More stress and uncertain benefits: are selective schools truly worthwhile?

The government school sector includes both fully selective and moderately selective schools in New South Wales and Victoria. They charge lower fees to no fees at all than non-government schools. However, unlike conventional government schools, which prioritize pupils from their catchment area, selective schools enroll only the top kids based on the results of a competitive entrance exam.

It is common knowledge that selective schools maintain a high level of academic excellence and generate some of the best results for students in their last year of secondary school. The number of applications received each year is a major factor in determining how competitive the schools are. But do you think it’s money well spent?

Why do families send their children to selective schools?

Parents are frequently lured to them because their children get high Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) scores. These ensure that students may enroll in the university programme of their choosing.

Some migrant parents felt their educational prospects in their native countries or while migration were limited or disturbed. When these families arrive in Australia, they may be lured to high-performing schools that pick brilliant and hardworking pupils.

Parents who have migrated to Australia from other countries frequently cite a combination of high aspirations and anxiety about the future — related to university admission, job security, and racial discrimination in the workplace — as the primary reasons for sending their children to selective schools.

Selective schools strive to provide chances “for all” academically capable students, regardless of their socioeconomic or cultural origins or location. Through diverse actions, they attempt to actualize the concept of equal opportunity. The admission exam, for example, includes aptitude-style questions to assess candidates’ innate skills. Furthermore, professional instruction to prepare for admission examinations is discouraged.

Despite this, the pupils that attend elite schools are not representative of the general community. Selective schools primarily enroll children from ethnic minority backgrounds who are socially advantaged.

A recent evaluation of selective schools in New South Wales found that admission processes benefit advantaged kids – 59% of applicants were from high socioeconomic families, or had at least one parent with a bachelor degree or higher. The disparity expands further during selection, with 64% of chosen students classified as having a high socioeconomic status.

As a result, many institutions accept hardworking students who benefit from extra instruction. But do the schools themselves have an impact on individual kids’ test scores?

Do selective schools provide intellectual advantages?

Although studies suggest that selective schools outperform non-selective schools, the extent to which they push the skills of selective students is generally ambiguous.

A study of three of Victoria’s four completely selective schools, for example, discovered that selective school students have ATAR scores that are two and a half percentile points better than non-selected school students who barely missed out on admittance into selective schools.

The Centre for International Research on Education Systems recently published a working paper that investigated how selective schools impact the socioeconomic mix and academic performance of non-selective schools in Sydney and Melbourne.

It contrasted the sorts of pupils enrolled in geographical “clusters” with one of each of the following categories of schools: completely selective, somewhat selective, private, and non-selective government schools. To provide for fair comparisons, the schools were matched in terms of student makeup by gender and year level when possible. The research comprised 64 Sydney schools and 16 Melbourne schools.

According to the report, academic selection through selective school entrance results in schools stratified depending on students’ social backgrounds and academic aptitude.

Fully selective institutions had the largest number of pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds (89%). Private schools were second, with 81% of upper socioeconomic children enrolled. Advantaged pupils accounted approximately 57% of enrolments in partially selective schools. High socioeconomic pupils attended public schools the least, at little over half, or 50.4%.

Students in selective schools performed the best in numeracy, reading, and writing. Academic achievement in private and somewhat selective schools was comparable. In all three academic disciplines, public schools performed the worst.

Given that socioeconomic status is a key predictor of academic performance, it’s uncertain if elite institutions will affect individual students’ grades. What is obvious is that academic selection results in social selection in schools, segregating pupils from rich households from those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

Is it true that competition makes a difference?

Recent research on 14-year-old children in the United States found that tough, rigorous entry examinations — and recurrent testing — have an impact on student well-being, confidence, and sense of self when they are not chosen.

The process of competitive school admittance develops individualistic mindsets and self-protective measures in those who are successful. According to the study, it also increases racialized stereotyping and decreases empathy for kids who do not get a spot or are unable to compete.

According to Australian study, selective school students frequently compare their admission exam scores with others after enrolling. Those who receive second or third round offers bring a sense of failure into schools since they were not chosen initially. For many years following selection, these successful but lower-scoring kids view themselves as less than first-choice pupils.

Choosing a selective school over a non-selective institution contributes to the perpetuation of societal imbalances. Enrolling in local government schools and assuring a mix of pupils from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, on the other hand, will assist minimize social inequities and provide better life outcomes for everybody.

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