Choosing a school for your children: questions to ask (yourself)
of us can have any doubt at all about the importance of education for our children. A good education is the very best start in life that we could wish to offer them, regardless of the country in which we live. As parents, we constantly strive to create the best possible future for them, and prepare them for the challenges that they will have to face. But even though we all know this in principle, in reality it can be very complicated when we’re trying to make the right choices.
Ask yourself about your child
First of all, consider your child. Take a look at their needs, and what they really want. Different young people have different needs. Today, even though it is more practical for parents to send all their children to the same school, that is not necessarily the best solution for all the children. For each child, there are several questions you should ask yourself, before registering them at the school. What do they see themselves doing after school? What type of career are they planning? What are their strengths and weaknesses, and what sort of environment will help them develop their strengths and improve in their areas of weakness? A shy child can more easily feel overwhelmed and may feel inferior, in a very large school. A sporty child may feel hemmed in, in a small school without much sport equipment and that doesn’t enter inter-school competitions.
What extra value does the establishment offer?
Arguments such as “best A-level success rate” or “everyone from top company X went to school there” are not relevant. Look beyond the school’s ranking, and consider its added value. Some establishments achieve exceptional success rates by carefully selecting their pupils and, over time, removing those who don’t measure up. Sending a more vulnerable child to such a school could lead to a loss of self-confidence, which could have lasting repercussions on their future life and their choice of studies. Therefore, it is important to consider the school’s ability not only to provide a solid academic foundation but to take into account your child’s personal development needs. Are the children considered as statistics, to be tracked at all costs?
Today’s world is becoming more and more globalised and undergoing huge transformations. Education needs are changing fast. It is no longer a question of rote learning and committing to memory knowledge that has remained unchanged for centuries, but of preparing students to be able – by themselves – to face the challenge of jobs that haven’t yet been invented (60% of the jobs of tomorrow still don’t exist). In order to be able to integrate into a globalised world, students need to be adaptable. They need problem-solving skills, a critical mind, the ability to communicate in multiple languages, to innovate, work in a team, etc. Try to understand whether the school in which you are planning to register your child offers a traditional education or an innovative one. What are the subjects studied and does the school have an innovative approach to knowledge? Will this approach allow the child to learn to resolve unforeseen problems or is it based on rote learning or simple imitation?
What is the culture of the school?
Find out more about the culture of the school so you can be sure that your child will do well there. Neurologists’ studies have proved that your child’s years at school will play a huge part in determining their personality. It is therefore just as important that they spend those years in an environment that will encourage their personal development as it is for them to go to a school that will guarantee them a place at a good university. The best way to ensure that your child will be comfortable at a school is to go to open days, and meet the teachers and the other children. It’s better if you can meet the teachers separately from the students.
Educational staff, other students…who will your child be mixing with?
Have a good look at the teacher-student ratio. The more teachers there are for the number of children, the greater the likelihood that your child will be considered as a person rather than a statistic. This also means that your child is more likely to be properly supervised and stimulated.
Take an interest in the teaching staff. Where did they qualify, how were they recruited? What criteria were used? Do these criteria appear to be relevant? Are the staff required to go on regular CPD training courses? What types of relationship do they appear to have with the students? Are they close (but not too close) or distant? Do the teachers appear to take an interest in the children? Would you like to be in their class? A diverse team of teaching staff can be an asset, allowing the children to be exposed to different cultures.
Take an interest in the children. Where do they come from? Do they appear to be in their element in the school? Do they seem to be flourishing in the school environment? Do you see them as good colleagues for your child? Will their company help your own child develop? Do you think it will help guide your child in the right direction?
Look further than secondary school
Look at the paths other students have followed after graduating from the school. Where do they move on to? How many of them go on to higher education? What types of establishment do they go to? Does that fit with what your child is planning to do, or what you would envisage them doing? Do the schools you are considering have experience with admission to higher-education establishments?
In conclusion, remember that the school years play a crucial part in forming your child’s personality. They need to be in an environment that will support their personal development, and not hinder it. During this time, it is important that they are able to increase their confidence, both in themselves and in their own ability to resolve problems. This ability is absolutely essential in today’s working environment.