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New in the Glossary of Confusing Words: Public School

  • Jessica Stahl

dictionary and thesaurus
dictionary and thesaurus
Many thanks to Hassabo, who submitted today's addition to the Glossary of Confusing Words: public and private schools.
I think these terms have different meanings in American - British context and are therefore confusing to many Arab students and parents.

Absolutely right. "Public school" means something a bit different in the U.K. than it does in America. Here's what an American means when they say "public school":

A public school or university is an institution that is supported mainly by public funds and managed by government officials. At the university level, you’ll also hear these referred to as “state schools.”

Private schools are the opposite - schools that are not funded and operated by the government.

From grades K-12, public education is free for all students, and the vast majority of American students are publicly educated. Private schools charge tuition and may be selective in their admissions. Private schools for grades K-12 also often have a religious affiliation.

At the university level, both public and private universities charge tuition, but public universities usually offer a cheaper rate to students who are residents of that state.

Americans often think of private schools as better or more elite than public schools (and, in fact, the phrase "state school" can have a slightly derogatory undertone), but many public universities are as well-regarded and as selective as their private counterparts.

Here's the list of the top U.S. national universities as ranked by U.S News and World Report, with a note as to whether the university is public or private:

1) Harvard University – private
1) Princeton University – private
3) Yale University – private
4) Columbia University – private
5) California Institute of Technology – private
5) Massachusetts Institute of Technology – private
5) Stanford University – private
5) University of Chicago – private
5) University of Pennsylvania – private
10) Duke University – private
11) Dartmouth College – private
12) Northwestern University – private
13) Johns Hopkins University – private
14) Washington University in St. Louis – private
15) Brown University – private
15) Cornell University – part public, part private
17) Rice University – private
17) Vanderbilt University – private
19) University of Notre Dame – private
20) Emory University – private
21) University of California, Berkeley – public
22) Georgetown University – private
23) Carnegie Mellon University – private
23) University of Southern California – private
25) University of California, Los Angeles - public

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