Definition of private school noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary


private school

; NAmE
(also independent school) Types of school
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a school that receives no money from the government and where the education of the students is paid for by their parents compare public school, state school See related entries: Types of school Culturepublic schoolsDespite their name, the schools known as public schools are, in most of Britain, private independent schools and are not part of the state education system. Schools run by the state are called state schools. In Scotland however, which has a separate education system from the rest of Britain, the term public school refers to a state school. Only a small proportion of children attend independent public schools, and their parents have to pay fees that may amount to many thousands of pounds a year. A small number of children from less wealthy families win scholarships, in which case their fees are paid for them.Many of Britain's 200 public schools are very old. They include Eton, Harrow, Winchester and, for girls, Cheltenham Ladies' College and Roedean School. Most public schools were single-sex schools but many now teach girls and boys together. Public schools were originally grammar schools which offered free education to the public and were under public management. This was in contrast to private schools which were privately owned by the teachers. Since the 19th century, the term public school has been applied to grammar schools that began taking fee-paying pupils as well as children paid for from public funds.Most pupils go to public school at the age of 13, after attending private prep schools. Many public schools are boarding schools where students live during term-time. Most have a house system, with boarders living in one of several houses under the charge of a housemaster or housemistress. Older pupils are chosen as prefects (= pupils who have authority over younger pupils) and in a few schools younger pupils have to do small jobs for the senior pupils. This is sometimes called fagging and was usual in most public schools in the past. At most schools pupils have to wear a school uniform and at some of the oldest schools this is very old fashioned. Sport is an important part of the curriculum and schools compete against each other in cricket, Rugby, football, hockey, rowing, etc. Many schools have a chapel where pupils attend Anglican services and there are also a small number of Roman Catholic public schools.Public schools aim for high academic standards and to provide pupils with the right social background for top jobs in the Establishment (= the government, the army, the Church, and the law). A much higher proportion of students from public schools win university places, especially to Oxford and Cambridge Universities, than from state schools, and many people regard this as unfair. Former public school students may also have an advantage when applying for jobs because of the 'old school tie', the old boy network through which a former public school pupil is more likely to give a job to somebody from a public school, especially his own public school, than to someone from a school in the state system. Some people send their children to public school mainly for this reason; others believe public schools provide a better education than state schools. Public schools have in the past been associated with strict discipline, and also bullying.In the US a public school is a school run by the government. Schools that students have to pay to attend are called private schools. There are many private schools in the US, some of which are boarding schools. Some, like Phillips Exeter Academy and the Bath Academy, are very similar to Britain's public schools. They are very expensive, have a high reputation, and many of their students come from rich and well-known families. Children often go to the same school as their parents. Many of the most famous schools of this sort are in New England.Some US private schools give special attention to a particular area of study. There are, for example, schools for people who are good at music or art. Military schools are often chosen by parents who are in the armed forces, or who think their children need a lot of discipline. Religious groups also run private schools, although not all of the students who attend practise that religion. Schools run by the Catholic church are called parochial schools.Private schools in the US are often single-sex (= limited to either boys or girls) and their students usually wear a uniform. This is unusual in American public schools. Parents choose a private school for their children for a number of reasons, but in general they believe that the quality of education is higher in private schools, and there is some evidence to support this. Most private schools offer scholarships to students from poorer families, and in some parts of the US the government may under certain circumstances pay for children to attend a private school.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: private school