Our children are growing up in an ever more sophisticated and connected world - Facebook, SMS, Skype, the Euro, easyJet - but also global warming, economic crises, religious fanaticism and terrorism. Cultural sensitivity and environmental awareness have become central issues: how will mankind face the challenges of life in the post-carbon fuel age, once the oil runs out? The next generation will have to come up with answers and alternatives, so their education must equip them accordingly.
An excellent modern education should focus on preparing for a successful and rewarding life generally, not just short-term exam results or a highly lucrative career, although these may well be by-products. Our children need to understand how to keep on top of issues such as healthy eating and exercise, learning from failure and being aware of their carbon footprint.
Opting for private education shows that you have decided as a family to invest in your children’s future. You are choosing an alternative approach which keeps your individual child at the centre, in a way which a public system cannot hope to achieve. No one system can succeed in providing an ideal and consistent learning environment for hundreds of thousands of children. Of course, a government-run system must guarantee consistency of provision nationwide, often with scarce public funds. However, since independent private schools do not draw on public funds, they are not accountable to the tax-paying public in the same way and so can tailor their provision more specifically to the needs of the children currently enrolled. Private schools are more agile organisations, able to respond quickly and to innovate. They are free to set their own philosophy, vision, agenda and spending priorities.
"International-mindedness" is an increasingly important outlook on life. Our children may well have several careers in more than one country, possibly working in a number of different languages, so this international perspective, cultivated from an early age, is particularly important. The ability to communicate confidently and articulately in at least two languages and having a facility for picking up new languages is now considered vital. Having close friends from all over the world encourages cultural understanding and empathy - internationalism is not just flags, food and festivals.
Of course, more than anything else, we all want our children to be successful and happy - so we need to help them achieve this for life by setting them up with a strong sense of perspective, enquiry, morality and resourcefulness. Teachers who are passionate about working with young people, take a real interest and make fine role models are crucial to this process, as are supportive and sympathetic friends and family.