How to choose a school for your child?

Choosing a school is probably the most important decision parents make. While all of us want a good school, the definition of good changes from person to person.

Here, I have tried to list out a few parameters one must take into consideration while choosing a school.

However, before we come to that please remember to choose a school not for the past but for the future.

How the present form of schooling came into existence just to serve the industrial age has been very nicely spoken about in this Sugata Mitra’s TED talk. Do watch if you haven’t yet done so.

Just suffice it to say that our future is going to be radically different than our past and hence when you chose a school look for things to come – Artifical intelligence, cyborgs, collaboration at a global level, and not for things gone by – rote memorization, studies by the book, etc.

 

While our education system has not overhauled itself match the coming times, and each school has to follow the mandates of their Boards, a school can surely align its pedagogy to the changing times.

Keeping this in mind, let us now explore what we look for in a school and what to actually look for.

The usual criteria people have for choosing a school include:

Boards

The common boards of CBSE, ICSE, IGCSE, GSEB, and IB. Most parents base their decision on a particular Board but they have a lot of confusion about what each Board stands for. Here are the major Boards at a glance.

You could also visit this page that has the excerpts of a talk we had on How to Choose a Board by Mr. Rajagopalan of Educational Initiatives.

Recommendations

Thanks to overconsumption of content through social media, everyone holds an opinion about everyone. Especially schools. Put any 5 mothers in a room and within 5 minutes the discussion will invariably be about schools, homework, activities, and classes. While it is nice to keep your ears open and listen to others’ recommendations, do learn to filter the recommendations.

Try and ask these questions subconsciously-

Is the parent you are asking for a recommendation usually bitter or appreciative of life?

Are the parent’s opinions based on a one-off experience or repeated instances?

Is there a visible sign of the parents’ opinion in the child?

And lastly, do spend some time with the child and ask him a few direct questions. That should tell you much more than anything else.

Proximity/Distance

This is another thing most parents worry about especially when they seek the admission of their young ones. While there are advantages to having a school closer to home, do look at the farther off schools keeping their transport facilities in mind. Going a short distance in an LPG converted van with 20 kids is not a safe idea, however, close the school may be.

Also, don’t choose your personal convenience of reaching the school in time over the child’s well being. Remember, you would visit the school only about 10 days at the most in a year. While the child will visit it at least 200 days. If the school suits your philosophy of education and fits your other criteria, don’t drop off just because of distance.

Facilities and their upkeep

Does the school offer different facilities for sports, music, drama, arts? If yes, are the facilities really used or are they just for namesake?

Also, keep in mind, the facilities and their upkeep come with a cost. A school, like any other institution, has to meet its expenditure and good facilities will be accompanied with good costs.

Fees

Just as I mentioned above, a school’s fee will and should be commensurate to the facilities it provides. Most good schools in India are private schools and they have to meet their own costs which are solely met through fees. Lesser fees will mean lesser facilities.

However, India offers private schooling at almost any budget and it is a choice you will have to make. There are schools with a monthly fee that is less than a maid or a driver’s salary and there are premium ones as well.

You shall have to decide whether you look at education as an expense or an investment and then take a decision. I have also noticed a lot of parents who are very comfortable paying lakhs of rupees to tuition teachers but will not choose a better school for the same amount. Just as there are ones who spend half a million rupees on a family vacation for a few days “for the kids“!

 

While all the parameters mentioned above are looked into by most parents, I suggest you also look for the following-

People behind the school

This is an important aspect. What kind of group is running the school? What are its core interests? Are they appointing professionals or not? Who is the Principal and what are his/her views about education? How do they treat teachers and how much do they invest in HR?

Answers to these will help you know about how the school functions and its future.

Innovation in teaching/learning

In today’s world, any school that just teaches its students to follow the textbooks and prepare for the Boards is working towards the past rather than the future. Hence look for schools that try something new. Even if they failed at it, its ok.

See if the school nimble? Do they embrace change? Are their policies towards the digital world archaic and draconian or do they see technology as their friend?

Safety

While it is of paramount importance, please do not go by all that media frenzy. Negativity sells and hence far more negative news is always reported than positive news.

However, all said and done, a few basic safety amenities that all school do and must have are CCTV cameras, guarded doors, maids, and most of all vigilant staff members. A school where teachers/staff members consider ALL children to be their responsibility will have fewer issues of safety.

Happiness of the child

While there is no yardstick to measure this, there are a few symptoms you could look for.

Does the child like to talk about his school? Does he defend it with a sense of belongingness?

Does he carry his uniform with pride?

When he/she comes back from school are the shoulders drooping with weight or is there energy to try new things?

 

However, all said and done, choose a school that has great teachers. Because everything else depends on the teachers. Also, remember great teachers are

Meet the teachers/principal and try to see what their idea of learning/teaching is. See how happy the staff members are in the school.

And lastly, please remember, most schools are not bad. They are all here to impart knowledge. You need to find a school whose method and purpose fit your criteria.

Also, if you are confused or you believe you have chosen the wrong school, trust me you are not alone. Why Parents Make Flawed Choices for their Kids’ School is an article that shows how parent make misleading choices. When you choose a school just based on the achievement level of the students, you undermine the intangible aspects of schooling which could make your choice flawed.

Hope this blog post helps you in making some informed decisions. If you wish to read further about schools and education, you can try the following.

Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin

The Element by Sir Ken Robinson.

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.

Do share your thoughts about how you chose the school for your child.

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