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Myths about private education

Snobbery? Or concern for the child's future? We analyze myths about private education in Poland

Private education in Poland has been developing dynamically since the beginning of the 1990s. Initially, private preschools and schools were established mainly in the large cities, but now they’re littered operate throughout the country, including in small towns, and their number is constantly growing.  continue reading...

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During nearly 30 years of private education in Poland, many stereotypes have arisen about it. We’ll look at the most common ones and try to gauge their legitimacy.

Myth 1: Only for the rich

Contrary to public institutions, fully financed with public funds, the costs of education in private preschools and schools are mostly borne by the students’ parents. Tuition fees range from several hundred to even several thousand zlotys a month, and most institutions charge an additional one-time registration fee.

Therefore, costs may constitute a barrier for less wealthy families, but it’s worth remembering that a public school also means significant expenses. Extracurricular activities, learning foreign languages, ​​or private tutoring, which, according to OECD data, is used by nearly 75% of high school students—these are expenses often not needed in private school.

Many private schools offer discounts for siblings and scholarship programs for the most talented students. Increase in salaries and government family-benefit programs such as 500+ also contribute to the increase in their accessibility. Parents often treat private schools as an investment in their child's future and are ready to make significant sacrifices to ensure the quality of their education. “It's not true that it is only the children of rich snobs who go to private school. I am a single mother with no child support and I work hard, denying myself many things, so that my child could get this kind of education,” admits Anna, mother of a Grade 8 private school student.

We discuss in detail the costs of enrolling and educating children in private schools in the article "Tuition fees in private schools in Poland" (LINK) and in our "Report on private education in Poland" (Our Kids, 2019).(LINK)

Myth 2: The school is in fact ruled by parents ("I pay, so I demand")

It can be assumed that since private education is a commodity, its consumer—in this case, the students and their parents—will expect the school to cater to their own ideas and expectations. The truth is slightly different—each private school operates on the basis of a statute that parents must accept when enrolling a child. Therefore, it’s impossible to demand special treatment on the basis of the fees paid.

Parents do, though, have the right to vote on important issues and often emphasize that parent-school communication works better than in the public sector. “In our school, the parents' council is very dynamic and has a real impact on the school's operations. Last year, thanks to our efforts, the method of teaching foreign languages ​​was thoroughly reformed," says Anna Kowalczyk, mother of two daughters who attend a private primary school in Warsaw.

Myth 3 - Keeping kids in a bubble

Some say that educating children in private schools means sheltering them, isolating them from real life. One of the main reasons given by parents for choosing private school is the desire to ensure the emotional security of their kids. This reason was given by over 80% of respondents in the nationwide survey conducted by Our Kids in 2019. In view of the difficulties faced by public education after the recent reform (overpopulation, shift study, teaching staff shortages), it seems natural that parents want to protect their children from excessive stress and provide them with optimal development conditions.

Private schools offer more comfortable conditions for learning, but they don’t confine their pupils to "golden cages." Many private schools actively implement charity programs that involve students in activities for the benefit of those in need.

“There is a student volunteering program in our schools, so that children can get to know different aspects of life and feel the need and joy of helping others. We work with the local hospice in Krakow, our students take an active part in fundraising, and we support the Krakow animal shelter. We also participate in the ‘parcel for the needy’ campaign,” says Marta Warykiewicz, director of the 'Inspiracja' Private Primary School in Krakow.

Myth 4: Excessive focus on competition

"Future world leaders study here", “school for leaders,” "the cream of the cream", "world conquerors"—by analyzing the slogans used in advertising by private schools, it may seem their main goal is to educate kids to feel like they belong to an elite. Students are to be the best, constantly compare themselves with others, and strive to achieve outstanding results.

Such schools do exist, but the vast majority focus on an individual approach to the student and supporting their development in areas in which they show special abilities or interests. “Academic performance alone is only a third of our priorities. The Polish public education system focuses on tests and ranking, but the outside world is different—knowledge is important, but not only knowledge and it’s not the most important (...). " says Ewa Turek, principal of the Academy International Wawer school in the "Report on private education in Poland," prepared by Our Kids.

Myth 5: Snobbery

Although private education implies a significant financial effort for parents, more and more often they decide to make this long-term commitment. Is it a fashion statement? Is it just not OK in some circles to have children in public school? The study, "Why parents choose private schools", conducted by Our Kids in September 2019 surveyed over 1,000 parents of students of private schools throughout Poland. It showed that prestige and "elitism" are one of the least important reasons for choosing a private school. Much more frequently parents are motivated by a desire to provide their children with safe and comfortable conditions for learning and development, and to ensure a more individual approach to their needs than public schools usually offer.

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