WHAT PARENTS AND GUARDIANS SHOULD LOOK OUT FOR WHEN CHOOSING A SCHOOL FOR THEIR WARDS
As a HighScope endorsed trainer (HighScope is a research-validated approach) I am always guided by evidence and research when recommending schools to parents for their wards. Beyond the aesthetics, colours and online presence parents and guardians need to be discerning and knowledgeable to choose the right school for their wards.
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.“ according to the African American political leader Malcolm X. This quote emphasizes the importance of education in preparing our posterity for now and the future. We must also realize that children are gifts from God; we must be wise in our parenting and choices we make concerning their growth, development and especially their education.
Quality school is critical: The first step in this direction is the choice of a quality school that provides learning which will make them become happy, socially and emotionally well adjusted, lifelong learners with fear of God and sense value for their nation when they become adults. How do you choose a quality school that will prepare your child for this dynamic future especially in this period of global crisis and instability? Here are some key areas to look out for:
1. The school Philosophy: Philosophical beliefs and attitudes are important before putting your child into a school. The philosophy of education of a school may influence what subjects or topics are taught, how they are taught, and more importantly, the supporting beliefs and values that are taught, both implicitly and explicitly, within and around the core curriculum. Be sure the philosophy aligns with yours so there is no clash of interest.
2. The Curriculum: To a large extent, a good school stands apart because of its curriculum. Details about the curriculum and co-curricular activities offered in a school can be accessed through the school website, in the school prospectus through referrals from other parents whose children attend the school.
The pedagogical methodology, the depth and breadth of the curriculum, influence on
your child’s higher education and career trajectories are all key areas quality schools
need to attend to.
Evidence of breathe and depth: While the curriculum is a criterion, the school should also provide opportunities to help develop your child’s physical, cognitive, non –cognitive skills and overall personality etc. A perfect blend of curricular and co-curricular studies are vital for the holistic development of students. It should offer a range of co-curricular activities, such as outdoor sports, art and craft, performing arts, and hobby classes. These should be an essential part of a student’s learning experience, as they help imbibe team spirit, self-confidence, and leadership skills. A curriculum that is weighted heavily towards academics may not facilitate the development of these critical life skills.
3. Your child’s needs and interests: You must take into account your child’s strengths, weaknesses, and interests while researching schools. These are critical to your choice of school. Asking some questions can help here: Does your child have any special learning needs? Does the school have facilities and a curriculum that considers such needs? Is the school into the arts? Do they love sports? Are they interested in science? Is your child struggling with math? etc. Look for a school that will cater to the child’s individual needs, encourage their strengths, and help them work on their weaknesses.
4. Teaching and learning style: No two individuals are the same. We all learn in different ways as specified by different learning theories and tools such as VARK, (an acronym for Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, and kinesthetic), multiple Intelligences etc. Your child may learn more effectively through images and graphics, she/he may be a visual learner. Some other children can also be auditory, reading/writing, or kinaesthetic (tactile) learners. Effective teachers and quality schools understand such differences and are able to plan lessons that can best help them to connect with each student.
- If you wish to know about the teaching and learning styles of a school, personal visits and conversations with the head of school/principal will be helpful.
5. Student-teacher ratio: Small class sizes are known to have a positive effect on children’s learning. With fewer students in each class, faculty can pay individualized attention to each child. They can then tailor their instruction based on the needs of each student and allocate more resources to those who may be struggling with one or more aspects of their studies. A lower student-teacher ratio helps improve teaching, and thereby, the learning outcomes.
6. Visibility and quality of content on the school online (though this may not always be the best way to influence your choice).
7. School Policies and services: Along with the schools’ curricula and philosophy, you will want to know about school policies and services.
8. After-school programmes: Parents may also wish to consider the after-school programmes a school offers, for example, sports, clubs, tutoring, or academic enrichment.
9. Travel time and distance to school. This is key to ensure your child is not left till night time or abandoned in the boarding house during holidays because you are unable to pick up your child on time. In periods of insecurity that we are at present, it is better to put your child in schools that the travel time is short.
10. Safety and Security: Ensure the school is well secured and has all safety regulations and standards in place.
11. Affordability of fees: Count the cost! Is the school fees etc affordable? Avoid trying to be like the Joneses. Failure to pay the school fees takes its toll on your child’s emotion and self-esteem as he/she is called out for school fees owed.
12. Avoid multiple Moves: You have to do your homework well to avoid changing schools for your child frequently. Multiple moves can be particularly challenging for children and young people and can affect their sense of belonging to a school. It can also disrupt friendships as well as relationships with school staff and the wider community.
It is important to ensure that the school your child attends, starting from the nursery level is the best fit for the long haul.
With these key factors in mind, you should be equipped with the knowledge necessary to make the best educational decision for your child.
I wish you all the best in your search!
Oyindamola O. Sonola
Education Consultant, CEO, Soams Creative Education & Consultant & first Nigerian Endorsed HighScope Trainer by HighScope Institute UK & HighScope Research Foundation Michigan USA.