A School for You

children in a school setting

My dear friend reached out to me for some advice. She would like to know what she should consider while selecting a school for her child. Having spent most of my life around educational spaces as well moving homes and cities the past three years, I have figured a way into finding spaces that fit my requirement as a parent. 

I still have questionable doubts on the education system and our hackneyed teaching methods and am sincerely considering opting out of the system. 

But if you feel that it is important to be in the system, make sure that you choose one that works for you. Your requirements may vary and these parameters usually affect life in ways that are mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting.

Research. Ask Questions. Speak to Other Parents. Engage with other Children

So I would say keep these in mind while you take your pick amidst the hundreds of options in front of you:

1. Distance and commute:
I think this is the top priority for me. I spent hours traveling to school and back, but honestly we had little choice in the matter. If I had my way, no kid would ever travel an hour to get to school no matter how fancy or who graduated from there. Travel time eats into their energy. And not just theirs, yours too. Imagine the bus service getting cancelled, teachers calling you for random meetings — you do not want to make that two hour trip to school and back to know youyour child threw a pen at someone, or someone laughed loudly. (I promise you, teachers will find sillier reasons). Save yourself the trouble, find one as close to you. 

2. Class Size
In a country which has a range from 10 kids in a class to 60, it may be wise to choose one that fits your needs. This will also affect the fees you pay. So if you want personalised attention, attention to specific details and an individualised learning program, go for a place that has a better teacher student ratio. At the same time some of the top schools of a city may also not have small class numbers. So weigh your priorities, when you take that decision. 

3. Curriculum:
In India, we have CBSEICSE, State Councils, IB and IGCSE to choose from. You can get a bird’s eye view on the different boards here. If you move often within the country, I would recommend the CBSE board since they are well spread geographically and easier to find across India. If you plan to move out of the country, go with IB or IGCSE. These are far and few though. 

4. Co-educational
I wanted my son to study in a co-educational school and this automatically narrowed down my options for me. I hope it’s not as bad in other cities and there are more co-educational schools that encourage boys and girl to grow up together as normally as they should.

5. Fees
Schooling doesn’t come cheap. And while you are considering the cost sheet in front of you, also keep in mind other numbers – books, transportation, uniform, event participation costs and such like. Don’t bite more than you can chew. Having said that, some costs are worth the pain!

6. School Timings
For working parents, matching schedules for work and their kid’s pick up and drop timings is nothing less than dirty dancing with Patrick Swayze. So find out your options specific to your requirements. Do you want your kid home early so they can have time to rest and relax before their evening schedules take over? Or if you need them in school till you get back — is their a late stay, after school programme to match your schedules? 

7. Communication and feedback
Would you like to participate in the education of your child? If yes, then how involved would you like to be. This is crucial to understand. Would the school be open to conversations about your concerns with regard to your child, teaching methods, class room issues and welcome your feedback? Or do you really want the school, to take care of it all since you don’t have the bandwidth required for it? Then choose accordingly. 

8. Attitude:
I think this is a key player in choosing a space for the child.
Is the school an inclusive space; A diverse space? Does it give the  child an opportunity to interact with differences? Does it understand, respect and appreciate differences?
Or will it question, condemn, label and tag children who are different. 
Is the school a safe space?
What is its policy on bullying, exclusion, victimisation? Do they have one? What is the focus of the school? What is the end goal that is celebrated — the marks, the numbers, the academic achievements, the attitudes, the craft or the person? Is it a mix of it all or is it just one thing in specific?

A kid spends 800-1000 hours in school per year and also builds relationships that last them a life time. So it becomes crucial that we choose a space that moulds these little people into what they can become and puts just the right amount of pressure that we’d like in the process of educating our children. To get the right balance is a tricky one but nevertheless, important!

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