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John Rawls’ idea of fair equality of opportunity is that an individual receives an equal and fair chance at success based on their talent and not social class. Citizens with the same talents and eagerness to use them have the same educational and career opportunities, regardless of whether they were born wealthy or in a different class. The theory is that each individual faces obstacles of not income or wealth difference but instead talent and capability while trying to achieve offices and positions. But the existence of private schools stands against that idea. They create a social class and wealth-based difference among children, and later on adults. These highly selective schools are independent of state funding and aim to increase chances of opportunities in higher education and the job market. Ideally, to ensure that children from all social classes receive proper education to achieve realistic career prospects and that social welfare is increased, educational equality is essential.

Private schools prove to provide unfair benefits to children, they receive a higher number and quality of opportunities than public school students. But even though equality is for the common good, self-interest does acquire higher precedence over the former. The 21st century has a rapidly growing job market wherein high payoffs are received by those who hold significant academic achievements and are mostly positions held by elites educated in private schools. Parents, especially rich parents, have an extreme desire for their children to do well in their lives. A huge number of parents, most of whom have too received private education, see nothing wrong with it and encourage it instead. And even if parents try to send their children to state schools, the quality of education in state schools is ‘unacceptably inadequate’, thus forcing parents to resort to sending their children to private schools and avoiding hypocrisy as they have no other choice. But the main problem is that 7% of children who attend private school are harmful to the other 93% who don’t. Education now works on zero-sum impact. The better the students do at private schools, the worse it gets for students at state schools, and since there is immense competition in the market, private schools provide a significant advantage to their own students, which in turn worsens the problem for state school students. This makes it more difficult for parents to voluntarily choose to send their children to state schools, knowing that they would have ‘an unfairly bad chance’ at getting a job and would fair better at private schools instead. Even if wealthy parents do think that they would sacrifice the chance their child has to receive A-grade education in the name of social justice, their sacrifice isn’t adding a significant contribution to social justice if private schools keep existing.

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Although to cater to this idea, there has been a shift from educational equality to educational adequacy, mostly in the States. Educational adequacy comprises two things: absolute standards of adequacy, which are standards concerned with the overall financial support and outcomes of public schooling, and relative standards of adequacy, which are standards that relate to the divergence of costs of achieving outcomes for children with different educational needs or children learning in different educational contexts. The motive is to provide all students with adequate and the same quality of education and opportunities. In order to achieve this, all children must enjoy adequate educational opportunities, but they needn’t have equally valuable educational opportunities. Advocates of this view might still object to elite private schools on other grounds and, in particular, concerning the way in which these schools segregate society in a way that makes equal relations impossible.

With educational adequacy, state schools can improve, and the zero-sum impact may too vanish with time, thus instigating that even if public schools do exist, equality of opportunity would not be undermined and all students would be judged on the basis of talent instead of social class and wealth. It would naturally decrease the preference people have for private schools and would not make any difference if they be banned or let exist.


    1. Anderson, E. (2007). Fair Opportunity in Education: A Democratic Equality Perspective. Ethics, 117, no. 4 (July 2007): 595-622.
    2. Satz, D. (2007). Equality, Adequacy and Education for Citizenship. Ethics, 117 (2007): 623-648.
    3. Sheppard, S. (1998). The Perfectionisms of John Rawls. Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence, 11(2): 383-415.
    4. Swift, A. (2004). The Morality of School Choice. School Field, 2 (1): 4-7,

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