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How to choose the Right school for your kid – Part 1

There was palpable tension in the household of Ms. Suma Sharma about the choice of school for her kid completing three years. Each of the suggestions on offer came from the respective individual’s experience and perception.

The opinions were plenty and diverse, adding to the confusion already prevailing. But there was one common opinion, which was to ensure that the kid gets enrolled in a “Good School.” As the future of the kid depended on this crucial decision, the entire family got involved in understanding what defines a ‘Good School’ and how to identify it. One of the most critical decisions a parent makes, once the kid turns to school-going age, is to choose the best school for their kid. Their choice could possibly put the kid on a path toward lifelong learning, a prestigious college education, and a successful career. Choose wrong, and well, you know. As the pace at which the number of pre-schools, primary and secondary schools all around us is growing, how should parents choose the one that best fits the specific needs of their child? More the options, more the confusion.

 In ancient times, India had a rich tradition of learning and education in the form of the Gurukul System. In this system of education, students were taught various subjects and about how to live a cultured and disciplined life, thereby ensuring holistic education needed for the overall development of the kid. The primary focus of Gurukuls was on imparting learning to the students in a natural surrounding where the students lived in a group in amity, with compassion, affection, and discipline. The fundamental teachings were in subjects like language, grammar, science, and mathematics through group discussions and self-learning. Apart from this, the focus was also on Extracurricular activities like debating, quiz, sports, crafts, music, and arts that developed a student’s intelligence and critical thinking. Activities such as yoga, meditation, and mantra chanting generated positivity and created a conducive atmosphere to learn and grow, thus making them fit in all aspects to lead a purposeful life. It was also compulsory to do daily chores on their own with a motive to impart life skills in them. Each student was trained on specific skills based on his aptitude, personality, and interests. All this helped in the overall character building and personality development of the students, which increased their confidence, sense of discipline, intellect, and mindfulness. The outcomes of the Gurukula system of education are critical even today to face life’s challenges with composure and confidence.

Unfortunately, the modern system of education brought to India by the Britishers was all about producing an army of literate people, efficient in creating and maintaining documents as per their requirements. Post-independence, in spite of many expert’s opinions, the legacy education system has not undergone much change to suit our present-day needs. However, with time, the growing aspirations of parents are making them prod their kids to be ahead of the competition and succeed. The entire focus of our modern education system is on learning by rote and performing well in exams, making it an unproductive and uni-dimensional exercise.

The six critical aspects to consider while choosing the right school for your kids are:

1. Teachers

Get to know the teachers who will be teaching your kids because the “Teachers Matter the Most.” Teachers play a vital role in shaping the destiny of their students.
i. They are primarily responsible for imparting knowledge in classrooms
ii. They are the key influencers in creating a conducive and happy learning environment which could ignite the spark of inquisitiveness in kids
iii. They are inadvertently looked upon as Role Models by kids since teachers spend substantial time with your kids.
iv. They also play the role of mentors and can guide your kids in the right direction
v. Especially in Pre-School, the relationship between teachers and students matter a lot, even more than the curriculum. The kids are accustomed to being surrounded by a loving environment at home, and in school for the first time, they will be spending a large portion of their day away from home. You better look for a preschool teacher who is very engaged and committed to kids’ welfare.
vi. They also play a very significant role in building the confidence of your kids and honing essential life skills.

2. Infrastructure

Expert researchers and psychologists suggest that environmental factors can increase academic performance and create an enabling atmosphere for learning. School being a home away from home for students, it should provide a clean, hygienic, safe, and spacious infrastructure that is well ventilated with state-of-the-art facilities. Library, Laboratories, Auditorium, Canteens offering hygienically cooked nutritious food and Sports facilities are some of the essentials of a School’s infrastructure which parents need to look into

3. Holistic Education

The present-day world is dynamic, increasingly becoming more challenging and competitive. For Generation Z kids, to survive and succeed in their chosen career, mere knowledge is not sufficient. They need to develop their intellectual, emotional, social, physical, artistic, creative, and spiritual potentials. They not just have to engage in the learning process but also develop personal and collective responsibility towards the community. The schools should offer holistic education based on an accepted value-system. As a parent, understand whether the school has a balanced view of education, giving appropriate weight to learning, and other essential life skills vital for kids to do well in life.

4. Individual Attention

The unique learning ability and interests of your child play a very crucial role in the learning process. As a parent, make sure that the school focuses on developing your child’s character, exploring its innate talents, creating moral conscience and ethical training, leading to a well-rounded personality. Giving individual attention to a student is possible only if the school maintains a healthy teacher-student ratio and an appropriate cap on section strength. Studies have shown that kids tend to learn efficiently in smaller classes, have better grades, and also perform optimally in their examinations and non-academic activities. As a thumb rule, not more than 35 students per section is an accepted industry standard for primary/secondary schools. At the Pre-KG level, it should be a teacher and two assistants for a class of 10-15 pre-schoolers.

5. The proximity of the School   

Quite early in the morning in most of the Indian metros and bigger cities, it makes for a sorry sight to see young kids sitting drowsily by the roadside waiting for the school van to arrive. Think of it, on every school-going day, a kid deprived of sufficient sleep can potentially get exposed to some health issues over a period. I have always wondered why do parents seek enrolment for their kids in far-off schools as the commuting time due to distance and traffic chaos can cause a lot of physical and mental stress in kids. The pressure is likely to hamper their learning ability, and over time, they might begin to lose interest in studies. Therefore, it makes sense for parents to consider the best possible options available in and around their locality. If there are no good options available in your neighbourhood, then you may consider shifting home to a location closer to your kid’s school.

6. Curriculum

The Education Board to which a prospective school is affiliated is very significant based on the anticipated outcome at the end of secondary education. In India, we have around six school governing bodies. They are State Board, CBSE, ICSE, NIOS, IB, and CIE. Each board has its distinct syllabi, pedagogy, and focuses on different subjects. If you can assess your child objectively, then go ahead, or else take the help of a trained counsellor to decide which board’s method suits her the best according to her learning style. A suitable academic program should be application-oriented, teaching your kid Intellectual, Social, Emotional, and Motor Skills. The latest technological tools and teaching aids used by the prospective schools must be considered while making the final decision. Always choose a school that encourages innovation and gives its students access to contemporary tools and technologies.

Prof. Shankar Bellur
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