SELECTING THE RIGHT SCHOOL

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Selecting the right school

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Selecting the right school is a critical decision that needs to be made by the parents on behalf of the child.

The most common mistake made by the parents at the time of selecting a school is that they go by a general list which is the most acceptable by a number of people.

However, as a parent, you would know that the best school for your child is not the best school for all the children in this world. Just as every child is unique, every school is unique. The job of the parents is to understand self, understand the child and then look at the schools available in the vicinity.

Selecting the right school has three stages

For easy understanding, we have provided the key questions to be asked at each stage.

Stage 1 - Know what you want
Stage 2 - Create a Shortlist of schools
Stage 3 - Interact and Decide

What’s your parenting style? Are you a

  • Hands-on or hands-off parent
  • Supportive or a prescriptive parent?
How would you list down the learning needs of your child? Does your child
  • Need a structured learning environment?
  • Get uncomfortable with a structured learning environment?
  • Get excited with challenging work?
  • Need more individual attention or is okay with going with the flow?
  • Generally need extra help or more time to complete an assignment?
  • Have any special learning needs?
  • Need an environment that fosters creativity?
  • Need an English language acquisition program?
What’s the location of the school vis-à-vis home location
  • Do you highly prefer that your child must go to a school within walking distance of your home?
  • Can your child’s talents be nurtured outside your neighbourhood?
  • How far are you willing to have your child travel by school bus (in terms of time and in terms of distance)?
  • How far are you willing to drive your child to school, if school bus is not an option?
  • Does your child want to be in a school with his or her friends?
  • Do you want your child to go to a school near your after-school centre?
  • Do you want the school to be near your workplace/office? Or Near a close relative?
  • Does your child have any special transportation needs that must be considered in choosing a school?

How would you consider learning style of your child? Does your child:

  • Learn best by ‘seeing’ how things work?
  • Learn best by ‘reading’ about how things work?
  • Learn best by listening (auditory)?
  • Like to participate in discussions (sociable)?
  • Like to learn through physical activity?
  • Like logical or mathematical discussions?
  • Exhibit musical or artistic inclinations?
  • like to learn in groups?
  • like to work alone?

To create a shortlist, you can take inputs from the internet, friends and family. However, you must consider the following aspects in the form of ABCDEFG that stand for:

  • Academic Focus
  • Behaviour Policy
  • Care for the students
  • Detailed Curriculum
  • Education Philosophy
  • Fee Structure
  • General Facilities and Services

The details of each of these important aspects are provided below:

  • Academic Focus
  • Is academics the main focus of the school?
  • How much importance is given to excellence and qualities like perseverance, hard work and honesty?
  • How is the student performance measured and tracked over a period of time?
  • Does the school make adequate efforts to make sure each child performs academically well?
  • Behaviour Policy
  • What efforts does the school make to develop citizenship and character?
  • What is the discipline policy? How good behaviour is rewarded and bad behaviour is discouraged?
  • Are the teachers fair in their response to manage the student behaviour?
  • Care for the students - School Safety and Security Arrangements
  • How safe and secure is the school premises?
  • How does the school prevent and manage problems with rogue elements and bad behaviour?
  • Are the teachers well trained to manage student safety relate matters?
  • Does the school have processes in place to mange violent behaviour, bullying and other types of bad behaviours?
  • Detailed Curriculum
  • Does the school have a detailed curriculum and programs of core academic subjects such as English, mathematics, science, arts, technology and foreign languages?
  • What all courses does the school offer (optional) in addition to the core subjects?
  • What is the evidence that the school is effectively teaching students to read?
  • Does the school have a unique focus or theme for the curriculum?
  • Does the school offer challenging courses - beyond the normal?
  • Does the school provide enrichment opportunities for all students or only select students?
  • Does the school have extracurricular activities that support the academics?
  • Does the school have a curriculum and the necessary supports to appropriately accommodate special education needs?
  • Education Philosophy
  • Does the school have a specific approach towards education (e.g., academics first, focus on excellence, individual performance tracking, frequent testing)?
  • If yes, do you think your child will benefit from school’s approach?
  • Does the school provide opportunities for students to get extra help when they need it?
  • Are the teachers competent to communicate in the language that your child understands?
  • How good is the school in English language teaching?
  • What is the homework policy and approach of the school?
  • Does it match your expectations for how much homework your child should do?
  • What is the class size? What is the student and teacher ratio maintained at the school?
  • Fee Structure
  • Is the fee mentioned upfront? Are all the fee components clearly identified as mandatory or optional?
  • Is the indicative fee hike mentioned by the school?
  • What are the options to deposit the fee? Does the school accept various options like online transfer, credit/debit card, mobile payment gateways like paytm and mobiqwik etc.?
  • General Facilities and Services
  • Does the school provide adequate facilities like laboratories, sports facilities, library and recreational areas?
  • Is the library well-stocked where students can check out books and conduct their research work? Are reading materials available in multiple languages and in digital formats? Is adequate time provided in the day for students to visit and use the library?
  • Do students have access to computers or personal devices and to the Internet in the classroom and library?
  • Are the sports facilities proper and adequate and do they cover a wide range of indoor and outdoor sports?
  • Are the ancillary facilities and services like the medical infirmary, canteen or food services facilities up to the mark in terms of cleanliness, professional and efficient?

No matter how much information you get from a variety of sources like the internet, your friends, family or colleagues etc. a personal visit to check, validate and verify the information collated is the best thing to do. Here are a few critical aspects that you must observe and analyse while making a visit to the school which can be summarised by the acronym, NOPQRST, namely:

  • Natural Leadership
  • Open Culture
  • Parents involvement
  • Questioning Mindset
  • Reputation of the school
  • Students
  • Teachers
  • Natural Leaderships
  • What is the attitude of the school principal towards discipline?
  • What does the principal have to say about the school philosophy of education?
  • What is the principal’s reputation in the community?
  • Is the principal usually at the school and available to talk to parents or does the principal sit in a large room with little movement?
  • How well does the principal know the teachers and the students?
  • How often does the principal observe teachers taking their classes?
  • How does the school attract and retain good teachers and improve teacher performance?
  • How does the principal respond to and address concerns, issues and complaints raised by the parents?
  • What is the principal’s view on students with diverse learning needs (e.g., students with learning disabilities)?
  • What is the school principal proud of and what does the principal say about areas of improvement?
  • Does the principal come across as a natural leader or does the principal enjoy only the power given by the position?
  • Open Culture
  • Is the school staff helpful and friendly in general?
  • Is the school orderly and neat and open to change on feedback?
  • What do the notice boards and bulletin boards look like? Do they openly share student work or are they created only to impress the visitors?
  • How does the school leadership communicate with students and parents (online or offline? newsletter, e-mail, Website?)?
  • Is there a welcoming attitude toward all parents? How are the students with diverse learning needs (e.g., students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency) treated? Do the teachers appear to be helpful and friendly?
  • Parents and Community Involvement
  • How does the school get and encourage involvement of parents?
  • What are the ways in which the parents get involved?
  • Does the school have an active and meaningful parent-teacher association?
  • Are parents encouraged to volunteer and what’s the school’s plan for such encouragement?
  • Does the school hold meetings and events at times when parents can attend or do the meetings always get scheduled during the school hours?
  • How much involvement is expected from the parents on matters to student learning?
  • How much are parents expected to be involved with homework?
  • How frequently and how effectively does the school communicate with parents?
  • Does the school partner with local businesses and organizations for student internships, field trips and other such learning opportunities?
  • Are parents expected to provide inputs in the development of school policies?
  • Questioning Mindset
  • Do the school representatives take questioning in a positive manner?
  • Does the school staff exhibit a questioning mindset focussed on improvement?
  • If people are questioned, do they come back with excuses or do they think about solutions to problems identified?
  • Does the school look like a learning organization or do school staff have we-know-it-all attitude towards functioning of the school?
  • Reputation of the school
  • What is the general reputation of the school amongst parent and local community?
  • If you ask someone about the school, what are the top 3-4 key words that people say about the school? Are those words positive or negative?
  • How the school was in early years and how is the school doing now is a critical aspect of reputation?
  • Are there any specific incidents that raise any red flags that one must be careful about?
  • What are the key achievements that school can boast to the external world?
  • Is the school well respected by other schools in the neighbourhood?
  • Has the school won any awards?
  • What do the alumni of the school think about the school?
  • Students
  • Are the students excited, energetic at the school?
  • Do the students look interested in studies and activities at the school?
  • Do the students exhibit keenness to learn and participate in various activities?
  • How do the students meet the visitors? Do they make eye contact and greet the visitors nicely?
  • Are the students well dressed in neat and tidy clothes and general attire?
  • How do the students behave when they interact amongst themselves?
  • What do the students say about the school, about the principal and about the teachers in general?
  • Teachers
  • How do teachers get selected by the school? Are they welcoming to students, parents and visitors?
  • How do the teachers grade student work?
  • Do teachers have high expectations for all students to achieve to high academic standards?
  • How do teachers inform students of their expectations?
  • Do teachers share the course content and objectives with parents?
  • How well are the teachers equipped and proficient with technology?
  • When and how frequently are teachers available for parent teacher meetings? Do the teachers provide specific feedback on the progress of the students?
  • Do teachers assign adequate homework? Is it rigorous, frequent and sufficient?
  • Are the teachers well qualified to teach in their subject areas?