Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Prep school

Prep school or ‘preppy’, in other words preparatory school, concerns the United Kingdom as well as the North American education system. Yet, ‘prep school’ has a different meaning depending on the student’s nationality. The difference resides in the target group: a prep school in the UK aims at the preparation for a secondary private school, whereas prep schools in North America are attended by students before entering a prestigious high school or university. We will focus on the North American case.

A prep school in North America, namely in the US and in Canada, is a private secondary school whose aim is to prepare students between 14 and 18 years old for higher education at prestigious universities or high schools (e.g. Yale, Harvard, Columbia, etc.). The school can be a boarding school or a day school, it can be religious or atheistic and it can also be co-educational or not. Moreover, some prep schools have more selective admission criteria than others, some are more liberal than others concerning education and some are more specialized in difficult children. Yet, despite all these differences, zero tolerance for alcohol and drug usage is applied in every prep school.

What are the advantages of such schools compared with public schools? The class sizes are smaller (5-10 students) and the teachers are highly qualified (usually Ph.D. holders). There is a whole range of courses; the students have the choice between 300 courses for a 4-year curriculum. Moreover, they also put a greater emphasis on sport, their motto being “mens sana in corpore sano” (a sound mind in a sound body). They also give students the opportunity of taking part in cultural activities such as plays or musicals and studying abroad.

Considering all these positive aspects, it is not surprising that the costs for such schools are rather high. It can vary from more or less 20,000 to 40,000 dollars per year. Therefore, even if prep schools are said to be accessible to any American or international student who has followed at least 8 years schooling, these schools tend to be mainly attended by the elite.

Marie-Eve and Elodie

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