For most parents, a choice of school for their children is driven by recognition, word of mouth (reference from other parents), and infrastructure provided by the school.

Most of these are shallow criteria, considering how important this decision is.

School’s equipped with great building, play areas, air-conditioned classrooms, activity labs and computers or tablets are not enough ones for studies. There is more to learning than just an infrastructure and facilities

Here are 10 check points schools will never tell parents, but parents must look out in schools.

1.     How prepared is the school for future?

Instead talking about school’s past pedigree, we should check out their plans for future

Most schools talk about their credentials to prepare children for high stakes competitive examinations like the IIT-JEE and medicine or position themselves as ‘focussed on holistic development’.

But the truth is, no one knows what the future holds.

Your child will be in this school possibly for fourteen years.

The world will be a totally different place by the time s/he is ready to go to college.

It is important to equip children with skills in this context — skills that can help them navigate the uncertain future and succeed in the jobs and workplaces of that era.

Therefore Ask,

  • The school how they will teach your child to adapt to uncertainty and change. Crucially, are children learning how to learn?
  • Are they being taught to work successfully in groups and think critically to solve problems?
  • Are they being taught to tolerate ambiguities? Can they learn, unlearn and then relearn?

2.     How skilled are the teachers?

Teachers are the people who will mold your child.

Check out how many years of experience do teachers in the school have, on an average?

Does the school encourage teachers to undergo periodic Professional Development to keep themselves abreast of the latest methods of teaching and learning?

Ask to speak to a teacher or two, rather than spending more time with an admission counsellor who typically talks from a ‘selling’ point of view.

A short conversation can give you tremendous information on the teacher community in the school.

In this age and time, good schools focus on having a good programme for their teachers and make them learners as well.

Therefore Ask,

  • What are the qualifications of the teachers?
  • How much experience do they have?
  • Do they get refresher training every year?

3.     Does learning happen outside the classroom? 

Making real world connections to what children learn inside the classrooms are becoming very important.

Classrooms are the most artificial of places in the real world.

Many schools have started designing programs to ensure children see the purpose of their learning, by being exposed to the real world.

Therefore Ask,

  • What is the breakup of learning within the classroom and outside?
  • How many field trips/community activities/excursions and visits are scheduled in the school year?

4.     Does learning happen outside the textbooks?

It would be a sad commentary on the school if learning were confined to reciting lessons from textbooks and answering questions from the lesson.

Find out how much of the learning happens outside textbooks — are children encouraged to look on the Internet and visit the school or local library, and to use the information they find in their learning?

How are questions from children handled?

Are children engaged via hands-on activities or experiential learning methods?

Therefore Ask,

  • What are the sources of information and learning like project work and hands-on activities for the child other than the textbook?

5.     How safe are the learning spaces?

Desks and benches nowadays come in child-friendly and safe sizes and shapes.

It is vital that children inhabit learning spaces that deter physical injury.

But ask the school’s admission counselor about the emotional safety and well-being of children in the school.

Are questions encouraged?

Do children learn in a positive atmosphere where no one is humiliated, castigated or belittled?

Are background checks conducted on all employees, including the non-teaching support staff?

Therefore Ask,

  • What is the school’s policy on punishment?
  • Talk to teachers on how they discipline their students? How do they deal with troublemakers?
  • What is the school’s system of surveillance, background checks and chaperones to ensure safety of the child?

6.     How is technology used in the school?

In these classrooms, teachers use a variety of digital aids — images, video, and PPT presentations to augment their teaching.

This kind of usage just normalizes teacher inefficiency by masking the bad teaching styles and methods with bright pictures and flashy videos.

How are children using this tech? Usually, children are taught to learn usage of tech tools and answering questions about them in a Computers paper, while they should be guided to use the Internet as a source of research, create content for the web via blogs and videos and use technology as a tool for learning and creating.

How a school uses technology and involves your child in this realm can be a big differentiator for life and careers in the 21st century.

Ask

  • Request to have a look at the Computers textbook.
  • How are children being taught about computers — to use features of applications or to create with computers?

7.     How are children assessed?

Assessment remains the key point in child’s growth. Assessment such as observation, interviews, journals and anecdotes beyond the usual battery of pen and paper tests.

Therefore Ask,

  • How are the children assessed for what they learn in the classroom?

8.     Different learning speeds

Most schools usually have counsellors to address learning disabilities.

How are slow learners taught to cope with the curriculum?

Does the learning slow down to suit the pace of such students and is it individualised to cater to their needs?

On the flip side, how does the school cater to gifted children?

How are gifted children identified, engaged and assessed?

All classrooms have 2 to 3 students who are learning at a faster pace than the rest of the class. Unless such children are engaged, and their needs addressed, they display problem behaviours inside and outside class.

Very few schools address gifted children and if you believe that your child is one, you should be proactive in addressing your child’s needs.

Therefore Ask,

  • How much of teaching is personalised to cater to different learners — slow or the gifted ones?
  • What kind of engaging learning activities exist which allow for diversity of speed and skills?

9.     Are involvements and achievements outside academics encouraged and supported?

Children who participate in tournaments and competitions outside school — especially children who are gifted in sports or performing arts — often miss school regularly.

While schools are willing to give them ‘attendance’ credit, the children are still expected to play catch-up with their peers upon their return and ace the required tests and exams.

This can be demoralising for a child excelling in a sport or art that must always play catch-up and rarely manages to.

Can the school individualise academics (differentiated instruction) for such students so that their calendar is not as full as a child who attends school regularly?

Therefore Ask,

  • If my child takes part in activities outside school regularly, how does the school tailor academics for him/her?

10. What is the value system of the school?

Many schools incorporate orphanage visits or community drives or a weekly ‘Value education’ or ‘Moral science’ class to help children imbibe a good value system.

Values must be practiced day in and day out within the school — from the management and principal who address the children at the podium, to the teachers who interact with the children for one-third of the child’s day, to even the support staff.

Unless value education is driven in a well-structured programme in a consistent manner, values will not become integral to the character of the student.

Some preparation beforehand and due diligence with the admission counsellor can go a long way in ensuring the school is the best fit for your child.

Children will inhabit a world that we all know nothing about — the best we can do is to ensure they are ready take on whatever comes their way.

Therefore Ask,

  • How values such as kindness, politeness and giving are practiced at school?
  • Are children encouraged to help those who need it?
  • Are children taught the values you as a parent, deem important?

 

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