With so many education options available for parents, it can be difficult to decide which is best for their children. In this blog post, we will explore the different types of education available and what each has to offer.
There are now more educational alternatives than ever before. This can be a little confusing for students and parents who want to find the best solution. If you’re thinking of placing your child in an alternative school, it’s important to consider all of the possibilities and ramifications. The following are some of the main characteristics of mainstream vs. alternative schools to help you decide which is best for you.
Public Schools, Private Schools, and Alternative Schools
Public schools are government funded and follow the standard public school curriculum. For most families, your child would usually attend the school closest to where you live, however you may choose to send your child to a school outside of your designated council zone.
Private schools operate by charging enrolment fees directly to parents instead of being backed by government funding. Because private schools generally have higher enrolment fees, they often have a more flexible curriculum than public schools. Private schools may also have a religious affiliation, which can be preferential for some families.
Because private schools are not bound by government regulations, they may be able to offer a more customised education or even offer a broader range of student electives. Class sizes in private schools tend to be smaller, and may also have greater access to private tuition.
Some alternative schools follow a certain philosophy or movement. Examples of this include Montessori and Steiner schools. However, there are also many independent alternative schools that aren’t affiliated with a specific movement. There are also a small number of public schools that qualify as ‘alternative’ because of an innovative curriculum. So the main distinction is not public vs. private but mainstream vs. alternative.
Montessori is a type of education that emphasises hands-on learning and self-paced instruction. Typically, Montessori schools are smaller, with lower student-to-teacher ratios. This approach to education has shown to be especially beneficial for younger children. There are well over 150 Montessori schools currently operating throughout Australia, and their popularity is increasing.
Montessori schools are a great way to give your child an educational experience that focuses on self-directed learning. These classrooms allow children the freedom and flexibility they need in order to explore different ideas at their own pace while still being engaged with interactive activities such as hands-on projects or games played together. Students who attend Montessori and other alternative schools often demonstrate a higher level of academic success when compared with children attending more traditional school settings.
Pros and Cons of Mainstream Schools
When talking about either mainstream or alternative schools, it’s difficult to generalise. Each school is different, and the quality depends on many factors such as funding, the quality, and commitment of the educators, parental involvement, and more. However, we can identify certain common advantages and disadvantages of each.
- Lower cost. This is a major consideration for many families.
- Convenient. No matter where you live, there’s a public school not too far away.
- Access to resources. In addition to low-cost education, public schools provide other resources such as libraries, sports and fitness facilities, and other extracurricular activities. Of course, this varies greatly from one location to another.
- Exposure to diverse cultures. Mainstream schools often have a mix of boys and girls from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. This helps to prepare children for life in a diverse society. Of course, some alternative schools also offer this advantage. Others, however, are more insular.
- Based on location rather than preference. Your public school is generally determined by where you live. While there are now schools that give you a little more freedom, in many areas you are still compelled to attend the local school.
- Underfunded. Many schools are suffering from budget cutbacks that result in large classes (which means less individual attention for students) and limited resources.
- A rigid curriculum. A growing number of educational experts believe that mainstream education limits creativity and encourages conformity. Standardised testing, for example, doesn’t consider many types of intelligence and forces all students into a single model of learning.
- Peer pressure and bullying. While proponents of mainstream education focus on the benefits of “normal” socialising, this often includes negative effects such as bullying and peer pressure. This can occur in alternative schools as well but, depending on the school’s philosophy, there are often concerted efforts to promote a more positive social environment.
Pros and Cons of Alternative Schools
Like mainstream schools, alternative schools include a wide diversity of options. Here are some common pros and cons of alternative schools.
- Your choice is based on quality rather than location. When you send your child to an alternative school, you’re choosing one that’s consistent with your values and preferences. This is a more conscious choice than simply going with the one that’s close by.
- A greater choice of learning models. Alternative schools (particularly high schools) embrace more diverse educational philosophies than mainstream schools. These schools often recognise a wider spectrum of learning and intelligence rather than relying solely on standardised tests and a centralised curriculum. Some alternative schools, for example, focus on experiential learning, which emphasises hands-on rather than textbook learning.
- More family and community involvement. Mainstream schools are beholden to school boards, which can quickly become political entities. Alternative schools are more accountable to parents, who are their customers.
- The potential to feel overwhelmed by choice. Since there are so many alternative schools, you need to research their qualifications and reputation. You also have to choose a school that meets your child’s needs and is consistent with your values.
- Cost. Alternative schools are not always affordable to all families. However, some alternative schools have reasonable tuition or offer scholarships. There are also alternative public schools that are free. In general, however, alternative schools are costlier than mainstream.
How to Choose the Right School
Here are some of the major criteria to consider when selecting a school.
- Practical concerns. Families have to consider pragmatic issues such as location and cost when deciding on a school. Of course, if you identify a school that’s appealing, you may be willing to make certain changes or sacrifices to send your child there. You might, for example, consider moving closer to the desired school. You might also consider ways to make the school affordable such as cutting back on other expenses.
- Your child’s personality and academic history. Each student has a unique background, personality, and set of strengths and weaknesses. The same school isn’t ideal for everyone. One of the main drawbacks of mainstream schools is that everyone is compelled to follow a standardised curriculum. Students who don’t flourish in such an environment may do better in an alternative school that caters more to the individual.
- The school’s educational philosophy. One of the main reasons that parents choose alternative schools is to give their children a chance to have a more creative, holistic, and experiential type of education that’s not available in traditional schools. There are, however, many different types of alternative schools. Some are actually more traditional and rigid than the average public school. It’s important to research the school thoroughly and find out what they stand for and how they believe children learn best.
- Resources and activities. This includes sports and other extracurricular activities, teacher-to-student ratio, and access to technology, labs, and other educational equipment.
- Family and community involvement. Educators aren’t solely responsible for teaching children. It’s actually a community process that involves parents and other family members as well as the wider community.
The best schools are usually those in which families are closely involved and provide help and input. Other schools are less fortunate in this way with parents not showing much interest. This isn’t a quantifiable factor, so it’s not always easy to research. However, you can do research online. You may also be able to meet and talk to parents of students at a school you’re considering.
Should You Choose a Mainstream or Alternative School?
Whether you are considering a mainstream or alternative school, you need to research a variety of factors. If you’re content with your child’s current school, you have nothing to worry about. However, for students who are having a hard time in traditional schools, it’s a different story. If you’re disillusioned with mainstream education, it may be time to start looking into alternatives. The right alternative school can often provide a more enriching learning experience that’s more in tune with the needs of each student.
If you are considering Montessori education for your child, why not complete an expression of interest with Rockingham Montessori School by leaving your details at this link: https://rms.wa.edu.au/enrolments/expression-of-interest-form/