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At the root of Hahn's concept of the effective school is a Platonic view of education as a process based on self-confrontation and self-formation. In this view, a developing person has deeply within herself or himself the potential for both excellence and failure. It is the task of the educator to bring about circumstances that will cause the young person to experience and rationally understand these potentials within the self, and that will nurture qualities needed to develop personal assets into the foundation of an effective, empowered, generous adult life.

All Round Square schools share this view, however, different each school's organization and its cultural and linguistic milieu may be. (For the Round Square's membership criteria, see the accompanying text). The schools are far from identical. There are not only national differences but variety in ages served, genders enrolled (there are schools for boys, for girls, and coed schools), school types (boarding, day, or boarding/day) and school size. All are independently governed; in some countries public funding has a role in the support of the schools, while in others it does not.