We all desire that children should attend the best schools where all the right values are imparted and he or she grows up to be a well-rounded individual. There are some tips that can help you choose the best school for your child.
Educating one’s child is one of the most important decisions a parent can make. But in taking this decision one of the basic questions that many parents struggle with is – Which school is the best for my child? which school will my child be happiest?
The Best School for your Child
When your child is school age, you are faced with the task of choosing a crèche, pre-school, nursery, primary or secondary school. There are various things to consider when it comes to choosing the best school for your child. There is no one size fits all.
Most parents look up a few schools, make a few visits, choose a school by its reputation, that is, by what other parents have to say about it.
There are a couple of problems with this approach. One is that reputation often lags behind reality. A school that does not have a good reputation may have improved dramatically over the past few years. Another problem is that reputation is not a good predictor of how well your child will do. Lastly, some parents choose a popular school to satisfy their peer group.
Before your school search starts, it could help to think about how important specific things are to you. Think about what you want most from your child’s education and review the school’s values and curriculum.
There is a good school for every budget. The more expensive fees should not be the only parameter on which you decide if a school is good or not. While the cost of education is one of the major costs parents will face, there is no need to go bankrupt to send your child to school. Make sure you are getting value for your money. How much do they charge? What do the fees cover?
Is it better to choose one closest to the house? Or will it be more convenient to have one near the office? (For Lagos residents the notorious traffic will really influence the choice of school based on traffic).
There is no right or wrong answer here, but put the child’s comfort in mind and ensure that it is easy for a parent or family member to get to school when needed.
Academic and Moral standards
The standards of the school across academics, morals and extra-curricular should be assessed. How caring are teachers and caregivers? It is important to remember that this is their formative stage, what is learned now and how the child is treated will basically shape his/her personality and attitude to learning. It is important to ensure that you go through the work and background of each school and find out first hand what the school has to offer.
We cannot rely on just the recommendations we get from family and friends who already (and sometimes don’t) have kids in school. Remember that what is good for your friend, cousin, a neighbour may not work for you.
If the religious affiliation of the school is important for you then you want to take this into account. You want to avoid unnecessary conflict when their beliefs do not agree with yours.
In one scenario, a Muslim family signed their son up to attend a Christian school. The curriculum included Christian Religious studies. Upon enrolling, the parents would not allow the child to take part in that class nor complete his homework. This became a problem for the school and the family. How could this have been avoided? Parents need to ask these questions upfront and discuss any concerns with the school upfront.
You should look out for schools where you have teachers with a caring attitude but firm. Talk with the principal and teachers who will be working with your child to see how they relate to you and their students. You can even plan for a practice day where the child spends a day in the class. Teachers should gently guide and instruct the children, answer their questions and foster their self-confidence.
Find out what extracurricular activities the school offers.
Teacher to Student Ratio
It is important to note the teacher to child ratio in the classes. If the class has less than 20 children you should get better results than a class with up to 40 children for example. A good rule of thumb at the pre-k level should be a teacher and 2 assistants for a class of 10 to 15. As they get older one teacher, one teacher’s assistant can be adequate.
When planning to visit the school it can be a good idea not to make an appointment, if you are not allowed to go round or take a guided tour because you did not book an appointment you should run! With appointments, it could mean that the school wants to get “ready” for the show off for the day. Catching them unawares might be good to see the true reality.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still rampant in the country, parents and guardians should look for facilities to ensure their child or ward’s safety. Are the school managements complying with the safety rules setup by the government before resumption? Are the other students and teachers going to be strictly abiding by set rules, day to day?
Parents should enquire from school bodies about how they tend to go about safety precautions. Are there handwash zones and sanitizers? Are they equipping students with face masks and shields? These are the things to keep in mind.
You should look for a hygienic environment. Are the facilities clean and orderly? Are gutters covered? I heard of a child who fell into an open gutter in her school that was full of dirt. Is the playground safe with safe outdoor toys? Are the teachers, assistants/nannies clean and tidy? Overall does the environment seem clean and friendly?
Also, be sure to check the school’s plan or procedures for medical emergencies and situations. Is there a nurse or doctor on the premises? Is there a functional sickbay with beds? Have the teachers, assistants, and caregivers gone through basic First Aid courses and CPR techniques?
Find out what the school’s academic record is and what the school offers in terms of education as well as extra-curricular activities. A good program irrespective of being a British or Nigerian curriculum or Montessori should teach social, intellectual, emotional and motor skills among other skills.
Look out for the specifics of their curriculum; is it a blended curriculum? Or a national one? Whatever the curriculum is, it should be practicable. The traditional style of rote learning is not as effective as more hands-on learning. For example, children learning about plants can be required to do some gardening and plant themselves.
Are they offering STEM, how are they incorporating technology, coding and other modern skills need to thrive in the 21st Century?
Ask them where they feed their children? what are the feeder schools for their graduates? For example, if it is a preschool, what primary school do their students go to? These questions should be the same at every level.
[READ: Top 10 Skills Children Need]
Discipline cannot be overemphasized, especially these days where the lack of it is normal. Choose a school where there is a high level of discipline but instilled through methods that are civil.
Ensure that the school is security conscious. A good school will be strict about their security. They should typically only allow parents or caregivers with ID cards to pick up the children from school. Make sure you understand their security policy and that it focuses on making the child’s safety a priority.
What is the parental involvement expected in the school? Some schools have an active PTA and expect parents to be very involved. Some schools demand little from the parents. And require parents just a few times a year.
Be sure to note if the students seem bored. Unclean environments, above normal levels of noise, distracted unkempt staff, big classes where the children don’t get adequate attention.
At the end of the day balance, the information you gather, visit the schools, check the academic results of the school. If it’s a primary school do the children get into top secondary schools or do the students generally have good external exam results to make it to top universities. Ensure the school has a good reputation, rates security, health, and safety as a high priority. Analyze the cost of the school between fees, developmental levies, joining fees and other costs associated with the school. Be sure to also make sure the school feels right to you.
Last but not least it is important to take your child to visit the school. You will know if your child seems comfortable with the school and the environment or not. A child’s first school experience has a great effect on his future feeling concerning school and learning.
Remember after you have narrowed down on the school options Apply on time!!! The competition and waitlist can be steep.