Hawaii’s education system

Idyllic paradise? Check

Sunshine and rainbows? Check

Beautiful beaches? Check

Laid back lifestyle? Check

And the list goes on……..who wouldn’t want to move to Hawaii?  They say money makes the world go around.  Well not so in Hawaii.  Or at least, you need a lot of it to get anywhere.  Sure you can survive here with less, but that is easier said than done when you have a family to feed.  This is a major problem in Hawaii that is plaguing many in my field of wildlife biology.  You don’t see a lot off biologists here with families, and those you do see have a handful of other jobs up their sleeves to make ends meet.  It’s not just that the costs are higher here, it’s that there are less resources too.  It is difficult to find reliable daycare, and very difficult to find a reliable school.  So many of the public schools here are being plagued by the same problem.  People say the public schools are bad here.  I don’t think they are necessarily bad, they follow a similar curriculum compared to schools in the rest of the U.S.  And there are good teachers, I have personally met many of them.  But the problem is retaining those good teachers.  This article explaining why so many teachers bail on Hawaii public schools sums it up pretty nicely.   The bottom line?  Teachers simply aren’t getting paid enough.  How do you put a value on education?  Is private school really better than public school?  

I was fortunate enough to attend both public and private schools, a total of 2 public and 2 private schools.  I have to say both private schools I attended focused a lot more on language instruction and creative writing, and challenged me by placing me in more advanced classes backed up with regular counseling sessions to keep me on track.  In contrast, it was actually hard for me to advance in public school.  I was put in the lowest level math class despite having near perfect test scores, and despite my requests to be moved up, was still put in just one level up (from lower remedial to remedial) the following year.  At that rate, I would have only reached the most advanced math class in my graduating year.  It was difficult for me to get a personal audience with the teachers at my public high school whereas I had a lot of personal communication with my teachers at my private high school.  This level of individual attention and personal connection with all my teachers at my private school made all the difference in my opinion, along with the heavy emphasis on very structured and rigorous language instruction which I think is one of the most relevant, transferable, and useful skills you can have.  The private schools I experienced constantly challenged and pushed students and I think this ultimately benefited me as well.  From my experience, I would favor private schools over public schools, but I would of course do my research beforehand.  Public schools vary greatly, and although Hawaii’s public schools may have a bad rep overall, there is obviously a spectrum of quality.  There are some really great public schools out there.

Ultimately, I think the decision lies in getting involved as a parent.  Doing your research, visiting schools, talking to other parents and teachers, and deciding what’s best for your child’s needs.