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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Selecting a School : No Child's Play

Article Collected by AndhraColleges.com - Education is My Passion

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Author : M. Shiva

As children reach the age of three, alarm bells start ringing and parents experience bouts of anxiety attacks. Sleepless nights, discussions around the dinner table with the family, contacting friends to seek their suggestions and help, taking notes from experienced colleagues, who claim that they have seen that and done that. Parents tend to tap into all possible sources of information like neighbours, newspapers, television advertisements and friends for that precious bit of information that could set their child on the right path of a bright future.

By this time, you might have realised about what we are talking? Yes, we are talking about the exceedingly difficult, yet simple if done systematically and in a scientific way, the task of identifying an ideal kindergarten and a school for your child. Notwithstanding of the best of the suggestions, your stomach is bound to churn at the thought of embarking upon the arduous task of identifying a school or even a play school for your child. Many experts, however, point out that if planned well, parents will find it rather easy to identify the ideal school suitable for them and their children. 

 There are several factors that have to be considered in detail before selecting a school for children. Some of them include maturity level of the children, the needs of parents, children, distance, hygiene, the infrastructure available in the schools, what are the features which are being offered by the schools, the level of awareness and qualification of the school teachers, history and credibility of the schools, academics, the educational boards like CBSE, SSC etc, exam patterns etc. Each topic will be discussed and debated upon in detail below:

PRE-SCHOOL:

 Maturity: 

 The task of finding a dream school, play group or a kindergarten should only begin when a child attains enough maturity levels to handle themselves and easily mingle and communicate with children in similar age group. “The first mistake parents make is to err in judging the maturity levels of the child. On most occasions, both parents are working and they are desperate to put the child in a creche or play school before they go to their offices. Parents seldom think whether the child is mentally prepared to stay outside for a whole day,” points out psychologist Dr. S R R Y Srinivas. 

 The term pre-primary and early childhood education refers to imparting education to children who are between the age of three and six years. For children between this age group, schools include attending a nursery, kindergarten or preparative classes. Children in this age are different and need special care for the child’s mental and physical growth. Several studies over the years have revealed that 80% of the child’s brain is developed by the time the child is four years old and is almost ready to make the transition. Usually, parents can fathom these transitions and the child makes a transition from clumsy coordination to more refined physical skills, from body talk to verbal communication etc.  

 So what is the ideal age of the child to join a nursery, kindergarten or a school? “It is a very difficult question to answer right away. It usually depends on the physical and mental development of the child. If the child is below three years, then the child should not be admitted to any type of school,” says nursery teacher B. Bharathi, who handles the play school Strawberry Fields in Madhapur. According to the usual practice in India, by the age of four, children are admitted to Lower Kindergarten (LKG) and then by the age of five they are admitted to Upper Kindergarten (UKG). Experts point out that working parents should look for alternatives and not force children into getting admitted to play schools. Ideally, physically and mentally, according to educationists, five is the ideal age for any child to start education. 

 Distance:   

aving attempted to explore the maturity levels needed for children to start education, the next step for parents is to ascertain the distance of the kindergarten schools from home. Experts point out that at any cost, the child, between the age of three and five years, should not be forced to travel 10 to 15 km in school bus. The travel time will put a lot of strain, both physically and mentally, on the child’s psyche and will take away happiness from their lives. Moreover, doctors argue that it is not advisable on the part of parents to expose children, who are between three and five years of age, to high levels of air and noise pollution in urban cities. Generally, there is a broad acceptance of the fact that at Kindergarten level, there is not much to choose between education, infrastructure and schooling systems between various schools. So a lesser known and a no frills school, located very near to your house, could turn out to be a better and well informed choice than a branded school which is five or even ten km from the house. The mantra is to avoid travel time, which eventually would help both parents and children.

PRIMARY SCHOOL:   

 Primary education is the bed rock on which the future of the child is built. If the foundation is strong, then the future of the child is bright and assured. Hence, parents are under huge pressure to choose a ‘sound’ primary school for their children. Usually, primary education is defined as educating children till they attain the age of 14 years or till class class 8. During this period, the minds of the children are impressionable and a good primary school would do wonders to develop their overall mental and physical abilities. Most of the child psychologists point out that parents think that if they spend money lavishly, then they could provide good education to children. “Money, to some extent, provides the facilities or infrastructure. However, it is not enough to make sure that the child emerges as an all-rounder. Parents should strive hard and take measures to strike a balance between education, extra-curricular activities, sports and television,” points out Dr. Srinivas. 

 Selecting the Syllabus: 

 Selecting a syllabus is one of the most significant decisions, which could make or break the future of a child. Parents should be able to select an ideal syllabus for the child so that he or she could pursue the syllabus for the rest of the student life. Analysts point out that parents should not be influenced by prejudices or have pre-conceived notions while opting for a right syllabus. The bottom line, many point out, is that the child should be able to adjust to the syllabus quickly, the syllabus should be acceptable everywhere and help students perform well in all the competitive exams for admissions into professional courses in future. The syllabus to choose from are SSC, CBSE, ICSE and the International Baccalaureate (IB). “We tend to get swayed by the tall claims of international syllabus and schools. After admitting my child, we realised that students from such schools have not performed up to the mark in competitive exams. So parents should not force children to switch syllabus abruptly,” explains P. Malini, a housewife, whose son was shifted from an International school to a SSC school recently.

Do your homework:    

There are hundreds of schools in the State capital and in nearby Ranga Reddy district and parents do have a herculean task to separate the ‘chaff from the grain’. For this to happen, parents have to do their homework in terms of checking the background of the school from various sources including school management, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Experts also suggest that parents should make sure that they get the review of the school from a host of sources and then visit the school themselves before taking any decision. Finding about the past academic performance of the school students, teaching style and habits of the teachers, background of the teachers in terms of their educational qualifications is a must before selecting a school for the child.

Is the school suitable for your child?

It is vital for the parent not to get influenced by the huge amounts of publicity generated by schools with deep pockets through advertisements. While selecting the school, the parents would have to keep their children’s habits and needs in mind. A personal visit to the school to check whether the school environment is ideal for the child is mandatory. School environment, teachers, the kind of students who are already admitted to the school and with whom your child will interact in the future, the culture and monetary background of other students in the school should be explored thoroughly, as these factors do tend to have an impact on the child’s attitude and personality. Mothers should make it a point to talk to other mothers, whose children are studying in the same school. Before zeroing-in on a school, parents must find out how their ward would be spending a typical day at the school.   

 Balance: 

 Balance is the buzzword in education system today. Parents should make sure that schools provide a fine balance between education, sports and extra-curricular activities. These factors are vital for the overall development of the child. Many schools, these days, also provide enough facilities for students to pursue sporting activities like cricket, tennis, badminton, swimming, indoor games etc. Parents should make it  point to personally inspect these facilities in the school. “I feel that parents should focus more on the commitment levels, pedigree and the standing of the school in twin cities. There is no point in getting carried away by any chain of schools, which are being run with commercial motives,” points out P. Kameswara Rao, a parent whose daughter is admitted to Little Flowers School, Uppal.

Search for professional schools: 

 Many schools in the State capital do not give much importance to Parent-Teacher Associations and monthly interaction meetings. Although, these rules have been made mandatory by School Education Department, seldom they are practiced. Parents, before selecting a school should make sure that they have regular parent-teacher interaction sessions. School leaving certificates, for working parents who get transferred from one city to another, and references from professional schools are recognised and given due importance everywhere. Several schools in their prospectus talk about providing access to computers, top notch bus facility and other infrastructure. Parents, however, should make sure that these promises are fulfilled by making regular visits to the school.

Fee:  

It is not necessary that schools which ‘charge an arm and a leg’ are the best ones in the business. There are several schools in the State Capital which are run by socially conscious managements. Yet, fee structure plays a very vital role for any parent before they select a school for children. It is always better to check and be sure of the fee structure and the dates of payment of quarterly, half-yearly and the annual tuition fee before selecting a school. Usually, many experienced parents point out that the school fee should be commensurate with the infrastructure and other facilities being provided to the students. The parents should also make sure that they select a school in which the management does not indulge in hike of the school fee regularly. There have been instances in the past when school managements have hiked the fee and the parents along with student organisations had to take up protests and agitations to attract the attention of the media. Parents must make sure that all possible doubts on school fee are cleared before admitting the child in the school. 

 Hygiene and school infrastructure: 

 Another key point is hygienic environment. Parents should visit classrooms, check drinking water facility, ventilation, overall environment of the school building and its surroundings. Parents can also check for availability of medical first aid assistance on the school premises. Parents should not hesitate to clarify on the precautions that school management has taken to avoid epidemics, fire disasters and any other kind of accidents like electric shocks. There is also a need to check the school health programme and whether the schools take up regular health check up facility. Schools with such facilities are ideal for the student, experts point out.

Examinations and other facilities:  

Parents should have a fair idea of the number of exams the child has to appear in one academic year before selecting a school. They should also satisfy themselves on the aspect of whether their child would be able to cope up with such a large number of examinations. Apart from exams, parents should also make sure that they have checked infrastructure facilities of the school like playground, canteen, laboratories and computer room etc 

 SECONDARY SCHOOLS:   

In addition to the above precautions, parents, who are about to admit their children at senior secondary level of education, have to be doubly careful about the senior school education. By the time the child reaches class 8, he or she starts developing opinions, likes and dislikes. A thorough understanding of the child’s mentality is mandatory for every parent. Several experts point out that students, if at all they want to shift to a new senior secondary school, should be given an opportunity to choose a school of their liking.

Gauge the skills: 

 Parents looking for a good senior secondary school from class 8 to 12 should evaluate the academic abilities and talent of the child. Parents by then should have a fair idea of the child’s interests, talents and weakness. “There is no point in forcing a student to take up training for engineering or medicine from class 8 unless the student himself is interested or talented. If the parents force, then they themselves are putting their children’s future at risk,” points out J. Raja of Jana Vignana Vedika (JVV).

Experts maintain that if the above suggestions are ranked in order and schools are measured according to that ranking order, then parents are bound to find the ideal school for their children.

 
Source : The Career Guide
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