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Choose the right school for your child
Andrea Gogri |
March 08, 2006
Even before a child reaches the right age, many parents feel stressed just thinking about school admissions. Most tend to send their children to schools they have either attended themselves, or one the neighbouring children are in.
This reveals one aspect of the school, but not guarantee the quality of instruction. Before deciding on your child's school, you must take factors such as quality of curriculum, training of teachers, parent-teacher programmes and facilities into consideration.
As a parent, you will be in the best position to know your child's strengths and weaknesses. An educational programme that may be perfect for your neighbour's child may not be right for your child.
Step 1: Know your family and child's needs
"While deciding a school, it is of utmost importance for parents to check for an ideal mix of the family's and school's values so as to ensure your child grows in the best possible manner," says Prachi Shinde, counselling psychologist at YoungBuzz.
Here are a few points worth thinking about:
~ Do you want your child to work from a textbook or would you prefer a class where learning is experiential in nature like the Montessori method for pre-primary schooling?
Some schools prefer teaching mainly through books, while others take children on field trips, show them videos to explain subjects, have overnight camps, etc. For these schools, study is in the form of projects, student portfolios, class presentations, practical laboratory work, mathematical investigations and artistic performances.
~ Do you have the necessary finance to fund your child's education?
Do you want to send your child to a private school where fees are high, a local school or outstation boarding school? If you can afford the exorbitant fees of private schools, there's nothing like it as these schools match international standards. Fees range from Rs 12,000 to Rs 75,000 per annum.
~ Do you want to send your child to an SSC, ICSE or CBSE teaching school?
The methods of teaching as well as the subjects differ greatly. Do you have the time to sit and explain if your child doesn't understand, or have the capacity to send him or her for tuitions?
Charmaine Vaz, a counselling psychologist, says, "Parents need to research and explore different teaching methodologies available in school, be it conventional or innovative, to have a fair idea of what lies in store later."
~ Do you feel your child has particular needs? For instance, does your child require a special educator or is there a language barrier? Does your child have a gift or talent that needs to be expressed?
If so, it would be worthwhile to find a school that can nourish that talent. Your need might be to provide the best education, but your child's need might be of sports, friends, activities, music, etc.
~ Finally, accept that schools have changed since you were last in one. Because of advancements in curriculum, technology and teaching techniques, they are better than ever. When you begin your search, keep an open mind and try not to make judgments based on how you were taught. Let schools tell you what they are trying to do and see if it makes sense. Look for evidence that the school is successful in accomplishing its goals.
Step 2: Gather and compare information
While deciding on a system of education, it is important to be well informed about all aspects of education. Match it with your child's potential and talent before making a decision, instead of going with current trends.
Start by collecting information from schools that are in and around your area. Then, gradually, look at schools that are away from home.
Many have a guidebook or brochure depicting vital facts like purpose or vision, mission and policies, safety, playground and activities, student standards, curriculum, staff, parent and teacher involvement, after-school activities, pick up and drop facilities, etc.
If there is a particular school you would like your child to attend, but are aware it is very competitive and difficult to get into, apply anyway. You might just get lucky.
If you don't want to go through the process of comparing, choose a school that appeals to you by making frequent visits and asking loads of questions to the school's parents, teachers, students and the principal.
Step 3: Visit the schools
A school visit is a good way to gauge the availability of facilities that cater to the overall development of your child, be it academic or co-curricular. You can tell a lot about a school just by walking in and looking around. Does it appear tidy and well cared for? Is the staff pleasant and helpful? Is there good security? Are the children well dressed and clean? Are the teachers helpful and friendly? This will enable you identify the faculty turnover and also how well the school takes care of its faculty.
Take a look at the playground and various activity rooms. Is it well equipped or do the children need to fight to get a hold of a game? Check the computer lab to see if it is equipped with an Internet connection, etc. Take a look at the library, as it is very important to inculcate the habit of reading. See if you can talk to the principal for a few minutes and get your questions answered.
Be sure to talk to parents with children in the school. They are the best sources of information when it comes to understanding how a school really is.
Does the school put a lot of pressure on the child to study? Remember, a part of this pressure will be borne by you as parents too.
Also try and find out how many students a class holds. The smaller the ratio, the greater the special attention your child will get.
Step 4: Applying to schools
At some point, you might need to start applying to various schools. Ensure all the necessary paperwork is in place and readily available at the time of form submissions and interviews. Also check the school's criteria for admission. Some offer easy entry when a parent has been an ex-student, if the child has a sibling in the same school or if you belong to a particular faith. Find out the age criteria as well, because it plays a very important role.
Find out about the school's admission process. Does it have an online registration or is it mainly paperwork? Call the school's administration and find out its process and the cost involved.
There is no restriction on the number of schools you can apply to.
Check about deadlines and when interviews are going to be held. Some schools also interview parents separately. Prepare your child for such interviews as they form part of the admission process.
The sooner you try and find out the pattern of questions, the better it is. The questions are generally general knowledge-based to test the aptitude and response level of the child.
Step 5: Do your bit
As a child spends more time at home than at school, family upbringing plays a very important role. Having books in your home and demonstrating an interest in reading encourages children to learn more. Conversely, unstructured and excessive use of television is correlated with poor school performance.
Make sure your child attends school regularly. Being involved in your child's life, helping to set goals, and encouraging and supporting academic efforts will have a big impact. Although the process might be long and tedious, it is worth the effort.
Also remember that you are the consumer and schools need you just as much as you need them. Choose one where there is all-round development -- physically, emotionally, morally and, of course, academically.
It is always a good idea to be an active participant in all school activities (PTA, sport's meet, co-teaching assistants, etc.). This is a great way to build rapport with school authorities and also to make your child feel valued. Don't hesitate on getting the required information and comparing it with other schools. Education is the best gift parents can give a child.
The writer is a content writer for YoungBuzz India Ltd, a career guidance and manpower development company.