‘Super School’ Avenues Sparks Debates About The Nature Of Private Education

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A new private school called Avenues: The World School is scheduled to open in the Chelsea district of Manhattan in the fall of 2012. The for-profit institution plans to charge the standard private school Manhattan fee of $40,000 a year with a different, innovative approach to education that stresses international development and languages. All students will begin in immersed classrooms in which half the lessons will be in Spanish or Mandarin and the other half in English starting from nursery school. Avenues plans to be one of 20 campuses worldwide, from London to Shanghai, but with the exact same curriculum to encourage world traveling.

Many NYC parents are vying to get their children accepted to the state of the art institution, but with no history or legacy to evaluate, some parents are hesitant. According to The New York Times, Avenues is raising all kinds of questions about the aim of a private school education and what is ultimately best for a child’s formative years:

Among the two dozen families interviewed for this article, all of whom attended at least one of the 51 beautifully catered and sold-out cocktail party/information sessions, every parent said the school planted hard questions — should children be bilingual, how parochial are the established schools, and are New York’s top-tier schools tried and tested, or pathologically averse to change?

Obviously, these are some of many questions that most parents consider when making decisions about education. But Avenues appears to have tapped into a particular anxiety about what some of the “best” institutions have accomplished and if that model is worth tinkering with. Although Avenues has many gorgeous and enviable amenities, the risk of straying from a familiar model could have serious consequences for a child development. As Ena Swansea, a mother interviewed for the article points out, “you can’t undo your child’s education and redo it later.”