By Daniel Curry
Finding a top school for your children can be a real challenge. There are a dazzling array of educational choices, terminology, and locations. What are the key areas to research?
Often the first step is doing an internet search for things like “best schools near me” or “top 10 schools in Gurgaon”, for example. This will result in a list of schools that need further sorting. Here are some key areas that will help you narrow the list.
The best place to start is to think about the kind of pedagogy, or the method and practice of teaching, offered at the school. Do you want a traditional, structured school or do you want a progressive school? This you can usually determine from the school’s website. Most people looking for schools now are avoiding the traditional, rote-learning approach where teachers lecture and pressure children. Progressive schools will feature their pedagogical approach clearly. This includes approaches like Inquiry based learning, Experiential learning, project based learning, and Problem Based Learning (which incorporates all approaches).
ALL ROUND DEVELOPMENT
Once you have settled on a pedagogical approach, then you can look for what the school offers. Is it only based on academics, or is it holistic, which incorporates the education of the whole child through art, drama, music, athletics, dance, etc.?
Look also for online reviews by current parents, awards given to the school or staff, and overall impression of the school online. All of these steps should help you reduce the list. Once you have narrowed down the list to two or three schools, you can then physically visit them and interact with the staff. When visiting, there are some important areas to keep in mind.
QUALITY OF TEACHING STAFF
Find out about the quality and ongoing development of the teaching staff. How often do teachers receive professional development and by whom is the training provided? What are the qualifications of the trainers? As a parent, you want to know the frequency and quality of ongoing professional development.
WARMTH AND HAPPINESS
Is the school culture warm and inviting? Do you get smiles and welcomes from everyone in the building or just the admissions team? Is the school leadership accessible and open? How do the staff members interact with children? Are children smiling and happy? This will help you decide whether what you experience in person matches what you researched.
Finally, does the school offer to have you observe a class, talk directly with teachers, and even connect you with existing parents? If so, take them up on the offers. Get as much information as you can from authentic sources.
Routine items such as transportation, timings, meals, and policies are easy enough to compare and discuss. And they are important. However, they are not nearly as important as getting the big picture with the above topics.