Primary education sets a foundation for a child’s future and behavior. The researcher aimed to examine a socially valuable issue of education, precisely the different types of education facilities that parents choose for their children and the reasoning behind this choice. The hypothesis is that a kind of education facility predetermines a child’s future, such as their likelihood of engaging in criminal behavior or career opportunities. For this research, the author will determine the perceptions of public and private school education on a parent’s perception of education quality. The perception of education quality will be the dependent variable. Since technology has advanced and children have more access to information, perhaps parents have changed their attitudes towards private schools and their values.
Private schools in America have existed for almost four hundred years. According to the Council for American Private Education (n.d.), there are approximately 34,576 private schools across the United States, and they educate more than 5 million students (para. 2). This translates into 25% of schools in this country being private. These institutions are typically region-based and allow a small number of students to enroll. In the era of the Internet and free access to information, however, how the parents perceive private school education as opposed to public school education remains valid. In the past, the apparent benefits of private schools included their elite status, the small number of students that allows teachers to dedicate attention to each, and the prospects associated with getting into a prestigious University.
From a social perspective, understanding what drives the decision-making behind the selection of private schools as opposed to public education can help understand the measures of education quality that parents use to evaluate different institutions and the factors that impact their decisions. For policymakers and people working in the education field, this will help design an education system that accounts for students’ needs.
The primary variable in this research is the perception of parents concerning private school education. Hence, studies that were conducted in the United States and in other countries that focus on this topic were identified by the researcher. For example, Broughman, Kincel, and Peterson (2019) state that the characteristics of private schools in the United States vary greatly. For instance, some schools support a full-time elementary program, while others offer only part-time programs. Some institutions support the regular curriculum, while others offer Montessori programs.
Next, an assessment by Kingdon (2017) suggests that in India, for example, the number of public schools is rapidly decreasing in comparison to the number of public schools, which is alarming because it suggests that public education does not satisfy the needs of these students. The cultural, social, and economic backgrounds of India should be considered as well, however, this provides some implications for understanding why parents choose private education over a public one.
However, the phenomenon of public school education and their elite status has changed over time, since Reeves et al. (2017) report that fewer people from the British elite received private school education. This central point to the increasing quality of the public schools. However, the authors report that despite the changes, the alumni of these schools have a 94% higher chance of becoming the nation’s elite than those graduating from public schools. This disproportion is the central issue of the debate regarding private and public education.
Apart from the prospects, there are differences in the way the two types of schools function. Shakeel and DeAngelis (2018) report that private schools have a better environment and are more likely to have stricter safety rules, contributing to creating a good atmosphere for education. There is a lesser number of criminal incidents at these schools, which also contributes to safety. Carniero, Das, and Reis (2016) suggest that the main factors considered when selecting a school are distance, peers, and school fees. Moreover, the authors’ model suggests that a decrease in education costs for private schools leads to a 7.5% increase in attendance. Hence, parents are willing to choose private schools for their children if possible, suggesting some inconsistencies in the public education system.
This literature review suggests that private schools still impact the prospects of an individual; for example, graduating from a private school improves the likelihood of becoming an elite. Moreover, some articles point out the difference in the safety of the two types of schools, suggesting that private schools are superior to public schools, calling for reform within the education system. Hence, the author of this research learned that private education still plays a significant role in determining a child’s future and career prospects. The primary concern is that public schools’ quality, safety, and education strategies are insufficient, strengthening the inequality between the people who study in private and public schools.
The three factors that will affect the dependent variable are quality of education, low number of students, and private education prospects. Hence, the hypothesis is that parents choose private schools for their children because they want the latter to get a good education, to get into a prestigious college, or because they perceive a low number of students in class as beneficial for their studies. In this case, the dependent variable is a parent’s choice — either to send their child to a private or a public school.
- Hypothesis #1: Parents choose private schools because they associate them with a higher quality of education.
- Hypothesis #2: Parents prefer private schools because of the lesser number of students in the class, which they associate with better information perception.
- Hypothesis #3: Parents select private education because they perceive it as a path toward a prestigious college for their children.
The interview was conducted using Zoom since face-to-face meetings are not appropriate during the pandemic, and this meeting took place on November 10th. The researcher selected the sample based on their characteristics: having at least one child who attends a K-12 school and at least as of the sample’s children had to attend private schools. Hence, a non-probability sampling technique was applied to find a population with appropriate characteristics.
The questionnaire items were structured in the following manner: for each hypothesis, there was a corresponding item. The strength of a questionnaire in the form of a Likert scale is that it allows for collecting ordinal data and measuring the degree of a person’s opinion (Hartley, 2010). The demographics characteristics section involved a choice between several options relating to gender, age, education level, and child education item, which had two options: private or public. For the questions about the perception of education, a Likert scale was selected because it allows examining the degrees of a person’s opinion. Hence, for each of the hypotheses, a corresponding statement, such as “I think that private education is beneficial because …” was included. The respondents were offered to answer based on a scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Descriptive data were evaluated using frequency measures, while the interviews were analyzed through text coding, where essential parts of a transcript were highlighted by the researcher. Hence, the correlation between each independent and the dependent variable was established, allowing the researcher to make conclusions about the factors that impact the decision to send a child to a private school the most.
The first independent variable, which is the quality of education, was measured by asking a question about the perception of the effectiveness of teaching in private and public schools.
The second independent variable, the institution’s characteristics, such as the number of students, was measured by asking if the school environment’s characteristics mattered to parents. The third independent variable, the prospects for a better future was measured by asking if parents perceived private education as a path to an Ivy League college, as opposed to public education. All of these variables were operationalized into a scale, and a higher score means a greater degree of agreement with the statement that this factor impacts the decision to send a child to a private school.
The non-probability sampling technique was used for this case for this research, and it was vital to get the opinion of parents whose children study at a private school. In general, fifteen cases were collected with eight parents whose children go to a private school, and seven parents whose children attend a public institution. The sample was conducted through email, which the researcher collected in cooperation with the classmates, and the emails offered the subjects to participate in this study.
Descriptive data analysis for a Likert scale type of data implies analyzing each item individually since, for each hypothesis, there is one corresponding question in the case of this research. Since this type of scale is not binary, the researcher will gain insight into the question. Standard calculations, such as mean, median, and standard deviation, can be performed to analyze each item.
Exploratory data analysis will allow the researcher to evaluate the findings and will be used to assess the interview responses and find some common answers. Each time from the Likert scale will be visualized using a table. Another good method for visualizing Likert-type data is horizontal diverging stacked bar charts that allow seeing the distributions of responses. Through visualization, the researcher will be able to analyze the responses of the parents.
It is expected that all three independent variables will have an impact on the parent’s decision-making. However, the researcher acknowledges that one element may be more important than the others, for example, that most parents will perceive prospects of private education as more important than quality. As the literature review indicates, different states and population groups perceive private education differently, which is connected to the varied cultures and the state of private and public education. To conclude, the proposed research aims to determine the difference and social determinants of private and public education perceptions.
Broughman, S. P., Kincel, B., & Peterson, J. (2019). Characteristics of private schools in the United States: results from the 2017–18 private school universe survey. US Department of Education. Web.
Carneiro, P., Das, J., & Reis, H. (2016). The value of private schools: Evidence from Pakistan. Web.
Council for American Private Education. (n.d.). Private schools. Web.
Hartley, R. (2010). Snapshots of research: Readings in criminology and criminal justice. SAGE.
Kingdon, G. G. (2017). The emptying of public schools in India report. Center for Civil Society. Web.
Reeves, A., Friedman, S., Rahal, C., & Flemmen, M. (2017). The decline and persistence of the old boy: Private schools and elite recruitment 1897 to 2016. American Sociological Review, 82(6), 1139–1166. Web.
Shakeel, M. D., & DeAngelis, C. A. (2018). Can private schools improve school climate? Evidence from a nationally representative sample. Journal of School Choice, 12(3), 426–445. Web.