One of the most important decisions you will make for your child is selecting which school your child will go to. There are many criteria and questions that you will want to consider before you take this decision.

The U.S.department of Education has suggested a 4-step process that will help you select the right school for your children.

Step 1: Consider Your Child and Your Family

  • Your Child’s Needs
  • Your Child’s Learning Style
  • Location of School

Step 2: Gather Information About Schools

  • Approach to Learning
  • Academic Performances
  • Behaviour Policy
  • Safety
  • Facilities and Services
  • Admission Procedures

Step 3: Visit and Observe Schools

  • Culture
  • Principal
  • Teachers
  • Students
  • Parent and Community Involvement
  • Reputation

Step 4: Apply to The Schools You Choose

  • Select one or more schools to apply to
  • Submit paperwork and applications before the deadline
  • Followup

Let us look at a few key points in greater detail:

1. What are your child’s needs?

It may be tough to assess this especially since you are probably taking this decision when your child is around 2.5 to 3 years when she starts pre-school and about 6 years old when she goes to 1st grade. Still, children do give us lots of pointers on what kind of school they may fit in better. A reticent child may do better in a school with smaller class groups and higher individual attention. An extroverted child may relish larger class sizes for instance.

2. What are your needs as a parent?

Recognise the parent you are and choose a school accordingly. Do you expect the school to inculcate discipline and a strong value system? Do you want a school that focuses more on experiential learning? Are you looking for a school where children are tech-savvy? These considerations will help you zero in on the schools you prefer. If you are expecting a school that is not particular about dress codes but put the child in a school that expects strict adherence to uniform, you are bound to be disappointed. Be clear and honest about your expectations about the school.

3. What is your budget?

Schooling is a financial decision as much as it is about buying into a certain methodology of learning. There are schools to fit any budget. Look for the school that meets your child’s learning needs without burning a hole in your pocket. Schools can be very aspirational, and you must be clear that you do not get over-leveraged by putting your child in such a school. Transportation fees, tuition fees, uniform fees and other charges all constitute school expenses. In addition to this payment, additional payment for school trips, costumes for annual day and other sundry charges can be expected through the school year.

4. What are the school’s curriculum and culture?

The school’s curriculum and affiliation must be confirmed before selection. The ICSE syllabus is both varied and deep. The CBSE syllabus is more integrated and definitely leans deeper into Math and Science. There are also various state syllabuses.  The IGCSE syllabus which kicks into force in the 9th grade is becoming increasingly popular in India. However, children who wish to be oriented with this curriculum would do well to start from the smaller grades.

The school’s culture is another important factor but an easy one to assess. Does the school focus on rigour? Is it a school that encourages questioning or expects blind discipline? Does the school have a culture of athleticism? How important is the school’s culture? Very. This is the water the children swim in and absorb on a daily basis.

Children in the older classes start valuing peers more than parents, which is why it is important to enrol the child in a school which you find suitable. This information can be understood by visiting the school campus and getting a feel of the prevalent culture.

5. Distance from school to home

It is advisable that the child goes to school from a 1-8 km radius from your home. This way the child will not have to commute far and not be fatigued to enjoy the rest of the evening with activities and free play. It will also be easier on you for Parent-Teacher Meetings or PTMs and in case there is any other emergency.

6. Safety

This is a very important factor and parents must enquire what safety policies are in place. In addition to CCTV’s (Closed-circuit cameras) and background checks, does the school have a buddy or mentor system? Do they have regular programs educating teachers and school staff on safety procedures? Does the school hold programs for children about different kinds of touch. Who should the child approach in the event they are touched inappropriately or assaulted physically? If the school has clear answers then do shortlist it. Is the school in a secure area? Does the building have fire extinguishers and a fire-safe certificate? Is the school building enclosed in a proper compound? Does the school playground have child-safe equipment? None of these questions are too frivolous or unimportant.

7. Facilities

Does the school have adequate playgrounds? Do the school’s labs function? Does the school have a qualified nurse? Is there a full-time counsellor in the school? Very often, schools will show you all amenities but you can find out if they are all in fact functional by talking to parents who already have children there. You can also check online parent forums for honest feedback about schools.

8. Talk

Talk to the principal. Talk to teachers if you can. Talk to parents who have children in the school. Ask existing parents if you can talk to their kids. Attend an open house if the school allows you. All of this will give you a good idea about what you can expect from the school.

The bottom line is that your child should find the school fulfilling and interesting. As a parent, the school must be an engaged collaborator in the child’s upbringing through various stages of their growth. We hope the above criteria better help you make a decision about the best school for your child.

If you would like to read the U.S. Department of Education’s 4 steps to choose a school for your child document in full, follow this link.