The title of this post is almost an irony for most parents. Going by present times, it should have been- How a school chooses you? Nonetheless i decided to write this because i continue to feel, strongly as days pass, that one of the best investments anyone can make is picking a school for their child. There is a reason i call it investment. Most of us spend awful lot of time and energy in deciding what to wear, where to eat, how to live, how to spend the annual holiday etc etc. A lot of parents also pay a fortune to get their children ‘good’ education. People do all of this, but my point is limited to this- a true investment is preceded by careful analysis and judgement, something that completely misses when (most) parents decide which school to send their children to. Here lies the meat of my argument. What i write henceforth in this post would mostly be focused on urban schooling.
Let us look at how decisions with regards to school education are made-
- Ease of access (distance and/or connections)
- Financial wherewithal
- Ideological reasons
- Random tries
No one ranks schools on the basis of the ‘goodness’ of education that is provided. No one looks at the school-ness of a school- does it even make sense to attend a school that is a display of architecture, more than anything else? In the absence of any sort of calibrated information parents end up convincing themselves of the decisions they make and follow it up with supplements for the child- tuition classes, hobby classes, summer camps etc etc. The hope stays the same- everything will fall in place in the end. Perhaps it does, perhaps schools work, whatever be the quality.
There is a lot that can be said about the kind of education that a child needs in our times but i will put that away for another day. I have always believed that education is an experience (a characteristic experience, as Prof. Krishna Kumar would say) and if a school is not able to give that to a child, then it is missing the game completely. There are certain things that each parent would want for his/her child- happiness, a joyful childhood, safety etc etc. everything that ensures to a jolly good adulthood. Some parents want more, some might want less but everyone has expectations from as a child grows and it is only fair if some of these expectations reflect in the choice of education and school.
All this sounds very good but are people really putting efforts in realizing their expectations? I would leave you to answer this question but before that i would like to share a small ‘to do’ list that might help you in deciding, or atleast in thinking how to decide.
- The child’s education has already begun even before she awaits the Principal’s nod to enter a school. Her parents, her friends, her family has already started shaping her thoughts. So the first thing to do is to be alert of what you say, what you do and how you treat your child before packing her off in a school bus.
- Do not enter a school with the ‘lets go and get you admitted’ mentality. Rushing through this process will have repercussions.
- Start early by making a list of schools you would like to try out, based on whatever criteria you want. Keep your list broad, i.e. don’t be a stickler with regards to status of a school etc. include lot of schools.
- Judge the value of a school by the fee it charges and you are bound to end a bankrupt- financially and emotionally.
- Insist of classroom observations in the schools on your list, talk to the teachers, listen to the children, see them spend their spare time. If the Principal tells you that allowing parents in the classroom is against policy, you might as well leave the campus.
- Visit a rural school whenever you get a chance, see what they are upto. Be the judge of what is it that teachers and children should value.
- Feel the environment, the school should embrace the child.
- Focus on the necessities- love, inclusiveness, camaraderie. Any form of discrimination should be on your zero tolerance list.
(I’ll keep adding to this list)
Last but not the least, be physically and emotionally involved in your child’s education.