Many people look at the cost of school fees in independent schools and wonder why on earth they charge so much. How can they charge so much and who would pay such money?
By Tim Middleton
Allow me to answer such questions by posing a similar question (as we did in the previous article about why we should pay for education). Why are some houses more expensive than others? It does not take too much working out to realise that the price of a house has to do with the number of rooms and the size of the rooms. It has to do with the different rooms on offer, be they simple public rooms or personal studies, laundries, bars, jacuzzis, games rooms or whatever. It has to do with the area in which the house is situated, whether it is deemed to be safer, more secure, quieter or owned by people of similar standing and understanding. It has to do with the house having better finishings and better furnishings, from roof tiles to kitchen tiles, from lighting to toilets. It has to do with the amount of space in the garden and the state of the garden. It has to do with the view. It has to do with the parking of vehicles that is possible, as there may be no point in having a large house with no space to park cars for everyone who lives or visits there.
In the same way, you will find that schools that charge more may do so as they offer more subjects, wider subjects, grander subjects. They may offer a whole range of facilities offering a diverse and balanced education. They may offer greater security and safety by the education they offer in more conducive surroundings, among similar minded people. They may have better finishings, in terms of experience of staff, and furnishings, in terms of resources and equipment. They may offer more space for the pupils to learn and grow in all areas of life. They may offer a better view of life looking ahead.
It is therefore to do with quality — you may be able to buy an item cheaply, but that item is more likely to break more quickly than if you paid more for something that will last much longer. You might consider it a bargain, but the true quality will only be seen in the long run, when the one who sold you the cheap version has long gone and the one who brought you the quality one is still around to service and maintain it.
At the end of the day, talking of houses and education, what is more important — your expensive house or your child’s education?
To paraphrase and re-direct a well-known biblical question, what does it profit a man if he has an expensive car (or three) and a large house in the Brooke, if he loses his child’s education? Many of us could easily fund a quality all-round, balanced education for our child by moving into a smaller, cheaper house and using a less-expensive car, instead of going for a cheaper, less-reliable alternative which may only be concerned for short-term profit.
They say, “There are some things money can’t buy.” Money certainly cannot buy respect, manners, integrity, success, character, trust, patience, class, love, common sense — but you will find all of those through education. Do you remember the series of advertisements for a bank card which gave the price of two items then offered a third item as being “priceless”? We should consider it in this light; price of double cab: $50 000; price of four bed-roomed house in Borrowdale Brooke: $600 000; price of your child’s education: priceless.
Oscar Wilde once cleverly said, “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” People in Zimbabwe may well know the price of education but they do not understand the value of it. We need to have the vision (not the visa card) to look beyond the price to see the value of an independent school education.
It has been said that “The value of a sunset [is] ‘inestimable’ and the value of open space ‘immeasurable’.” What value will you then give to an independent education?
Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools and author of a book on “failure” called Failing to Win. He can be contacted on e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit website: www.atschisz.co.zw