Monday, 8 August 2011

The World of Elite Education

Sorry, no photos yet... here is just a little something I have had in the pipeline:

What small percentage of people has the means to send their boys to a school for
five whole years devastatingly wasting away their wallets at a staggering $50,000 in school fees PER YEAR! This is not including any extra expenses such as sporting equipment, school uniforms, clubs, music, camps etc. This monstrous amount is simply the basic annual school fee for the most famous school in the world – Eton College. It seems almost morally indecent. Will all that money really amount to a successful man in comparison to how he might turn out if he attended a comprehensive or even a lesser UK public school. For these elite families it comes as second nature for their children to receive the best, be the best and behave the best. But will these ancient schools truly achieve the best? Will each boy come out as a well rounded gentleman, will each individual become men of power, success and true historic figures that will shape our world? The answer is a straightforward - of course not. It is up to the individual. Different environments suit different people. Just because something is the most expensive does not ultimately mean it is the most elite, the best, and the most successful (A mistake I often make).

Yet at the same time, how do you explain the 20 odd UK prime ministers are Old Etonians? (Let’s not forget dearest Mr Grylls went there too along with a number of successful actors, scientists, entrepreneurs etc)

Then there is the fact that Eton is only the most expensive boarding school in the UK yet it ranks at a low no.10 in the world, with other European schools towering over their $50,000. Switzerland is at the pointy end of the scale with a school including hot tubs and constant king like service. For the view, the picturesque campus and facilities this will set you back $77,000 (AUD) a year.

It seems a sick irony that these ancient schools were initially established to educate poor scholars and now their once charitable and egalitarian pavements are polluted by the elite, pompous and ostentatious upper classes. What is more, these fees will continually increase due to inflation and constant school upgrades especially as these ancient institutions become less popular to the masses.

They have their own language, they call themselves a group: Etonians, Harrovians, Carthusians…Should I call myself a Grammarian? Sounds pretty swish but would definitely come across as pathetically and utterly douche bagish. Never hold too much value in your high school years – they often mean little.

It is interesting to look at school mottos – “let Eton flourish” “Fortune favours the brave” “Manners makyth man” and my own Alma Mata “Nothing without work” All with their respective Latin translations. They all seem so old world, such ancient phrases and elegant prose but do we really care? Do these institutes really uphold such values? Is the use of Latin irrelevant?

For me, private education was my kind of world and to this day I mark it as the best thing my parents have ever given me (and I think ever will). Although mind you I think they could possibly regret their choices since they have seen what a snob it has sometimes swayed me. Walking in I felt an overwhelming sense of fear. I hated not being with my friends, I didn’t see the point in a private education, I didn’t see the advantages of an all girls environment (only then beginning to interact with the taboo world of boys) and I disliked the school’s formal ways.
But as cliché as it might sound, grammar shaped me into the woman I am today (and by the way; all girls school does in no way mean – “no boys”…) It influenced my thoughts, my decisions, my desires and my goals. They make you believe in what they stand for (well sort of – I’m not exactly a text book feminist or anywhere close to it), they make you want to be the best and most importantly they make you feel apart of a family. I was no wonder success story and I know I didn’t leave a mark, no board holds my name but my time at grammar was worth it all. As cheesy as it might sound, the saying is true “You can take the girl out of grammar, but you can never take grammar out of the girl”. As I walked through that white picket fence for the last time as a student I felt an overwhelming sense of pride, a feeling of loss - I was leaving behind a very good friend: tough at times but always honest, trying to do what was best for you, supporting you and looking out for you; a friend who will always be waiting in the wings even when you no longer see them, even when you yourself was just simply mediocre. Grammar will always be there.

So why do we care? Why is it that people like me are influenced by a person’s educational background? Why is there baggage strapped to a private education, why do we label people? Would we all be better off if there was no private or public; if school was just school. Again reality leaves us at a great impasse and alas I’m not sure if it will ever be the case. I think we will be living with a class system for some time.

So don’t shake your head in disapproval at a private education and nor should we about a public one either. Again, we need to lower our prejudice radars and take people as they come without labels and preconceived thoughts.

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