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Teaching at Private vs. Public Schools

Looking at the Differences Between Private and Public Schools


Teaching at Private vs. Public Schools

Left Image Private School Class - Right Image Public School Class

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As a teacher, you have a big decision to make: whether to teach in a public or a private school. This article will take a look at the differences between the two in an effort to help you decide which would be best for you and your situation.

Student Base

Public schools are required by law to admit any student. They are free to all students since they are paid for by our taxes. However, just because funding comes from taxes, this does not mean that every public school is funded at the same level. On the other hand, private schools can be and are in most cases selective on who they admit to their schools. Students have to pay for their schooling although many private schools allow full or partial scholarships to admitted students who show financial need. Because the admission process is selective, the students that attend a private school are more likely to be homogenous than those at a public school. Because of limited funds and very few mandates, you will be much less likely to encounter a special needs student in a private school than in a public school.

Government Oversight and Curriculum

The government has less power over the day-to-day administration of private schools as compared to public schools. This is because private schools do not use tax dollars thereby removing many state requirements that public schools have to meet. Whereas in public schools most of the subjects offered and much of what students learn is mandated by the state, private schools have much greater leeway in the courses they offer and the curriculum standards they use. Further, public schools must use state mandated standardized tests to measure learning while public schools can choose to use these or their own tests.

It is also important to note that while it is against the law for public schools to espouse and provide specific religious instruction, many private schools are built on the belief that religion should be a part of each child’s education. Therefore, the religious orientation, if any, of a private school is an important consideration before you take a job there.

Teacher Education

While public schools have certain minimum requirements for teachers including certification and specific degrees, private schools have much greater leeway. Therefore, teachers in private schools may not be required to have certifications or specific degrees to teach in their subject areas.

Class Size and Student Discipline

While many states are trying to keep class size down, it is a difficult proposition due to lack of schools, teachers, and funding. On the other hand, most private schools have class size as one of their selling points. Because they can limit the number of students attending their schools they can obviously keep class size down.

Further, because of a greater amount of parental involvement and more leeway when dealing with classroom discipline issues, it is often easier for private schools to remove disruptive students from classes and in the end the school itself. It takes a pretty serious offense to get a student permanently removed from the public school setting. On the other hand, because private schools are voluntary they have much greater control over the discipline of their students and whether a student has done enough to warrant being kicked out of their school.


While there are many pros and cons to teaching in a private school, probably the biggest negative is the pay. Private school teachers make in most cases much less than their public school counterparts. Teacher pay at these schools is based on the tuition brought in by students. Therefore, expect to earn at least $10 – 15,000 less at a minimum if you choose to teach at a private school.


Teaching in a private school affords many teachers great benefits. You will typically have more control over the curriculum although the private school where you teach might have their own mandates that you have to follow. You will probably have smaller class sizes and greater control over classroom discipline.

On the other hand, private schools are inclusive and this leads to its own problems and prejudices. There might not be enough funds to help out students with special needs that encounter. Further, you could be required to include religious instruction in your materials so this should be taken into account. Finally, the pay will in most cases be considerably lower than that of area public schools. It is your decision of whether these negatives outweigh the positives of teaching in a private school.

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