Hawaii's Private Schools: "It Has Become Extremely Competitive"

Robert Witt
Robert Witt
Linda Moo
Linda Moo

by Marvin Buenconsejo

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Hawaii's educational culture is unique. Private schools play an unusually significant role. One out of every five children in Hawaii, attend private school.

Parents, spend a lot of energy, time, and money just trying to get their children admitted.

Hawaii's private school tradition dates back to the 1840s -- when schools like Punahou and Saint Louis, first opened their doors.

Here in 2006, with the newly-created Island Pacific Academy in Kapolei for example, private schools are more popular than ever.

"We probably had 10 years ago, 33,000 children in private schools, state wide," explains Robert Witt, executive director of the Hawaii Association of independent Schools. "Today, I think that number is closer to 38,000."

Two out of every five children on Oahu are enrolled in a private school.

The competition to get in is intense.

Witt offers this basic, yet reassuring guideline.

"First thing, don't panic," say Witt. "It's a process. Keep things in perspective. The parents who have their sights on one school, may not be keeping things in perspective."

Also, look at a number of schools, don't put all of your eggs in one basket.

Don't stress-out about the testing process.

If you stress, you're children will stress.

And be sure to ask a lot of questions.

You need to find the "right fit" for your child.

"We encourage people to avoid being overly anxious by starting too early," adds Witt. "Parents need to start in September for the following school year."

For many parents, preparation begins at a tutorial service, like "Learning Unlimited", in Kaimuki.

Administrators say, on any given afternoon, they tutor between 90 and a hundred kids. "There's a lot of demand for it and I think the biggest thing is every parent wants the best for their child," says Learning Unlimited owner, Linda Moo.

The demand has also helped fuel other centers, such as Kumon, Kupono, and Wiz Kids, to name a few.

Basically, these programs help children test for private school, by sharpening their educational skills, as well as simulating the testing environment.

"It has become extremely competitive to get into the private school, especially at the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade levels," added Moo.

Bear in mind, tutoring isn't free.

Most centers charge about 50-to-60 dollars an hour.

So, if you're about to embark on the private school route, Moo wants you to keep this in mind.

"They can't all go to the top schools. Every child has a niche. We need to look at all the niches to find the best one for your child."