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The Tough Decision to Choose a School for Your Child

Selecting a school for children is very challenging but parents must endeavour to put themselves in their children’s shoes when making their decision.
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Decisions around our children’s education are very challenging. As parents, it is not uncommon to get confused about what schools to send our children; the place where they would spend the bulk of their childhood hours; and the place where they would get the foundational tools that they later require in their future.

Selecting a school for our children may seem like a make-or-break situation. It can be daunting. Parents would often worry about this decision and the uncertainty around it because if they do not get it right, they may be doing their children a major disservice.

So what should parents look out for when making the decision about the schools to send their children to?

Firstly, parents need to come to terms with the fact that they are not looking for a school for themselves, but one for their children. This might sound a little strange to some; this might sound somewhat confusing to others. The great thing about most schools these days is that parents have the profound privilege of being involved (particularly at private schools) through such forums as parent-teacher associations.

In fact, some schools are so open and flexible that parents have direct access to their children’s class teachers; the school administration and even the head/owner of the school. Some even have email and WhatsApp groups.

This is not to dispute the numerous benefits of parents’ involvement in school (because they really could enhance the school’s operations and performance of their children but only through effective feedback and communication with the best interests of the children in mind).

However, it is imperative that schools recognise that their primary customers are the children, and not the parents. So they should be more “child-focused” than “parent-focused.” Therefore, when parents embark on the search for a school for their children, they should endeavour to look out for the signs, which indicate that the interest of the children is paramount.

Transparency is another key area that parents must look out for when trying to select a school for their children. Schools usually advertise visiting hours and open days for prospective parents. However, they may prepare to put their best foot forward only during these periods.  In reality, a school (particularly private) is a business and visiting hours are a period for marketing.

It is important for prospective parents to respect the school’s policy on visiting hours; but how could these parents possibly get a full picture of what really goes on at the school outside these hours?

How would they know what really goes on when the school is in “normal” operation and is not trying to make an impression? There is a way around this: If prospective parents have friends or persons within their network who have children at the school, they could get some information from them.

Furthermore, if these parents really do want to see and feel the school, they could ask such people in their networks to invite them when they do their school runs and pick-ups, or even to other school activities that may be unrestricted to outsiders. During such visits, they should be very observant and carry out their due diligence on the school, whilst also bearing in mind that no school is perfect.

The truth is that there is a limit to getting the full picture of what goes on at the school, even for current parents at a particular school e.g. classrooms, teaching methods and other activities. So, the final thing that parents have to take note of is the teachers at the school because at the end of the day, regardless of the curriculum or the intellectual power of the child, it is the quality of the teachers that makes the difference. I always say that a school is only as good as its teachers.

While other operational aspects and facilities that ensure smooth running might be present, if teaching is not right, everything else is put to waste. It is important to note that teaching goes beyond just instruction.

It involves various areas including experience and qualifications, class size, relationship with the children (such that teachers are aware of specific strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement in each child), and method of teaching (which determines how well children get an understanding of what they are taught). These are areas around which prospective parents must ask questions when interacting with schools.

Selecting a school for children is very challenging but parents must endeavour to put themselves in their children’s shoes when making their decision, ask the right questions and carry out their due diligence effectively because it is really the children’s experience and the value they derive from school that matter at the end of the day.

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