Public vs Private #1

TeachingOver the coming months, I’m going to be trying to decide whether to teach in a private school or a public school. This is going to include a series of posts documenting my ideas on this issue.

A few things to note before I start

  • I know there are great reasons for teaching in both private and public schools. There is not a right or wrong choice.
  • I want to know which would be best for me in serving God.
  • My views on this could change, so although I am trying to work this out early in (not even half-way through) my degree, I may not feel this way in 2 years.
  • I would really appreciate others jumping in on the discussion.
  • This process will also hopefully help me (and others) to think about how we can actively serve God through teaching
  • This process involves thinking mainly about Primary schools, but a lot of it will be relevant for Secondary schools as well.
  • Finally, in this process I am referring to private (independent schools) and public (government schools). I personally do not think that I would teach at a Christian school or a Catholic school.
  • UPDATE: Will be referring to the school system within NSW, Australia.

That’s the basis from which I will be writing the rest of the posts.

Let’s see what happens…

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15 Responses to “Public vs Private #1”


  1. 1 Nathan Carter June 16, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    One might suggest that you should teach at Barker, purely to give back to the school that gave you so much.

    But that would be totally lame 😛

    Instead, I think you have a responsibility as a Christian to consider which has the greatest need – public or private education? Are you considering which has a shortage of teachers, or which has a particular need of teachers in an area of Sydney/NSW? These are massive questions, and not to be taken lightly.

  2. 2 Calum Henderson June 17, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Thanks for the input Nath.

    I wont just be considering the greatest need, I’ll also be considering the other factors involved, such as what will be most helpful for nurturing a new teacher.

    If I was only considering which system has greater need, then I would say that public schools are in greater need. There are some schools with no Christian teachers at all.

    I will not be taking this question lightly, I have already thought about it a lot, and will be continuing to consider it.

  3. 3 Ally Gardiner June 19, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    This is a topic I’m really interested in and have done a bit of research on. I did a group presentation on the subject and it was the first time I have ever thought about my career in the future and my role and responsibility as an impactor society… ie. i love music teaching but what does that mean for society?!
    After doing the research from a secular point of view (my marker was a serve athesist and has failed people for having a christian approach on assignments) I seemed to be pro-public school. By the way, I should probably point out that I went both public and private school and I learnt the least for the Christian school!
    Now that I have taught in both public and private I still am pro-public schools for teaching. God is working so much more in schools were there are kids who have never heard about Jesus, and especially cross cultural backgrounds. There are children with ‘issues’ and ‘no money’ and the teacher is sometimes the only sense of consistancy that they experience. I’m honest that I am a christian with my public school students (ie. i run a music program at a public school as a part time job) and many parents that have found out that I am christian. Many parents have said to me ‘I value my children having a christian teacher as it is their own influence of christianity’. I even have pretty involved conversations with the parents too!! However, as it is a public school I am never the initiator of the subject as that is unprofessional.
    Basically I believe that Public Schools need Christian teachers. Anyone can teach in a Christian school… from my own student days.
    Hope this all makes sense… have you thought anymore on it since?

  4. 4 Calum Henderson June 20, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Great thoughts Ally! I have been thinking about it more, and I’m going to do a number of more blog posts on the issue (I’m thinking at least 10).

    Glad to hear another persons opinion on the matter! Glad to hear you are convinced of Christians in public schools. There is a definite need.

  5. 5 Kat Pendlebury June 21, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    This is a really interesting issue Calum, and something that I think all Christian teachers (or those training to be teachers) should think seriously about.

    I do agree with what Ally said about there being a shortage of Christians in public schools, so there is definitely a great need there. All of my educational life has been in public schools, and in my high school particularly there was a strong secular push. This meant that the few teachers who were open about being a Christian provided a lot of support for the Christian students, as well as for each other. Obviously in a primary school things are a bit different, and the same kind of teacher/student relationships probably aren’t going to occur. But I think that there is still great opportunity for Christians to be witness to other staff members or provide great encouragement to other teachers who may be Christians, as we seem to generally be in the minority.

    However, I think that there is still a great need in private schools. There are a lot of private schools that I think probably present a Christian appearance, through name or history or whatever, but are lacking real Christian influence or support. There are a lot of private schools around my area that I can think of that may call themselves an ‘anglican girls school’ etc and have chapel and seem to be ‘christian’, and yet a great deal of the staff aren’t Christian, or open about it- (NB. this is only second hand info from friends at other schools/people I know etc, so might not be 100% reliable).
    This is also an issue with principals and other leadership positions that are occupied by non-christians, which will then have a huge influence on the direction of the school. When Tim Bowman visited for Equip fac time I really got thinking about that, but you were there so I don’t need to say that again!

    Also, from my experience a lot of kids that are sent to private schools seem to come out having real issues with christianity, or the brand of it that has been promoted by their school. I think it’s really important that Christians in private schools can be examples of Christ-like and godly living to their students, especially if they are getting turned off by the institutional side of it all.

    Anyway, that was a bit of a ramble and not very conclusive, so sorry for the epic length, (its actually exam procrastination…) There is going to be need for Christians in both public and private schools, and I think it partly comes down to which environment you can best serve God through your teaching with the gifts he has given you.

    I’m keen to read your other posts on this when you write them though.

    • 6 James August 13, 2009 at 3:07 pm

      your so right about private schools that portray to be Christian. I left a private school on the North Shore thinking that i was a Christian because and not knowing anything about what Jesus did for me. I went to chapel each week and all the important school events like xmas and easter that were held by the school. I did a confirmation course at the school which my parents were keen for me to do and still i had no idea what Christianity was about. People who think that they are Christian because of their pedegree are one of the hardest to evangelise.

  6. 7 Calum Henderson June 22, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Thanks for your input Kat! Appears that you have some great thoughts on the matter.

    Definitely a lack of Christians in Public schools.

    Quite a number of Private schools do have excellent Christian leadership, and many are even employing youth workers as well as chaplains, although there are still some which do not have these structures.

    Some students do come through private schools rejecting the gospel, but at least they have had the opportunity to hear the gospel, I really hope that more students in Public schools will have opportunities to hear the gospel.

    Look forward to hearing more of your thoughts in the future!

  7. 8 hayesy June 23, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    We started up a Christian lunchtime group at a local primary school. Week 1 saw 6 kids from church families. In its 4th week it had grown to 15 kids, about 1/3 from unchurched families. It was set up to direct kids into our friday arvo church kids program.

    And then it got shut down. Apparently there’s a school policy of requiring a teacher to be in the room for any activity like this. And there was no teacher prepared to give up 1/2 an hour a week.
    What? No Christian teachers in the whole school?

    Correct.
    They’re all teaching at the 5 or more local Christian schools.

    Ergh.
    (That should just about sum up my views on this one, but if you click on the link in my name you’ll get a much longer rant 😛 )

  8. 9 hayesy June 23, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Oooops didn’t realise this was a Private/Public question not a Christian/Secular question.

    Sorry!

  9. 10 Calum Henderson June 24, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Hayesy, it is a public/private debate, but… within that it is focussing on the issue of Christian/secular. The only reason it is called a public/private debate is because I’m not including catholic or low-fee Christian schools in my thinking. Hope that clears things up.

    Your comment is totally true, a teacher must sign off on a lunchtime group in a public school, which is a reason for Christian teachers to be at public schools. I will be writing on this soon!


  1. 1 Public vs Private #2 | Scripture « Calum Henderson Trackback on June 23, 2009 at 11:32 am
  2. 2 Public vs Private #4 | Sport « Calum Henderson Trackback on July 20, 2009 at 10:28 am
  3. 3 Public vs Private #5 | Lunchtime Group « Calum Henderson Trackback on July 28, 2009 at 10:02 am
  4. 4 Public vs Private #8 | Parents Who Care Too Much « Calum Henderson Trackback on December 23, 2009 at 10:12 am
  5. 5 Public vs Private #2 | Scripture | Calum Henderson Trackback on February 25, 2010 at 7:55 pm

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