where you choose to live affects your choice of public schools. Although it isn’t always necessary to send your children to a local public school, it’s unusual not to and you may have difficulty getting them accepted at another public school.
  • Do you know where you’re going after the US? This may be an important consideration regarding your children’s schooling in the US. How old are your children and what age will they be when you plan to leave? What plans do you have for their education and in which country?
  • What educational level are your children at now and how will they fit into the American public school system or a private school? The younger they are, the easier it is to place them in a suitable school.
  • If your children aren’t English-speaking or of English mother tongue, how do they view the thought of studying in English? Is schooling available in their mother tongue?
  • Will your children require your help with their studies? Will you be able to help them, particularly with the English language?
  • What are the school hours and the school holiday periods? How will they affect your family’s work and leisure activities?
  • Is religion an important consideration in your choice of school? In public schools, religious instruction isn’t part of the curriculum. However, many private schools are maintained by religious organisations and they may make stipulations as to religious observance.
  • Do you want your children to attend a co-educational or a single-sex school? All public schools and the majority of private schools are co-educational.
  • Should you send your children to a boarding school? If so, should it be in the US or another country?
  • What are the secondary and higher education prospects for your children in the US or another country? Are American examinations or qualifications recognised in your home country or the country where you plan to live after leaving the US?
  • Do the schools under consideration have a good academic record? What percentage of high school pupils go on to two-year public colleges and four-year public and private colleges? What percentage of students take the ACT and SAT exams and what are the average combined scores? Other important indicators are the school dropout rate, the average daily attendance rate, expenditure per pupil (including textbooks), and the average teacher salary.
  • What are the qualifications of teachers? How do teacher salaries compare with those in other schools?
  • How large are the classes? What is the teacher-student ratio?

Obtain the opinions and advice of others who have been faced with the same decisions and problems as you, and collect as much information from as many different sources as possible before making a decision. Speak to the principals and teachers of schools on your short list. Finally, most parents find it’s beneficial to discuss the alternatives with their children before coming to a decision.

This is of particular importance if you’re able to choose between public and private education, when the following points should be considered:

  • How long are you planning to stay in the US? If you’re uncertain, it’s probably better to assume a long stay. Because of language and other integration problems, enrolling a child in an American school (public or private) with an American syllabus isn’t recommended for less than a year, particularly for teenage children.
  • The area where you choose to live affects your choice of public schools. Although it isn’t always necessary to send your children to a local public school, it’s unusual not to and you may have difficulty getting them accepted at another public school.
  • Do you know where you’re going after the US? This may be an important consideration regarding your children’s schooling in the US. How old are your children and what age will they be when you plan to leave? What plans do you have for their education and in which country?
  • What educational level are your children at now and how will they fit into the American public school system or a private school? The younger they are, the easier it is to place them in a suitable school.
  • If your children aren’t English-speaking or of English mother tongue, how do they view the thought of studying in English? Is schooling available in their mother tongue?
  • Will your children require your help with their studies? Will you be able to help them, particularly with the English language?
  • What are the school hours and the school holiday periods? How will they affect your family’s work and leisure activities?
  • Is religion an important consideration in your choice of school? In public schools, religious instruction isn’t part of the curriculum. However, many private schools are maintained by religious organisations and they may make stipulations as to religious observance.
  • Do you want your children to attend a co-educational or a single-sex school? All public schools and the majority of private schools are co-educational.
  • Should you send your children to a boarding school? If so, should it be in the US or another country?
  • What are the secondary and higher education prospects for your children in the US or another country? Are American examinations or qualifications recognised in your home country or the country where you plan to live after leaving the US?
  • Do the schools under consideration have a good academic record? What percentage of high school pupils go on to two-year public colleges and four-year public and private colleges? What percentage of students take the ACT and SAT exams and what are the average combined scores? Other important indicators are the school dropout rate, the average daily attendance rate, expenditure per pupil (including textbooks), and the average teacher salary.
  • What are the qualifications of teachers? How do teacher salaries compare with those in other schools?
  • How large are the classes? What is the teacher-student ratio?

Obtain the opinions and advice of others who have been faced with the same decisions and problems as you, and collect as much information from as many different sources as possible before making a decision. Speak to the principals and teachers of schools on your short list. Finally, most parents find it’s beneficial to discuss the alternatives with their children before coming to a decision.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in America. Click here to get a copy now.

Further reading

Does this article help?

Do you have any comments, updates or questions on this topic? Ask them here: