I had big plans to put my son in the same school I went to. Ex-students got preference, so it was an easy decision to make. Or so I thought. My son was a late bloomer. He spoke after four years. He seemed a bit aloof when compared to his peers. My former school, though widely reputed, was known for a highly aggressive approach towards learning. The competition was fierce, classes were packed, and teachers taught at a fast pace. I worried my son would not be happy in such an intense environment.
I started looking elsewhere. I found a school with a strong academic focus, but at a pace suited to every individual child. They didn’t rush through the syllabus and also made learning fun. My son blossomed here. Within three years of attending, he shot to the front of the class, took part in all the activities and became a well-rounded person.
You are entrusting a school with your child’s formative learning years. You must pick the one which suits your kid’s needs, and yours as well. All schools are good in their own way, but some are better suited for your child than others.
Here are ten parameters you should look at before you seek admission into a school.
1. The reputation of the school
To ensure a good future for your child, first examine the school’s past. Does it enjoy a good word-of-mouth reputation by past students, parents and even members of academia? Is this school highly talked about in the area? You could also check if the school ranks in official school lists (but remember these lists do not consider all schools for ranking, sometimes even the most reputed ones are excluded). If the school is new, then examine the past reputation of the founders, the principal, and the staff. Do they come from other well-established institutions? Do they have the right experience? These are all things to consider.
Another point many parents like to consider is to look at is the kind of social-economic background of students the school tends to attract. Is it compatible with yours? You don’t want your child going to a school filled with affluent children if you’re a working-class professional. It could impact your child’s psyche.
2. Matches your personal ideology
There are many traditional schools that foster a strong sense of competition and a high emphasis on grading. There are experiential learning schools that adopt a new-age, holistic teaching method. Some schools have a religious and cultural undertone in everything they do. Other schools that offer an unstructured environment that allows the child to learn independently. Every school has its teaching ideology; the question is: does it mesh with yours? The school will raise your child with you. You don’t want to be at loggerheads with their style of teaching. Your child may face a conflicted school of thought. Before admission, clear all doubts with the principal if possible. Talk to past/current students to understand schools ideals and beliefs. Best to avoid a contradictory opinion later on.
3. Choosing a school board
It’s also best to check out the types of school boards first and see which one appeals to you. While each board brings something to the table, you need to figure out if it appeals to you. For more information click on this link for a detailed review of 4 major boards in India.
The right school should have a campus that inspires learning. Children must feel motivated by the classroom set-up, the natural space and the facilities available. You want a well-organised environment. Does the classroom have natural lighting and access to proper learning equipment? If possible, check the hygiene conditions to ensure the sanitation standards are up to code. Are there adequate sports provisions? Is there a large ground available? And in the absence on one, do they have access to one?
5. Transport facilities
If you’re a working parent, you may want to check out the bus service, especially if you’re a working parent. Do they come up to your building or do they only stop far off on the busy main roads? Another thing to check is if the bus service is affiliated with the school or is on a contract. If they are not school employees, you need to find out who is held accountable in case of any issue. Do teachers or any person school personnels accompany kids through the bus ride?
6. Strength of the class
One of my reasons for choosing my son’s school was the student to teacher ratio. Are you okay with a classroom having 50-60 or more children? And proportional lesser attention from the teacher and probably with a hassled teacher? A class with 20-30 students is ideal, as the teacher can offer attention to all the students, especially if your child is shy, has special needs or lacks focus.
7. Approachable staff
You need a school that will allow you to voice your concerns at any time during the school year. In this day of emails and WhatsApp chats, schools can keep the parents in the loop regarding all the activities in the class. Some schools email weekly or monthly newsletters with photos. Others offer fixed timings every week or month for teachers to meet parents. This helps build good communication between the parent and the school.
Also, do they have a plan in place of emergency situations like flooding? Will they keep the parents informed about their child’s safety?
Many schools are doing all of the above. Make sure your child’s chosen school is one of them.
8. Trust your instincts (your child’s too)
The first time I walked into my son’s school, I felt a sense of joy. The staff was friendly. The atmosphere was lively and colourful. My son felt it too. He didn’t want to leave at the end of the first meeting. This gut feeling is very important. If your instincts say there is something off, it probably is. If your child doesn’t like the environment or feels uncomfortable, listen to him. A child might not be old enough to understand how but at least give it a thought if your child shows strong like/dislike.
You don’t want your child commuting for hours every day, no matter how fantastic the school is. It just gets too tiring, especially for the little ones. They won’t have the energy or time to do any after-school activities or just go out to play. Also, you want them to be easy to reach in times of crisis. The school doesn’t have to be right next door, but it should be relatively closer, and on a route that doesn’t have crazy traffic. You also don’t want a school that is not close to the regular school bus routes.
10. Meal plans
While many schools offer cooked lunches and snacks, do check to see the quality of food. Do they provide food through a contractor or have their own kitchen? Or is the food healthy and well-balanced? Will it appeal to your child? Some schools allow home-cooked food, others don’t. This could be an essential point that needs consideration, especially if your child has dietary restrictions or culture-based ones.
11. Extra-curricular activities
Learning maths, science, and languages are vital to your child’s development. But so are the extra-curricular activities. Look into what kind of sports program the school offers. Is there adequate time given for art, music, dance, theatre, etc.? Some schools also encourage students to participate in state and national level activities and train them for those events. Your child needs an outlet beyond academics to develop a well-rounded personality. It can be on the playground, in the music room or on the stage. Otherwise, school life can get quite dull.
Also, inquire if the school encourages students to pursue academic, sports or artistic interests outside the school’s curriculum. Some schools go the extra mile to allow such students with flexible exam times, while others don’t even allow absence from school for such activities.
12. Fees structure
The two most important things to look at here are whether the fees are affordable, and are they worth it? Remember you are going to pay these fees (with a yearly increase) for over 10 years. When you look at the cumulative amount, it should be worth the money spent. Does the school offer all or most of the above points mentioned? Also, check for additional charges outside the fee structure. Do field trips, uniforms, canteen access, books, and other facilities fall under this structure?
You may or may not find a school that fulfils all of your selection criteria the above conditions. But do pick one that comes as close as possible. After all, your child’s future is at stake. So is your peace of mind. Make an informed decision and choose wisely. Once you make a choice, make sure to apply to more than one school of your choice. Because after you have made your selection, schools will also have their selection process (lottery/interview/other criteria)