Selective Education or Equity?

A school is an educational establishment designed to offer learning spaces and learning environments specifically for the education of children under the guidance of qualified teachers. Most countries now have systems of public elementary education, which in some cases is mandatory. In such systems, children proceed through a sequence of primary schools, each having its own characteristic curriculum and structure. After passing through the primary stage, they proceed to secondary schools, from where they continue to school college.

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The present-day situation has seen an expansion of the sphere of public education, particularly in developed countries such as the US and UK. A recent analysis by the International Educational Council shows that there are almost three hundred public schools in the United States currently. These include both the public schools run by the state and the private schools, many of which are funded by the state or by a private foundation. Of these, almost half are formally funded by the state while almost a quarter are financed by private foundations.

An analysis of the reasons why charter schools are becoming so popular shows that they are being introduced mainly as a response to the failure of the traditional public school system to adequately serve the interests of the children enrolled. In this situation, the traditional public schools were seen to be ineffective in meeting the needs of children for educational freedom, modernity and social inclusion. Charter schools are seen as a viable alternative to the public school system, providing equal access to education without the exclusivity, hierarchy and exclusive control that are characteristic of public schools. While it is true that some charters do restrict the access of some students to mainstream schools and religious institutions, the majority of them welcome all students irrespective of their faith, caste and other factors of personal interest.

The growth of the market has also meant an expansion of the types of education provided. Until the mid-nineteenth century, the major educational institutions in the United States were primarily established for the education of the white Christian majority. Gradually, however, the educational philosophies of the different types of ethnic groups within the US changed radically. Many of today’s school systems are essentially developed in the same way as the American schools of the early eighteen hundreds.

In contrast to the exclusive educational opportunities offered by public schools, the number of schools that offer diplomas, associate degrees, master degrees and doctoral degrees has increased dramatically over the past few years. As a result, public perception of schools in the United States has changed. Today, many people believe that a charter or parochial school can offer better educational options to minority students than local public schools. There is a great deal of skepticism about the ability of a privately run charter school to integrate effectively with other communities. However, there is also a general belief that the existence of charters in the US is not beneficial as compared to the existence of separate public and private schools. Most of the urban schools that are developed by non-profit organizations provide comprehensive options to students, unlike the public schools that offer a limited choice of academic disciplines and non-formal learning opportunities.

The existence of various types of local schools has led to the evolution of the state schools that are developed in each state. In the US, there are state school systems managed by the state government and local councils, as well as charter or neighborhood schools that are funded by parents, the community or by the government. The state school system and the different types of local councils determine the curricula that are taught in local schools and maintain standards that define how students in a particular school are evaluated for academic excellence and other aspects of academic and behavioral management. The state schools also decide whether students who fail to pass the required criteria are provided with an alternative course or whether they must leave the school.

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