WITH so many schools offering different environments, teaching methods and philosophies, making the decision as to which one to put your child can be very challenging. Yet, it is a vital step that may determine the success or otherwise of that child for life.
Psychologists have identified fundamental factors that should be considered in making that all-important choice – and the tuition charged is just one of many factors. After all, it is possible to pay so much on a school and still not give your child the necessary head start in life.
So, what do you do as parents?
Understand your child
Experts say that the first logical step in choosing the right school for your child is to determine what type of student he is and what environment he will most likely succeed in.
“Before thinking about the features of any particular school, begin by looking at your child’s needs, strengths and overall personality,” says educational consultant, Judy Winberg.
Since your child is like no other, she says it would be advisable to first understand his unique capabilities, wants, needs and motives, and spend some time figuring out the kind of environment in which he can learn the best.
Parents may also need to consider the child’s interests and talents and what co-curricular activities are available in that potential school to address these; the values (religious or otherwise) of the school and how they mesh with the family’s values; and the educational tools (e.g., technology) that are used in the classroom.
Evaluate the schools
Parents are advised to look at specific schools to see what they have to offer. They could also speak with fellow parents about their impression of the schools, though what other parents say about a school may not necessarily be one of the deciding factors.
Visit potential schools
According to Winberg, touring the school you are considering putting your child in is not out of place.
“When you’re inside the school, look into the classrooms to see if the kids look engaged. Are they talking with one another, or is the teacher sitting behind the desk while the kids works?” Winberg says.
Other questions to ask during the tour, she says, include what type of parent-teacher communication exists at the school, what qualifications the teachers have, how financially stable the school is, and if there has been consistent leadership at the school.
Since your child will be spending five days a week here, you want to be sure you understand the philosophy and the policies before you make a choice.
A Counselling Psychologist at the Federal College of Education, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Mrs Emily Oluyemisi Adeniji, identified the following factors as essential in deciding the school you put your child, if optimum performance is your target:
The distance of the school to your house needs to be considered, says Adeniji.
“You need to ask yourself whether the school will be good as boarding or day school. Are you going to be taking your ward to school, or will he take the school bus or public transport?”
But more importantly, she says the location of the school should be considered in terms of where it is situated. Is it located close to a market, industrial estate, beside a major road with/without road signs, near a river/beach and many other factors that are considered to be distracters?
It is not a good idea to consider putting a child in a school that is located in an environment that can impede high academic performance or even endanger life.
Congested or overcrowded classrooms do not promote effective learning, as teachers will find it difficult managing such classes.
Mrs Adeniji says there will be increase in indiscipline among such students and academic achievement will suffer.
She also says it is worthwhile to know the qualitative and quantitative levels of teachers employed in the school you are choosing. There are instances where school managements, due to inadequacy of requisite personnel, ask teachers to combine related subjects but ones in which they have no requisite expertise – just to maximize profit.
Parents are also advised to pay attention to available facilities in the potential schools their children will attend. These include laboratories, instructional materials, computer rooms with computers, sport facilities and so on – things that are required in developing the three domains of learning (cognitive, affective and psycho-motor) of your wards.
And of course, parents are advised to consider the affordability of a proposed school. There should be no rat race.
“Do not compel yourself to send your wards to the same school that your friend’s ward attends. This could be dangerous and tantamount to waste of precious time of your ward, who may drop out when sent out of school for non-payment of school fee.”
Adeniji also believes that parents need to ask questions about the past record of the proposed school in both internal and external examinations; and if the school is a centre of excellence in both moral and academic performance.
Guidance and Counseling
There is also a compelling need to find out if there are provisions for guidance and counseling programmes in the school.
Adeniji says: “It is very important to consider a school with functional counselling services as incorporated in the National Policy on Education (1977, 1981 and 1988).”
The right fit… or not?
So, your child is already in school? How do you know you found the right fit for him/her? Psychologists do not leave parents without help still. They suggest the tell-tale signs that show that parents have either made the right choice – or not.
Signs that a school setting fits your child
Your child is eager to go to school.
He\she acts energised and happy at the end of the school day.
You see tremendous progress in your child’s overall development – academic, physical, social and emotional – throughout each school year.
Your child feels that his\her abilities and interests are appreciated at school.
Your child has friends and acquaintances who like and accept him at school.
Signs that may signpost a wrong (or potentially wrong) choice of school for your child
Well into the school year, your child is hesitant, or even adamantly opposed to going to school.
Your child is not just tired, but worn down and unhappy at the end of most school days.
He/she has made little progress (academically, socially, emotionally or physically) in the past year.
Your child often says “school is boring.”
Your child expresses little interest in what she’s learning at school.
Your child often says that teachers or other kids do not understand her or do not like her.