How do you pick the right school for your child? Many parents face the challenge of choosing a school that’s right for their child. With so many schools offering different environments, teaching styles and philosophies, the experience can be overwhelming.
The school plays an important role in the future of children and hence this decision of choosing a school is vital! The school is the gateway to the child’s life and thus the choice you make must be well planned. Remember to look for a school that will make the educational experience for your child and you as rewarding as possible. With the right help and careful research, you can find schools that fit perfectly with your children’s academic, social, and emotional needs.
Are you worried about how to choose a good school for your child that would be fun yet effective for them? Here are some steps to guide you in the decision-making process:
Step-by-Step Guide to selecting a school that is best for your child:
1. Understand your child
The first step in choosing the right school is to determine what type of student your child is and what environment she will most likely succeed in. Just because you went to a particular school or type of school doesn’t mean its right for your children. Determine your child’s needs and learning style. Always consider the specific needs of your child.
Some questions to ask:
- Does your child need a very structured or will she/he do well in a less structured environment?
- Does your child love taking up challenging activities?
- Does your child seek more individual attention?
- Does your child have any special learning needs?
- Does your child look for an environment that fosters creativity?
- What is your child’s learning style – Seeing, Reading, Physical Activity or Listening?
- Does your child show mathematical, logical, musical or artistic inclinations?
- Does your child like to participate in group activities and discussions?
- Does your child like to learn in groups or does he prefer to work alone?
2. List what you want to look for in a school
Once you have a better understanding of your child, evaluate both the child’s needs and the needs of your family. Consider factors that include the child’s interests and talents and what co-curricular activities are available to address these; the values of the school and how they integrate with the family’s values; and the educational tools (e.g., technology) that are used in the classroom.
Here are some criteria you can think about:
- How far or near do you want the school to be?
- Do you want to drive your child or will he take the bus?
- Does your child want to be in school with his/her friends?
- Will the child need to go to a day-care or after-school care?
- Do you want the school to be near where you work or stay?
- Do you want your child to go to an all-boy or all-girl school, or a coeducational school?
3. Research and Evaluate Schools
Do a bit of research and look at specific schools to see what they have to offer. You can visit education or school fairs and/or websites, which provide an overview of what’s available and accessible to them. You can also speak to other parents, but do note that what they say about a school need not necessarily be one of your deciding factors.
Here are some questions for you to consider as you go through the process of choosing a school for your child. These are in not in any particular order of importance since each parent views and values every criterion differently.
Proximity / Location of the School
- How far or near is it to your home or work? How will the commute work?
- Does the school offer a transportation service?
School Reviews & Credentials
- What is the school’s reputation in the community?
- How is it viewed by parents, students, and other schools?
- What special achievements or recognition has the school received?
- Look at the principal’s background. A great principal can really make a great school.
- What are the school timings?
- How many days do they work in a week?
- What is the strength of each class? Lower the student-teacher ratio, the chances are that more attention your child will get. In lower classes, specifically, a low ratio is very desirable and important.
Curriculum / Board
- What board does the school follow? CBSE, ICSE, IB or State Board – Understand what each of these means.
- Is the school a mainstream, alternative, international or does it follow any particular philosophy?
- Does the school have a strong program of academic subjects such as English, history, mathematics, science, arts, and foreign languages?
- What language options are available?
- Does the school provide enrichment opportunities for all students?
- If your child has special learning needs, does the school have a curriculum and the necessary supports to appropriately accommodate those needs?
- Does the school offer up to Class 10? What about Class 11 and 12? A school that has only the primary classes may result in you having to find another school when your child gets past class 4. Many good schools do not have that many seats open in the higher classes and a transfer may become difficult.
- What is the school’s approach to teaching and learning (group projects, testing, performance criteria etc)? Will your child enjoy and learn from this approach?
- What are the methods of teaching used? Textbooks, workbooks, class discussions, projects etc.?
- Does the school provide opportunities for children to get extra help when the children need it?
- What is the homework policy? Does it match your expectations for how much homework your child should do?
- What subjects are offered and the subject combination and electives offered in higher classes?
- What kind of learning does the school encourage? Rote based, balanced, conceptual, applied, lateral, creative?
- Are the students encouraged to ask questions and discuss?
- How does the school assess students? Do they have exams, quizzes, continuous assessment, unit/monthly tests, general assessment?
- Do they have grades, marks or detailed descriptive assessments?
School’s Schedule – Daily, weekly and yearly
- What a does a typical school day look like?
- How many breaks do the children get? What is the duration of each break?
- Do they get any play or unstructured time?
- What is the weekly time table?
- How many times do they have PE (Physical Education) or other extracurricular activities?
- What are the different events the school has: Show and Tell, School Day, Sports Day, and other events? Do all children get to participate in these?
- What external competitive tests does the school offer? (Olympiads, IAIS, Macmillan, Asset, Spell Bee etc.).
Core Values & Philosophy
- What does the school do to help develop character and holistic development of the child?
- Does the school emphasise on Academic achievements, fostering competition, holistic learning, a balance of academics and activities, child-centred or curriculum centred?
- Is the school structured or unstructured?
- What is the school’s philosophy about education and what is their attitude towards discipline?
- How does the school handle students who misbehave?
- Does the school have a program or support (Counsellors) to prevent and address behavior problems?
- Are counseling services available to students?
- What is the policy on school absences?
- How do the teachers interact with the students and motivate them? Do they punish? How do they punish?
- How does the school communicate important information to parents?
- How can parents communicate with the school or teachers?
- Do teachers share the lesson plan and objectives with parents?
- How frequent are the Parent-Teacher Meetings?
- Does the school encourage parental involvement?
- How does the school communicate with students and parents? Is there a website?
- What measures has the school taken to ensure safety?
- Are students allowed to leave school by themselves?
- Do they screen visitors?
- How does the school prevent and handle problems with drugs and issues like violence, bullying, harassment, and other forms of abusive behavior?
- Does the school have a well-stocked library? Are the students given time during the school day to go to the library?
- Do students have access to computers and to the Internet? Are they monitored?
- Is there an auditorium or a large space for school assemblies?
- Is there a cafeteria, and does the school offer a nutritionally well-balanced meal program?
- Does the school have clean toilets?
- Does the school have playgrounds? What sporting activities are encouraged?
- Are the classrooms well ventilated and spacious?
- Are there enough labs, computer rooms, and equipment?
- Are the teachers highly qualified to teach in their subject areas (do they know the subjects they are teaching)?
- Does the school have qualified teachers for students with special learning needs?
- Check their experience level.
- Does the school have regular teacher training sessions?
- Does the school have extra-curricular activities? Does it give it equal importance as academics?
- What activities are offered?
- Are the after-school? Or on weekends?
- Are the instructors from school or outside? Are they qualified?
- Does the school have the necessary infrastructure to run these activities?
- Do the students participate in inter-school sports and extracurricular events and competitions. What is the school’s performance in these?
- Is there an application process? What is the application deadline?
- What are the admissions requirements?
- What is the fee and is there a payment plan? What are the other fees and expenses (room and board, uniforms, books, transportation, lab and computer fees, activity fees)? Will you get your money’s worth?
4. Visit potential Schools
A visit to the school is the best way to determine what the parent and student’s expects of the school, and also know what the school’s expectations are of the students. Carefully observe the students, teachers and parents at the school during your visit and determine if that is the community you would like to be part of. Also check school administrations, school’s financial status and all of the critieria from your requirements in Step 3.
- School Environment
- Does the school look orderly and neat?
- Is the atmosphere cheerful and friendly?
- What do the bulletin boards look like? Are the students’ works displayed?
- Do the students look courteous, happy, and disciplined?
- Are the teachers helpful and friendly?
- How do the students feel about their school?
5. Make an informed decision
The final decision ultimately depends on both the parents and the child. Listen to your understanding of your kids and trust your own gut instincts. Can you envision your child being successful at this school? Does it feel right? If yes, go for it. Do not believe that there is only one school for your child. Keep your options open. Remember that you cannot have it all! No one school is perfect and can meet all of your criteria. Do your research and decide based on your priorities!
A school that makes provision for holistic learning and stresses on relationships can be instrumental in teaching important life and social lessons to children – and ultimately may be more likely to be a place where your child can reach their full potential.
Your child will surely benefit from your active involvement with your child’s education. Ensure that you stay involved in your child’s education, encourage your child to work hard, and provide additional opportunities to learn at home and in the community. Remember it is your right, as well as your responsibility, to seek the very best education for your child.