Public schools are always a topic of much attention and debate in Hawaii. Public schools in Hawaii have been harshly criticized for the quality of education, but in the past few years, even more so for the teacher furloughs that in 2008, resulted in the equivalent of a 3 1/2 day school week for students.

Many parents opt for private schools on Oahu, but is it really necessary? Good question. Some schools are clearly better or worse than others, but since the test scores of private schools are not often public and compared to those in public schools, we are not really comparing apples to apples.

Questions about public schools are among the most frequent ones Home Shoppe Hawaii gets from people moving to the island. It is difficult to provide good advice on this topic because each child is so different and so many factors influence how a child will do in school.

oahu public schools

OAHU Public School Rankings

One source of information for parents on Oahu public schools and Oahu public school rankings is the most recent Honolulu Magazine Article on Oahu Public Schools. Honolulu Magazine does this Grading the Public Schools ranking of Hawaii public schools every year. The survey uses for objective and subjective factors.  This is just one source of information among several others. There are also other resources online that provide opportunities for parents to discuss and evaluate public and private schools.  Among these are Great Schools (www.greatschools.org) and School Digger  (www.schooldigger.com).    Another resource, I found recently is the StudentsFirst.org Report Card.

Home Shoppe Hawaii also encourages parents also to contact each school directly. Most schools, even at the elementary school level have websites. A lot of information can be gained from speaking to the teachers at the schools, themselves, as well.  

If you are not happy with the Oahu public school district in which you live, or in which you can afford to live, another idea to explore is the feasibility of geographical exemptions for certain public schools or public charter schools on Oahu. Many people apply for geographic exemptions, and get them, every year.

The bottom line on Oahu public schools is that a parent should do their research and get the facts, as well as the opinions, before deciding between public schools and private schools on Oahu. Then, they should look closely at their own children and themselves, to determine the environment in which they would be the most comfortable and successful.  A child’s achievement in school is often just as dependent upon the child’s own motivation and the level of parental involvement, as it is on the resources available to the school, whether public or private.


Hawaii Public Schools Website - Hawaii State Department of Education Website

Honolulu Magazine Public School Guide - Special issue of Honolulu Magazine published at least every two years on various topics involving Honolulu Public Schools and the rankings of Oahu Public Schools - do a key word search to find many articles on Honolulu public schools and public schools in other parts of the island of Oahu.

Honolulu Family - Part of Honolulu Magazine’s site - Search their site for the phrase “public schools” and you will find many articles on the topic.


If you are moving  to Oahu or already living on Oahu, and looking for Oahu private schools to which to send your child, you are in luck! There are many Oahu private schools. Most of these are located in Honolulu, but there are some in other areas of the island, as well.

Photo by neicebird/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by neicebird/iStock / Getty Images

You may have heard of some of the more well-known Oahu private schools in Honolulu, such as Punahou School, K-12 (which was attended by President Obama and Steve Case, founder of AOL), Iolani School, K-12, and Mid-Pacific Institute, PS-12 . Or there is  Le Jardin Academy, PS-12, a Private School on the Windward side of Oahu, in Kailua. There are many other Oahu private schools, some with religious affiliations and others without. 

There is also, perhaps the most prolific of Hawaii private schools, Kamehameha Schools, K-12. Kamehameha Schools was founded by the will of Bernice Pauhai Bishop, a descendant of King Kamehameha the Great. Kamehameha Schools is one of the richest schools in the country, with an annual endowment unparalleled by any other private high school/lower school in the country, and less than only major private universities such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton and MIT.  Kamehameha Schools has a unique focus on Hawaiian history, Hawaiian language, and the perpetuation of Hawaiian cultural activites such as voyaging canoes, taro patches, and restoration of heiau, fishponds, and ahupua’a.  

Admission to Kamehameha Schools is all but restricted to those of non-Hawaiian ancestry, however. Things at Kamehameha schools are pretty quiet now and it is definitely still a very highly-favored and competitive school, but the school has had much controversy in past decades. There have been constitutional law claims of discrimination based upon race, as well as religion, and law suits based upon mis-management and breach of fiduciary responsibility of the school’s highly-paid trustees. There is much history and a book could be written on this topic.

Oahu private schools are expensive, as would be expected.  In the lower grades, prices start at around $5,000 per year and in high school, the most expensive schools are ranging up to over $20,000 per year. The only consolation to the high expense of private schools on Oahu is that real property taxes on Oahu are relatively inexpensive. Most schools also offer limited scholarships based on various factors including need and/or merit.

The admissions process for private schools on Oahu starts early, about a year before the anticipated fall admission date. There may be testing, as well as interviews, even at the pre-school and elementary levels. Each private school is different and has different deadlines, so check far in advance with the schools you are interested in. Also, some Oahu private schools allow entry at only certain grade levels. For example, a school may enroll new kids only at K, 4th, 6th, and 9th grade levels. Admissions directors are usually pretty informative and easy to get in touch with, and school websites also have lots of information.

On Oahu, it is often joked that it does not matter which college from which you graduated after high school, but only which high school you attended before you left. There is a lot of truth to that. The private schools on Oahu offer some pretty good networking opportunities, if you plan to make a life on Oahu.


Hawaii Association of Independent Schools - Comprehensive list of member private schools, not all Oahu private schools may be members - Has lots of other good information on Oahu private schools

Hawaii Parent Magazine - Has some information of private schools each year

Honolulu Family - Search their site for the phrase “private schools” and you will find many articles on the topic

Honolulu Magazine Private School Guide - Special issue of Honolulu Magazine published every year or two regarding various topics involving Honolulu Private Schools - do a key word search to find many articles on Honolulu private schools and private schools in other parts of the island of Oahu.