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Private schools, also known as independent schools, are not administered by local, state or national governments; thus, they retain the right to select their students and are funded in whole or in part by charging their students tuition, rather than relying on public (state) funds. In the United Kingdommarker and several other Commonwealth countries, the use of the term is generally restricted to primary and secondary educational levels; it is almost never used of universities and other tertiary institutions. Private education in North America covers the whole gamut of educational activity, ranging from pre-school to tertiary level institutions. Annual tuitions at K-12 schools range from nothing at tuition-free schools to more than $45,000 at several New England prep schools.

The secondary level includes schools offering grades 7 through 12 and grade 13. This category includes university-preparatory schools or "prep schools", boarding schools and day schools. Tuition at private secondary schools varies from school to school and depends on many factors, including the location of the school, the willingness of parents to pay, peer tuitions and the school's financial endowment. High tuition, schools claim, is used to pay higher salaries for the best teachers and also used to provide enriched learning environments, including a low student to teacher ratio, small class sizes and services, such as libraries, science laboratories and computers. Some private schools are boarding schools and many military academies are privately owned or operated as well.

Religiously affiliated and denominational schools form a subcategory of private schools. Some such schools teach religious education, together with the usual academic subjects to impress their particular faith's beliefs and traditions in the students who attend. Others use the denomination as more of a general label to describe on what the founders based their belief, while still maintaining a fine distinction between academics and religion. They include parochial schools, a term which is often used to denote Roman Catholic schools. Other religious groups represented in the K-12 private education sector include Protestants, Jews, Muslims and the Orthodox Christians.

Many educational alternatives, such as independent schools, are also privately financed. Private schools often avoid some state regulations, although in the name of educational quality, most comply with regulations relating to the educational content of classes. Religious private schools often simply add religious instruction to the courses provided by local public schools.

Special assistance schools aim to improve the lives of their students by providing services tailored to very specific needs of individual students. Such schools include tutoring schools and schools to assist the learning of handicapped children.

Situation by country


Private schools are one of two types of school in Australia, the other being government schools (state schools). Whilst private schools are sometimes considered 'public' schools (as in the Associated Public Schools of Victoria), the term 'public school' is usually synonymous with a government school.

Private schools in Australia may be favoured for many reasons: prestige and the social status of the 'old school tie'; better quality physical infrastructure and more facilities (e.g. playing fields, swimming pools, etc.), higher-paid teachers; and/or the belief that private schools offer a higher quality of education. Some schools offer the removal of the purported distractions of co-education; the presence of boarding facilities; or stricter discipline. Unlike most public schools, most Australian private school students are subject to strict dress codes - for example, a blazer for boys. Public schools are more affordable and have less strict clothing codes, although many public schools are getting stricter in uniform.

Private schools in Australia are still government funded, although they are also more expensive than government schools.

Private schools may have a greater focus on sports and other associations than public schools. The GPS schools in New South Wales and Queensland were established to promote certain sports perceived to be elite within these schools.

There are two main categories of private schools in Australia: Catholic schools and Independent schools.

Catholic schools

Catholic schools form the second largest sector after government schools, with around 21% of secondary enrolments. Most Australian Catholic schools belong to a system, like government schools, are typically co-educational and attempt to provide Catholic education evenly across the states. These schools are also known as 'systemic'. Systemic Catholic schools are funded mainly by state and federal government and have low fees.

There are also a substantial number of independent Catholic schools, often single-sex, usually run by established religious orders, such as the Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of the Good Samaritan, Marist Brothers, De La Salle Brothers,(Missionary sisters of the society of Mary, SMSM) or the Congregation of Christian Brothers. Independent Catholic school fees vary, ranging from low to high. However, fees are typically lower than that of Independent schools and fee concessions for Catholic families facing financial difficulty are quite common.

Catholic schools, both systemic and independent, proclaim strong religious motivations and most often the majority of their staff and students will be Catholics.

Independent schools

Independent schools make up the last sector and are the most popular form of schooling for boarding students. Independent schools are non-government institutions that are generally not part of a system.

Although most are non-aligned, some of the best known independent schools also belong to the large, long-established religious foundations, such as the Anglican Church, Uniting Church and Presbyterian Church, but in most cases, they do not insist on their students’ religious allegiance. These schools are typically viewed as 'elite schools'. Many of the 'grammar schools' also fall in this category. They are usually expensive schools that tend to be up-market and traditional in style, some Catholic schools fall into this category as well, e.g. Waverley College, Waverley, Saint Ignatius' College, Riverviewmarker, and Saint Joseph's College, Hunters Hill, as well as Loreto Kirribillimarker and Normanhurstmarker for girls.

On the other hand, many independent schools are quite new, often small and not necessarily traditional at all, such as Lorien Novalis, as school based on Rudolf Steiner's educational system, also known as Waldorf education.


In Ontariomarker, some public high school students would enrol in private high schools to boost their grades. There was significant concern from educators from both the public school systems, as well as from post-secondary institutions and the Provincial Ministry of Education that students who enrolled in private schools would be unable to cope with the Ontario curriculum and likened this situation to cheating, since private school students would often be guaranteed high marks for little to no effort, as long as they paid tuitions to the private schools.Columbia International College is the largest private boarding high school in Canada.


In Germanymarker, Article 7, Paragraph 4 of the Grundgesetz, the constitution of Germany, guarantees the right to establish private schools. This article belongs to the first part of the German basic law, which defines the civil and human rights. A right, which is guaranteed in this part of the Grundgesetz, can only be suspended in a state of emergency, if the respective article literally states this possibility. That is not the case with this article. It is also not possible to abolish these rights. This unusual protection of private schools was implemented to protect these schools from a second Gleichschaltung or similar event in the future.

There are two types of private schools in Germany, Ersatzschulen (literally: substitute schools) and Ergänzungsschulen (literally: auxiliary schools). There are also private Hochschulen (private colleges and universities) in Germany, but similar to the UK, the term private school is almost never used of universities or other tertiary institutions.

Ersatzschulen are ordinary primary or secondary schools, which are run by private individuals, private organizations or religious groups. These schools offering the same types of diplomas like public schools. Ersatzschulen lack the freedom to operate completely outside of government regulation. Teachers at Ersatzschulen must have at least the same education and at least the same wages like teachers at public schools, an Ersatzschule must have at least the same academic standards like a public school and Article 7, Paragraph 4 of the Grundgesetz, also forbids segregation of pupils according to the means of their parents (the so called Sondierungsverbot). Therefore, most Ersatzschulen have very low tuition fees and/or offer scholarships, compared to most other Western European countries. However, it is not possible to finance these schools with such low tuition fees, that's why all German Ersatzschulen are additionally financed with public funds.

Ergänzungsschulen are secondary or post-secondary (non-tertiary) schools, which are run by private individuals, private organizations or rarely, religious groups and offer a type of education which is not available at public schools. Most of these schools are vocational schools. However, these vocational schools are no part of the German dual education system. Ergänzungsschulen have the freedom to operate outside of government regulation and are funded in whole by charging their students tuition fees.


In the Republic of Irelandmarker, a private school ( ) receives no state support (and as such, charges fees) and is, to some extent, not subject to state control in relation to curriculum, school day or school year, etc. There is, however, a limited element of state assessment of private schools, because of the requirement that the state ensure that children receive a certain minimum education; Irish private schools must still work towards the Junior Certificate and the Leaving Certificate, for example. Many private schools in Ireland also double as boarding schools. The average fee is around €5,000 annually for most schools, but some of these schools also provide boarding and the fees may then rise up to €25,000 per year. The fee-paying schools are usually run by a religious order, i.e., the Society of Jesus or Congregation of Christian Brothers, etc.

There are also a small number of private international schools in Ireland, including a French school, a Japanese school and a German school.


In much of India, the schooling offered by the state governments would technically come under the category of "public schools". They are federal or state funded and have zero or very minimal fees.

The other category of schools are those run and partly or fully funded by private individuals, private organizations and religious groups, especially by the Christian missionaries. The ones that accept government funds are called 'aided' schools. The private 'un-aided' schools are fully funded by private parties. The standard and the quality of education is quite high. Technically, these would be categorized as private schools, but many of them have the name "Public School" appended to them, e.g., the Delhi Public Schools and the Birla Public School in Pilanimarker. Most of the middle class families send their children to such schools, which might be in their own city or far off, like boarding schools. The medium of education is English, but as a compulsory subject, Hindi and/or the state's official language is also taught. Preschool education is mostly limited to organized neighbourhood nursery schools.

Delhi Public School, R K Puram, Delhi Public School, Vasant Kunjmarker and the Modern Schoolmarker in New Delhimarker, Birla Public School and Birla Balika Vidyapeeth in Pilanimarker (Rajasthan) are some of the most prestigious private schools in Delhi. These situations are more or less the same in the other countries of the Indian subcontinent (South Asia) like Nepal, Pakistan, etc.

Furthermore, the growing importance of The Doon School, Dehradun, as one of India's most prestigious schoolshas had an increasingly influential role in modern history. Producing some of the world's most important writers andpoliticians.


In Israel, private colleges are different from public colleges in that they are for-profit schools. They are not independent of government regulation, as the Council for Higher Education in Israel still has the authority to approve or deny all of the academic programs and departments.


The Netherlands are over two-thirds of state-funded schools operate autonomously, with many of these schools being linked to faith groups. The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, ranks the education in the Netherlands as the 9th best in the world as of 2008, being significantly higher than the OECD average.


In the Philippinesmarker, the private sector has been a major provider of educational services, accounting for about 7.5% of primary enrollment, 32% of secondary enrollment and about 80% of tertiary enrollment. Private schools have proven to be efficient in resource utilization. Per unit costs in private schools are generally lower when compared to public schools. This situation is more evident at the tertiary level. Government regulations have given private education more flexibility and autonomy in recent years, notably by lifting the moratorium on applications for new courses, new schools and conversions, by liberalizing tuition fee policy for private schools, by replacing values education for third and fourth years with English, mathematics and natural science at the option of the school, and by issuing the revised Manual of Regulations for Private Schools in August 1992.

The Education Service Contracting scheme of the government provides financial assistance for tuition and other school fees of students turned away from public high schools because of enrollment overflows. The Tuition Fee Supplement is geared to students enrolled in priority courses in post-secondary and non-degree programmes, including vocational and technical courses. The Private Education Student Financial Assistance is made available to underprivileged, but deserving high school graduates, who wish to pursue college/technical education in private colleges and universities.

In the school year 2001/02, there were 4,529 private elementary schools (out of a total of 40,763) and 3,261 private secondary schools (out of a total of 7,683). In 2002/03, there were 1,297 private higher education institutions (out of a total of 1,470).


In Portugalmarker, private schools were traditionally set up by foreign expatriates and diplomats in order to cater for their educational needs. Portuguese speaking private schools are mainly concentrated in Lisbonmarker and Portomarker. The Ministério da Educação acts as the supervisory and regulatory body for all schools, including international schools.

Portuguese private and international schools include St Julians School, Vale Verde International School

South Africa

Some of the oldest schools in South Africa are private church schools that were established by missionaries in the early nineteenth century. The private sector has grown ever since. After the abolition of apartheid, the laws governing private education in South Africa changed significantly. The South African Schools Act of 1996 recognises two categories of schools: "public" (state-controlled) and "independent" (which includes traditional private schools and schools which are privately-governed.)

Schools previously called semi-private or model C schools are not private schools, as they are ultimately state-controlled.

South African private schools represent some of the finest in the world. More notably, there are far more quality boys schools as compared to girls schools. Private schools, such as Michaelhousemarker, St John's Collegemarker, Crawford College, Brescia House, Hilton Collegemarker, Kearsney College, St Stithians College and St David's Marist Inanda, St Andrew's College, Grahamstown consistently turn out top pupils.


In Swedenmarker, pupils are free to choose a private school and the private school gets paid the same amount as municipal schools. Over 10% of Swedish pupils were enrolled in private schools in 2008. Sweden is internationally known for this innovative school voucher model that provides Swedish pupils with the opportunity to choose the school they prefer.

For instance, the biggest school chain, Kunskapsskolan (“The Knowledge School”), offers 30 schools and a web-based environment, has 700 employees and teaches nearly 10,000 pupils.

Per Unckel, Governor of Stockholm and former Minister of Education, summarizes the advantages of Swedish system: "Education is so important that you can’t just leave it to one producer. Because we know from monopoly systems that they do not fulfill all wishes".

The Swedish system has been recommended to Barack Obama.

United Kingdom

Private schools generally prefer to be called independent schools, because of their freedom to operate outside of government regulation, but are colloquially referred to as public schools. The reason is historical: many older schools were formed when the majority of education was still by private tutoring, thus early schools were considered public in contrast to those held in private for the children of a household. There could be no reference to public financing, as none existed, while schools were charitable or monastic foundations which might or might not charge fees. The name was confirmed by the nineteenth-century Public Schools Acts and has stuck since, but only in England.

According to The Good Schools Guide: "Approximately 7 per cent of children in education [in the UK] are at fee-paying schools." It is unclear what proportion of parents can "afford" to forgo free state education. Those who are induced to do so have a wide variety of different motives, including:• academic standards, which are generally higher, than those found in schools in the state sector• a wider education, taught in longer school hours, with subjects, options or levels beyond the national curriculum• well-endowed facilities, sometimes in historic buildings with extensive grounds• lower pupil-teacher ratios, and teaching staff attracted by higher salaries• extra-curricular opportunities, available due to the longer school days, commonly in sport, drama and music, but also many other possible fields• a distinctive educational tradition; or one with particular characteristics not offered at local state schools (such as a stage school, religious instruction, boarding education, classical studies, a more competitive ethos, or a particular theory of education)• perceived social advantages or privileges, including the "public-school accent" and networking• a family tradition of attending a particular school, which may have lasted for generations• offers of unacceptable state schools

Many independent schools are single-sex (though this is becoming less common).

Fees range from under £1,000 per term to £7,000 and above per term for a day pupil, with wide variations depending on the age of the child, the staff/pupil ratio and so on – and up to £9,000+ per term for boarding. Many parents must make substantial sacrifices to afford such fees, but there may be a large number of scholarships and burasaries available.

Independent primary schools are called preparatory school, preparing pupils not for admission to a university as in the United States, but to an independent secondary school, which admit pupils taking into account their academic achievement as measured by the Common Entrance Exam.

Such independent secondary schools are often called public schools, though this term is primarily used of the older and more prestigious schools which are members of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, such as City of London Freemen's Schoolmarker, Etonmarker, St Paul's School, Fettes Collegemarker, Harrowmarker, Manchester Grammar Schoolmarker, Methodist College Belfastmarker, Rugby Schoolmarker, Shrewsbury Schoolmarker, Stonyhurst Collegemarker, Tonbridge Schoolmarker, Wellington Collegemarker, Westminstermarker, Winchestermarker. Many of these schools are boarding schools.

Many private schools in England and Wales have a history of helping the disadvantaged, whether or not they have charitable foundations. One in four children come from postcodes on or below national average income and one in three receives fee assistance. However, since actual pupils' family incomes, which may be well above the average for a particular postcode area, were not determined, these figures are largely meaningless.

Many private schools have a stated religious character, although this does not generally aim at pupils' religious indoctrination and does not preclude pupils of other faiths attending if they wish. Religion is not as important an aspect in the majority of parents' decision to send their child to an independent school as it is in the United States.

Until the 1970s, all state school students were required to sit an 11+ exam at that age, and the more able students would then be offered a place at a local grammar school, as opposed to a secondary modern school. Although these have generally been replaced by all ability comprehensive schools, some grammar schools (often the ones with an established heritage) were able to become independent.

Although many of independent schools in Englandmarker and Walesmarker aim at the highest academic standards, a small number have been established to provide support for those experiencing difficulties in mainstream education. About half of the schools specialising in special educational needs are private schools.

United States

In the United States, the term "private school" can be correctly applied to any school for which the facilities and funding are not provided by the federal, state or local government; as opposed to a "public school", which is operated by the government or in the case of charter schools, independently with government funding and regulation. A small minority of private schools are non-religious institutions, but the vast majority of them are operated by religious organizations.

Private schools are generally exempt from most educational regulations, but tend to follow the spirit of regulations concerning the content of courses in an attempt to provide a level of education equal to or better than that available in public schools. Additionally, many students (particularly those at the transition between primary and secondary school) transfer to a public school and therefore, require similar preparation to that available in public schools.

In the nineteenth century, as a response to the perceived domination of the public school systems by Protestant political and religious ideas, many Roman Catholic parish churches, dioceses and religious orders established schools, which operate entirely without government funding. For many years, the vast majority of private schools in the United States were Catholic schools. A similar perception (possibly relating to the evolution vs. creationism debates) emerged in the late twentieth century among Protestants, which has resulted in the widespread establishment of new, private schools.

In many parts of the United States, after the 1954 decision in Brown Board of Education that demanded US schools desegregate "with all deliberate speed," local families organized a wave of private "Christian Academies." In much of the US South, white students have migrated to the Academies, while public schools have become in turn more heavily concentrated with African American students. See List of private schools in Mississippi. The academic content of the Academies is College Preparatory.

Funding for private schools is generally provided through student tuition, endowments, and donations and grants from religious organizations or private individuals. Government funding for religious schools is either subject to restrictions or possibly forbidden, according to the courts' interpretation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Non-religious private schools theoretically could qualify for such funding, but prefer the advantages of independent control of their student admissions and course content.

A similar concept, recently emerging from within the public school system, is the concept of "charter schools", which are technically independent public schools, but in many respects operate similarly to non-religious private schools.

Private schooling in the United States has been debated by educator, lawmaker and parents, since the beginnings of compulsory education in Massachusettsmarker in 1852. The Supreme Courtmarker precedent appears to favor educational choice, so long as states may set standards for educational accomplishment. Some of the most relevant Supreme Court case law on this is as follows: Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160 (1976); Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972); Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925); Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923).

There is a potential conflict between the values espoused in the above cited cases and the limitations set forward in Article 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is described below.

Limits by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

David M. Smolin, an American law professor, has stated that:
Commentators have noted a potential conflict between Article 29 of the CRC and current constitutional doctrine within the United States. Article 29 [of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child] limits the right of parents and others to educate children in private school by requiring that all such schools support both the charter and principles of the United Nations and a list of specific values and ideals. By contrast, Supreme Courtmarker case law has provided that a combination of parental rights and religious liberties provide a broader right of parents and private schools to control the values and curriculum of private education free from State interference.

See also


  1. The National Education Directory Australia: Private Schools in Australia (accessed:07-08-2007)
  2. [1]
  3. [2]
  4. [3]
  5. ISC Annual Census 2007
  7. ISC Social Diversity Study
  8. David M. Smolin, Overcoming Religious Objections to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 29, 104 at [4] - See Susan H. Bitensky, Educating the Child for a Productive Life, in CHILDREN’S RIGHTS IN AMERICA 181 (Cynthia Price Cohen & Howard A. Davidson eds., 1990) (referring to “fundamentalist” curriculum used in some private religious schools which evidences hostility toward the United Nations). Relevant cases include Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160 (1976); Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972); Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925); Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923).


External links

National and International Private School Associations

Private School Statistics

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