For the most part, I believe that school-imposed hierarchies are good for students. If there was no established sense of a power structure or hierarchy, students could just do whatever they wanted, learn essentially nothing, and not be held accountable for their actions. I do believe that less hierarchical structures can be effective, but they take a lot of work.
Student governments themselves are largely shams, and students (especially at a young age) would probably not benefit from any sort of peer election, but some sort of hierarchy based on merit and faculty suggestion could definitely be of use to kids. Kids need structure; even if they're free to learn and be creative on their own, they need to do so in a framework, and having peers advising and patrolling them could be more constructive than an adult authority.
I think that school hierarchies in schools are pretty much good for the students. There are some downfalls, of course, but overall I think it is a good system. School hierarchies allow kids to be competitive and it also allows for some kids to get recognition where it is needed.
My daughter's school today selected about 10 out of 40 children in a year to be prefects. Great for those selected (usually children already very self confident) but crushing for those not selected (many of whom are less confident). It was so distressing to witness the baffled disappointment among those not chosen. I really think a prefect system does much more harm than good, especially as the prefects serve no real purpose in the school anyway. Why set out to damage children's self confidence?
I was not chosen to be a prefect at my high school and I can only say that the psychological on me was permanently devastating.
All my life, I have never really overcome my shame in having to spend the last year of my school life being publicly branded as an inferior person - by having to wear the school's standard tie, while the prefects wore a tie that publicly marked them as the worthy and chosen ones. I and the other non-prefects had to walk around for the last year of our school lives with the public disgrace of not being worthy or good enough - of having to face our parents' disappointment, of having the lower form students feeling sorry for us and hoping that they would not suffer the same fate.
All through my life, no matter how much I told myself that not being chosen to b a prefect didn't really matter, that those who were chosen to be prefects were no intrinsically better than me, the shame of not measuring up to a standard imposed on me in my formative years, when I so wanted to be accepted as a person of worth, has affected everything I have done ever since, It's more than 40 years since I was given the word that I was not chosen to be a prefect - but the pain is still as strong now as it was on that horrible day.
Dismiss as a shallow fool if you must. But my experience is one that many thousands of young teenagers have to unnecessarily suffer - but they are probably too ashamed to admit it.
A lot more stress for final year students when they're already stressed enough, and its hierarchy they think they're better than others and are they actually necessary? I doubt it, sometimes it's too big of a deal being made and it seems life dependent, in 20 and maybe even 5 years no one is going to give two shits what perfect you were,...
I went to a girls private school in the 1970s/ early eighties, where there were no prefects in the sixth form. There was a head girl and a vice head girl (appointed by the other pupils only) but there were no other formal positions of responsibility. (There were no houses, so no house captains either). Every girl in both lower and upper sixth had a duty to perform, so that every girl felt worthwhile and the school had an egalitarian feel. A system, which is hierarchical and where some students are made to feel superior to others is not a system which has a place in today's society.
The Prep School Prefect system is rubbish. The British assumption of leadership pre-world war two was a system which assumed leader were born and not made and society only had to give those natural leaders their rightful power. This assumption of leadership is a case study of what not to do at many post Grad MBA schools.
Teachers like the prefect system because it gives them discretionary power to select which pupils are included or excluded from the exclusive Prefect club and then given symbolic privileges. However it is rubbish for the confidence and self esteem of the pupils excluded which the School should be avoiding.
A basic acid test would be to ask the parents and pupils of those excluded from the elite club what they think of the system (not surprisingly 90% negative feedback). Then ask the parent and pupils of those included (Prefects) how they would feel IF their child were excluded from being a Prefect and all would dislike the system. Wake up bright teachers, such a pattern is a failed system.
Why would any rational business (fee paying Prep School) want to insult half its final year clients (referral markets are critical)? Like wise I recently saw the much celebrated head boy start crying because they lost a hockey match and blame the Deputy Head! The 13 year old head boy was used to being over celebrated and that will not help him in later years / professional career. Being good at School Maths and English is not the same as being a future leader.
When good teachers teach what they are taught to teach at University they can add considerable value. However when School teacher who have not been to post grad business school and heard professors break down what is leadership, start assuming knowledge they default to their own prep school experiences (in turn their teachers limited experience) and the system gets stuck 80 years behind the times on failed assumptions.
Keep the Latin, Maths, English, Science teachers teaching what they have studied and avoid making assumptions upon what School teachers have not studied. This is even more true with psychology being one of the more popular university degrees and fee paying parents frequently holding more degrees than the teachers.
Removing the Prep School Prefects system would also help produce less stuffy Prep School kids which would probably help the kids progress with their future professional careers.
The prefect hierarchies are largely irrelevant to the more dynamic part of the professional world and to those excluded it harms rather than helps the pupil.
Alternatively why not teach making love, another taboo subject the British Prep School teacher has almost certainly not studied but would secretly like to think they are amazing at.