Time flies! And who knows this better than parents? Although it feels like only yesterday that you brought your child home from the hospital for the first time, in no time at all, you find yourself working through lists of schools, listing out pros and cons and comparing various parameters and statistics to find the perfect one for your little one!
Schools often become a second-home of sorts to children, with teachers and friends becoming their extended family. “Children spend 12 to 14 years in school. These are their formative years. Their experiences during these years influence the kind of adults they grow up to be, so finding the right school, that offers the right environment is extremely crucial,” says Hitesh Shah, father of a 4-year-old. His words echo the sentiment of Abraham Lincoln who once famously remarked, ‘The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.’
So how does one go about making this important – albeit nerve-wracking – decision?
Begin by assessing the needs of your child.
Comparing schools based on normative standards may help you get a fairly good idea about the school, but will tell you little about whether the school is right for your child. Begin by assessing the needs of your child. Is your child a visual learner? Does your child flourish under individual attention? Or is a structured and disciplined approach better suited for your child?
(Additional reading: http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/considering-your-childs-needs/)
Says Tanya Sinha, mother of a 6-year-old, “There are so many preschools and schools popping up these days! But I was clear right from the beginning that I wanted a school that would encourage my daughter’s interest in music and sports. Schools that are intent on beating the individuality out of children are not for me. I was lucky enough to find exactly the kind of school I was looking for. And my daughter thoroughly enjoys it too!”
Define your ideal school
Keeping in mind your child’s needs, define what kind of a school would be ideal for them. Unlike schools of yesteryears, schools these days have a variety of options, whether with regard to methods of teaching and evaluation or school curriculum.
(Additional reading: http://www.english-for-students.com/The-right-school-for-your-child.html)
For instance, some schools believe in a student-centric approach to learning, where children play an active role in deciding what they learn and how. Other schools opt for the more tired and tested method of structured lesson plans and lectures.
In many cases, methodology and means of evaluation are defined by the curriculum of the educational board the school is associated with. Understanding the various school boards and what they offer is therefore important. This is also a good chance to verify school credentials and accreditations.
Every school has a distinctive culture, one that cannot be determined through the study of their statistics and annual reports alone. School visits play a crucial role in giving you a glimpse into the kind of environment your child will be a part of. It also gives you the chance to witness first hand the teacher-student relationship at play in a particular school.
(Additional reading: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/secondaryeducation/9550563/School-open-days-choosing-the-right-school-for-your-child.html)
“I had shortlisted a handful of schools and was extremely confused about choosing one among them since they all seemed equally good on paper. It was the school visit that finally helped me decide. The minute I walked into the school, I just knew this was the school for my child. Maybe it was the fact that the school reminded me so much of my own, or maybe it was seeing how well the teachers responded to the children or even how they dealt with behavioural issues…something about it clicked and helped me make up my mind,” says Nahid Huq, mother of an 8 year old.
Plan and Prepare
In the confusion inherent with applying to schools, it can be tough to remember when admissions open, the process for enrolment, documents required and last dates – especially when dealing with a whole list of schools. It’s important to organise yourself to ensure that your child does not miss out on a good opportunity. (Additional reading: http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2011-11-17/news/30410001_1_icse-schools-cbse-school-three-schools)
Suggests Anita Sethi, “Believe it or not, I used to keep an Excel file with dates of admissions, last dates and all other important information. It can be a confusing process, but a little organization goes a long way.”
It is also a good idea to try and understand the financial commitment that you will be expected to make to help you plan and secure your child’s academic future.
While all this may seem overwhelming, it really is not. With research and homework, a little thought and planning, choosing the right school can be child’s play.