04/23/2012 04:11 EDT | Updated 06/23/2012 05:12 EDT

Public School Students Better Prepared For University


Students from public schools may be better prepared for the transition to university, a new study is suggesting.

The UBC study looked at 4,500 first year physics and calculus students between 2002 and 2006 at UBC and found that public school graduates scored an average of about two to three per cent higher than private school graduates.

UBC mathematics professor George Bluman, who was one of the study's authors, said the lack of individual attention on students in public schools may actually give students an edge in the tougher university environment.

"Public schools have a lot to offer students and there's some myths out there that you're better prepared when you go from independent schools,"

"The university is more like a public school, the students probably don't get as much attention, the students have to stand more on their own two feet. And some of the independent schools are all-boys schools and maybe boys have trouble adjusting when girls are present."

Bluman said students from East Vancouver outscored those from the more affluent West Side, and Vancouver students perform better than those who come from other parts of the province.

The geographic difference is likely linked to the higher immigrant population in the higher performing areas, because in his words, "usually immigrant students work harder than domestic students."

The findings appear to challenge annual school rankings by the Fraser Institute that frequently put B.C.'s private schools at the top of the rankings for educational outcomes.

But Bluman cautions reading too much into the results about the education students are getting at public or private schools.

"Of course, our study is just based on the transition from school to university... the studies do not say how well they do in school or not"

The study, Student Success in First-Year University Physics and Mathematics Courses: Does the high-school attended make a difference? was published by the International Journal of Science Education.