Public vs. private school: Is it right for your child? Pros and cons

It might feel like just yesterday that you were trying to decide where to send them to kindy and then the primary and high school questions always come around faster than you think. 

One big question is whether to opt for a co-ed or a single sex school, but another important one is the choice between a public or private school. 

Decisions, decisions. Here are a few tips on how to make them. 

Private v public school: What are the primary differences? 

The vast majority of schools in New Zealand are public (sometimes known as state) schools. The main thing is that they are funded by the government (although parents will still need to cover everything from uniforms and stationery to general school costs like excursions and school camps) and will teach the national curriculum. Also, public schools are not religious. 

On the other hand, private schools receive some funding from the government, but are largely funded by charging parents school fees. One study in New Zealand found that a private education will cost anywhere from $40,000 to $47,000 per year for high school students who were born in 2018. 

However, private schools do not have to stick to the national curriculum, so therefore will develop their own learning systems.

Benefits of public schooling 

Naturally, the key benefit for parents when it comes to public schooling is the cost. Even though uniforms, school camps, and annual ‘donations’ can add up, they are significantly lower than the costs of a private education. 

In our Kiwi Education Report, we found that parents perceived that public schools offer greater opportunities for socialising (63%), which in turn better prepares kids for the real world (57%). 

Not to mention, one study in Australia found that the academic outcomes between public and private schools showed no differences, after accounting for socioeconomic backgrounds. 

Benefits of private schooling 

One in four Kiwi parents would prefer private schooling over public, according to our Kiwi Education Report

The main reason for this preference was academic results, with 49% of parents stating that’s why they’d prefer to send their kids to a private school. Additionally, parents cited the standard of facilities and the smaller class sizes as key benefits to private schooling. 

According to Independent Schools of New Zealand, other benefits include private schools’ choice of qualifications (so students can do the International Baccalaureate, or the Cambridge Pathway for achievements widely recognised overseas), and the high quality of teaching. 

Choosing the right school for your child's needs

Making a choice between public and private won’t necessarily be an easy decision. You’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons as a parent, and the pros and cons for your child. You’ll also need to consider other factors such as single-sex vs co-ed, yours and/or your child’s potential commute to and from school, and even their social life if your choice would separate them from all their mates. 

Of course, older students (those approaching high school level) will no doubt have their own opinions as well. 

Once you have created a shortlist of options, take the time to visit each school on the list. Explore the grounds, talk to the teachers, learn about the extracurricular activities available, and see if you can push any school to the top of the list (or at least, take one or two out of contention). 

Ultimately, it’s going to come down to everything from budget to personal preference, so it’s a choice that only you can make as a family. Click here for our downloadable checklist on choosing the right school for your child.

And keep in mind, one of the reasons why Kiwis may consider life insurance is to help their family cover costs should anything happen to them, such as schooling for loved ones. 

Choosing the right school for your child [Checklist]