Private Schools: Pros, Cons and Costs

Private school or state school? Many parents find it difficult to choose the right school for their child. No wonder, after all, there are many different forms and pedagogical concepts. Here we have put together important information about private schools and show you the advantages and disadvantages of this type of school.

Although private schools still only make up a small proportion of all German schools, the trend is still rising. An example: the number of private schools has increased by 81 percent from the 1990s to today. Extrapolated, every eleventh pupil in Germany already attends a private school. The proportion of private elementary schools and private high schools is the largest.

What is a private school?

A private school is an independent school. This means that, unlike public schools, which are run by the state and financed by taxes, it is the responsibility of a private school authority. These can be church organizations, social services (such as Caritas), clubs, educational groups and companies (such as Phorms Management and Volkswagen) or private individuals who are responsible for the teaching staff and the design of the pedagogical concepts.

Despite being independently sponsored, private schools are under state supervision and are subject to state laws. In general, a distinction is made between substitute and supplementary schools in private schools:

  • Substitute school : These types of private schools offer the same curriculum as state schools, but are authorized to use their own teaching and educational methods. In addition, recognized school qualifications, such as the Abitur, are awarded here, so that these schools “replace” going to a state school. Substitute schools receive financial aid from the state, whereby the subsidy rates can vary depending on the federal state and type of school. Since not all costs can be covered, school fees are charged for substitute schools.
  • Complementary school : This school offers course content and qualifications that do not exist in public schools and thus “supplements” them. If a student still wants to take the Abitur or the secondary school leaving certificate, it may be that the final exams have to be taken externally. Complementary schools do not receive any financial compensation from the state, which is why they usually have to finance themselves exclusively through school fees.

cost of a private school

Is there government funding for private schools? Basically, school fees are often charged for attending a private school, which vary depending on whether it is a substitute or supplementary school. The principle of substitute schools is state-funded, with the level of funding being different in each federal state. However, in most cases only two thirds of the costs incurred are covered by the state, the remaining costs of the alternative school have to be covered by the parents. You can find more information about the costs of a private school/substitute school on the advice page .

Complementary schools , on the other hand, can be a lot more expensive because they receive no financial support from the state. In order not to disadvantage low-income families, many private schools offer scholarships or discounts for siblings. It is best to find out from the private school yourself how much money you have to pay and what financial support they can offer you.

Advantages of private school often overestimated

Many parents expect private schools in Germany, smaller classes, more intensive support for their children and thus a better school education. The results of the 2009 PISA study also showed that private students performed slightly better than students in state schools. However, this lead may be due to the fact that private students are more likely to come from well-educated families than students in state schools. The smaller class size is also only a marginal advantage, because on the national average there is only one child less per class at private schools.

Private schools: pros and cons

What are the advantages of private schools?

Before you decide on such a type of school , you should of course always inform yourself about the pros and cons of private schools. The advantages often include the pedagogical concept or an ideological orientation, whereby, for example, the personality or the manual and artistic skills of the child are to be promoted. In addition, there is usually good equipment and there are additional offers for the students, such as eating together or leisure programs.

In contrast to its public counterpart, a private school also gives more lessons because there are fewer missed hours. At many private schools, the lessons themselves take place across all years, which means that the classes are not strictly separated from each other. This allows younger children to learn from older students. At the end of the school year, there are often no grades in private schools, such as Waldorf and Montessori schools , but detailed reports that document the child’s learning progress and also take the child’s personality into account.

What are the disadvantages of a private school?

The biggest disadvantage of a private school is obvious: it costs and often not very little. Despite some financial support options, private schools are simply too expensive for most parents. In addition, the parents not only have to pay the school fees, but usually also a few hours of “parental work”, which they are obliged to do each school year. This includes, for example, the design and maintenance of the classrooms, the creation of work materials or the organization of events. If you choose a private school, you should be able to invest the time and be willing to take on these tasks. Then working with parents offers a good opportunity to get involved and actively help to shape the school.

As with state schools, in some cases the child may not be able to cope with the special teaching methods and the pedagogical concept of the private school and therefore has to switch to another (state) school. In some cases, a change of school is also necessary if a recognized school qualification is to be completed that the private school does not offer. The integration into a regular school can be made more difficult for the child due to gaps in knowledge that have arisen, the unfamiliar everyday school life and the often different way of giving grades.

Private school – the right choice?

You have to decide for yourself whether a private school is the right choice. In a conversation with the teachers or at an “open day” you can get an idea of ​​​​the respective private elementary school or private secondary school, their teaching content and teaching methods and weigh up the pros and cons of private schools compared to public schools. Above all, it is important that the school you choose suits your child and that they feel comfortable there.

Registration at a private school

If you would like to register your child at a private school, the registration usually takes place at the school itself. In order to check the suitability of the child for a private high school, for example, some schools invite the parents and their children to a selection interview in which Among other things, the development of the child and the motivation for choosing a private school are discussed. Since there are often only a limited number of places at private schools, it could also happen that your child’s registration has to be rejected.

We have also put together all the topics related to “school” for you here. 

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