I’ve long been fascinated by the way that private, or fee paying schools manage to equip children to ‘succeed’ in life. There is no doubt in my mind, that many of these schools manage to instill in their pupils a frame of mind, or set of skills which seem to make them able to accomplish extraordinary things. This intrigues me, I’m philosophically opposed to the idea of an economic elite paying to have their children privately educated, but remain fascinated by the product of this kind of education.
I’ve pondered various factors, from class sizes and teacher ratios, to the factor of parental expectation and elements of curriculum. However, my current thinking is that its actually quite simple. I think that the reason these schools equip their pupils for ‘success’ is that they teach them to expect success. They endow them with a depth of self confidence that other schools don’t. This is acheived through a number of methods, in particular a heavy emphasis on competition.
I managed to watch ‘When Boris met Dave’ on 4OD the other night, an interesting little piece of whimsical journalism about the early days of the current mayor of London, and the possible next Prime Minister. Both men were Eton boys, who took their degrees at Oxford. Clearly they are both very intelligent, and in Boris’ case more than a little mad.
It strikes me that these guys, and their moneyed counterparts, not all of whom are endowed with particularly fiersome intellects, share a level of self confidence which has encouraged them to attempt things which others might not. State education tends to equip people to be the engine of the economy, the workers, the drones. It seems to me that the careers days at Eton were probably more about the ‘higher level’ jobs, whether in industry or the civil service. I doubt many were encouraged to get jobs as shop assistants or bin men as they were at my school.
Self confidence is without doubt one of the most important things we can give to children, it gives them an ability to make good decisions, to make choices without being motivated by the fear of what others will say. Self confidence is an incredibly valuable tool, its a shame that the private education sector seems to have been able to instill it into pupils so much more than the state sector.