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Comparing and contrasting two identically placed means to achieve an end has significant relevance in research because of the fact that such an analysis is capable of bringing out a variety of critical issue for debate and policy formulation, retention and or reforms and pedagogy is no exception to this. The relevance of alternate means of education has been a matter of public policy interest world over including the UK. For it covers within itself from a macro point of view political choices, economic policies and societal perceptions and from a micro point of view the choices exercised by the parents, the success of the graduants occupying positions in the society and perceptions of teaching community in exercising their preferences for work. In the hands of research scholars it has been subjected to a comparative analysis with each of the focus area (say political or economic or sociological dimensions) in itself forming major areas of research from formulation of and testing of hypothesis and in this limited part of the Paper it would not be feasible to carryout a wide ranging analysis of each one them. Consequently, this Paper aims at a comparative analysis of mainstream school (used interchangeably as State Schools) versus private school (used interchangeably as independent schools) in the UK by choosing some critical issues which have policy implications from political, socio-economic and associated implications. It seeks in particular to address issues relating to the cost of education, the migration of teachers, teacher student ratios and the underlying macro economic factors that drive such issues. It would follow a lens's approach in that through the mainstream school the private schools would be compared. A series of hypothesis has been posed in order to find answers.
2. Discussion and Conclusions:
Comparative Hypothesis one:
Whereas the cost of education in the mainstream schools are comparatively lower than from the private schools, yet it is contended, that there has been a tendency on the parts of the parents to choose private schools. The political reason advanced for this is that there has been a relatively low commitment on the part of the politicians in the UK to the advancing of the cause of mainstream schools as historically the governments have been dominated by independent-school-educated politicians (Rae, 1981). This in fact formed the pitch for the Labour Party in its stance on seeking to abolish private schools in its earlier electoral politics.
The trends in the UK show of a massive increase in the demand for education in general accompanied by a willingness of the better off parents in particular to pay more for private education. . The available data confirms the above contentions. According to the data form the independent Schools Council for the period 1982-2007, the cost of school education (day) rose from £ 4000 in 1981 to nearly £10000 in 2005 registering more than a two fold increase. Despite the rhetoric that was seen in then Labour Party leaders (Tony Blair) to pitch a campaign for the abolition of private schools, the reality appears to be that the students emanating from private schools have occupied dominant position or been playing influencing roles in the British society. Since education has been seen one of the important effects of economic progress and globalisation, parents, especially from a relatively well off sections, have placed more faith in imparting it through the private schools for their wards
There is no gainsaying the fact that historically the independent schools in the UK had gradually acquired a symbol of class system by catering to the needs of children of upper middle class and wealthy families to acquire educational credentials. They have also been seen as a means to acquire prominent positions in public life and private economy. The private schools through their networks had opened the doors for them to acquire well paying jobs. For instance, it has been pointed out by Dolton and Vignoles (2000) that the independent school educated male graduates received a premium of 6.5% when compared with their counterparts graduants from state schools. Sutton Trust (2006, 2005a, 2005b,) has extensively documented the dominance of those educated in the private schools in positions of influence and leadership in the British society. In other word, the private schools have seen to be playing a subtle but a far impacting role than the state schools in transforming the British economy to a knowledge economy. This was aided by a belief on the part of political economy in the education being seen as an important factor influencing economic growth which reflected a shift in thinking of considering it as merely a social expense.
Comparative Hypothesis Two:
Whereas there is a substantial migration of teachers to private schools from the mainstream schools, no significant reverse phenomenon is observed. In essence, it is suggested by some scholars (for example Smithers & Robbinson, 2005) that private schools 'poach' teachers from the state sector.
From the evidence available from the same source for 2006 confirms this. The net outflow from mainstream schools that equate the inflow with the private schools was put at 1403 whereas the reverse migration was estimated at 468. This is far above the number of fresh recruitments carried out by them which has been estimated at 1125.
There are a variety of reasons that have been suggested for this phenomena and this Paper discusses a few key ones relating to the class issues curricula, job satisfaction, pay and leave privileges. .Whereas the expectation in the state schools is towards maintenance of discipline it is considered less so in private schools and the reason cited for this is that the pupils in the private schools are more committed vis-à-vis their counter parts in the public school. The private schools are also not bound by rigid curricula requirements which on the other hand is seem to be dogmatically enforced in the state run schools. This gives more flexibility for the private schools to retain subjects of diverse disciplines as classic arts or physical sports which are largely absent in public schools. The background education of the teachers themselves is seen to be a significant contributor in influencing such a migration. In a skill survey conducted by Felstead et al. (2007), it has been found that nearly 33% of the teachers working in independent schools were themselves educated in private schools as against a substantially lower 8% in state run schools. While the credentials for being recruited to either the mainstream or private schools remain the same, yet it is felt that there is an excessive regulatory control being applied in such a process for working in the state run school as against those obtaining in private schools.
Comparative Hypothesis Three:
One more important clue that would need to firm of this hypothesis is the comparable teacher student ratios in mainstream and private school which is taken up below.
It has also been contended that on a comparative scale the independent schools are deploying a disproportionate share of teachers to the number of pupils taught (the teacher-student ratio) which has not been the case with mainstream schools.
The available data on the student teacher ratio confirms the hypothesis that when compared with the mainstreams schools in the private schools the rate of fall is accelerated. According to the data available from the sources quoted above, between 1964 and 2006, while the actual fall in mainstream schools was from 24 to 18, it fell in the case of private schools from 14 to 8. In other words, while the fall in the former case was under 25%, it was close to 50% in the later case.
This falling teacher-student ratio is considered to be an important factor pulling them towards the private schools. The teachers seem to contribute towards such a trend for a plethora of reasons. Teaching smaller number of students allow them to concentrate more on subject matters and less on discipline. Private schools are credited with having more infrastructural facilities, offer subsidised schemes as providing accommodation, educating their children at a moderate fees and flexible working hours. Though legally there are quite a few constraints in the pay and service conditions of the teachers, yet, they are overcome by the private schools by incorporating flexible clauses in the governing bodies that also grant certain amount bargaining powers to them which are not considered to exist with state schools.
By way of conclusion, the comparative analysis on few key points are summarised in this paragraph. The teachers in private schools are afforded with the opportunities to teach in a class constituting smaller number of students, who are likely to be less disruptive, more disciplined and committed, flexible working hours, more paid holidays which are considered especially lady teachers to be advantageous to them.
What are the implications of this to the state? The independent schools obtain their source of supply of teachers, whether new or experienced from the state invested teacher training specialist colleges and the experienced ones from the state schools. This result in a double loss for the state for the investments made on them do not go directly benefiting the educational sector and secondly the need to find and replace the losses arising out of experienced teachers which always is not feasible. In other words, the losses of a trained teacher can be made good in majority of the case through inducting raw or less experienced candidates. This has been aptly described in the statement of (Stevens, 1994) that the 'job mobility generates external benefits for the trainee's new employer, since trained employees' productivity will be higher than their wage costs. One can conclude by suggesting that social intervention is needed if the government and the public policy makers are serious enough to remedy the situation.