Choosing a school for the child is one of the most strategic decisions that one could take not only for the child but for the entire family.For it is the school that would determine the schedule of our daily lives for the next 14-15 years. Right from the time at which one wakes up daily to the number of days one can spare for the annual vacations and in some cases even the place one chooses to go for the vacations, gets determined by the school the child goes to. On a serious note nowadays school increasingly play a very important part in shaping up the child’s personality especially in view of shrinking social fabric that exists around. Let’s take some time out and list out some aspects to consider while taking this all important decision;
1) First and foremost ask yourself “What kind of school you need for your child?”.You want one with strong academic focus or the one that believes in and provides opportunities for overall development. If you are a working professional you might want a day boarding school over a school that finishes by 2PM. Is location important? How much time would it take the child to commute. Does the fee structure suit your pocket?
2) School Philosophy: Take out time and visit the school. Study school prospectus/ brochures; speak to other parents on how does school approach issues of learning, discipline, competition so on and so forth. There are schools that do not believe in spirit of competition and thus you would not find your child participating in art competition or maths olympiad because of the schools philosophy of ‘competition with the self’. However as a parent you might not agree with above and want your child to be prepared for world that thrives on ‘Survival of the fittest’. Evaluate all aspects of school and see if your are broadly in agreement with the school philosophy.
3) Quality of staff: The staff of the school both teaching as well as non teaching (front desk and support staff) holds key to how comfortable your child will be in school. Speak to school staff on what they feel is best about the school. There comfort in answering this question should tell you a lot about their commitment and connect with the school. Assess the behaviour of the front desk, empathic and cordial behaviour on their part should be comforting for you. Always remember front desk works in close coordination with the principal and their attitude should tell a lot about ethos followed by the principle and hence top management of the school. I always recommend preschool parents to meet the principal rather than the counsellor to assess the school culture, but in case of primary school that might not be possible so front desk conversation should tell you a fair bit.
4) Quality of Parents: Assess the profile of other parents in the school. Do they majorly belong to the same socio-economic strata? Speak to them about the experience so far. Please remember most of the existing parents would defend their decision of sending the child to the school. Ask them the magical question” what do you think is best about the school?” Check the comfort and see if the answer matches your priority. You could ask about the aspect the school needs to improve upon. If the answer is anywhere close to your apprehensions,do not consider the school.
5) Teachers – they matter the most. Teachers have a great affect on not only what the child learns but also on how the child approaches the learning process. Great teachers help each child learn his/her way. Good schools invest in teacher training regularly and not consider just another cost head. Ask about how teachers are trained/updated on regular basis. What minimum qualifications are considered? What is the teacher turnover rate? Low teacher attrition means school takes care of its staff and keeps them motivated. Only a positive and motivated individual can give best of guidance to your child. Be wary of schools that consider teachers just a clog in the wheel.
6) How does school handle social, emotional and discipline issues? What is the policy of school in case of breach of discipline? Does school have it in its philosophy to address social and emotional concerns of its children? Does school have enough expertise in handling social/emotional conflicts that might arise?
There are various other aspects you should also consider like curriculum, education board offered, school accreditation etc. While taking this all important decision REMEMBER you and your childs requirement are primary, the neighbour might choose a school that is the best but not as good for you!
Preeti Vaishnavi (Founder – KidsGurgaon)