What curriculum does the school follow? What are the academic scores? How do they rank internationally? What facilities do they offer?
These are the very first questions that came to my mind when it was time to enrol my child in school. These were also the thoughts that my peers were pondering over, until we collectively gathered our thoughts and realized that the answers were an affirmative in the case of most schools we shortlisted. What would then differentiate the learning experience that our children would gain?
Going beyond these standard questions, here are a bunch of crucial questions that I asked before deciding on which international school to enrol my child in.
1. Does the school sufficiently emphasise on character development?
The very first question I asked is if my child would be equipped to handle the challenges that life throws after attending the school. Qualities like determination, diligence, and integrity are certainly no small matter in today’s demanding and competitive business environment. A good school would teach a student that success and failure go hand in hand and are determined based on the student’s ability to work hard without taking shortcuts. It was important for me, as is for most parents, that my children grow up with the right values and interpersonal skills while being empathetic towards others.
2. Are students encouraged to express themselves and form their own identities?
I wanted to know if the school is providing the right platform for students to indulge in activities and play that allows them to express themselves. This would help children to form their own identities, discover who they are, question what they want in life, and why they are the way they are. For any parent who ultimately wants their child to learn and grow, this is among the most important considerations. Checking if the school offers a good array of extracurricular activities and sports is crucial too. For instance, Canadian International School, Singapore has a lavish Outdoor Discovery Centre that allows children to engaged in play-based learning. Outdoor learning is one of the best and most holistic ways to sow the seeds of conceptual learning in children. Remember to also look for an emphasis on critical thought and freedom of opinion.
3. Do they provide a community centred environment for my child to grow?
An international school invariably has eclectic mix of students from various geographical backgrounds. Children from various walks of life join international schools at various stages in schooling and such transitions, be it geographical or at different life stages, are important periods for children. This makes it mandatory to have an environment that is both sensitive and supportive. An ideal school should provide a well-knit community that rejoices healthy values and ethnic diversity. In such an environment, students can easily form long-lasting friendships irrespective of age, cultural and ethnic boundaries. This is further aided of the staff are culturally sensitive and academically welcoming. Growth in such an environment will allow students to be better prepared for further transitions and challenges in their life.
4. How invested are the teachers in the students?
Finally, check if the staff at the school embody all the above pointers. Are they sensitive to the needs of each student? Are they open to new ideas, freedom of thought and do they encourage personal growth? Most importantly, are they sincere and genuine about a student’s well-being and happiness? A teacher’s care has a lasting impact on children as opposed to a teacher’s knowledge. Teachers must avidly demonstrate that they're invested in the well-being of their students failing which students could even falter on the academic front. When you visit any school, don’t hesitate to be straightforward and ask beyond the standard questions to any member of the staff. This exercise helped me gauge the core principles of the school and their culture, allowing me to instantly tell if the school is a good fit for my child to thrive or not.
Academic ranking, curriculum and facilities are must-haves in your checklist while choosing a school. But remember, education goes way beyond academics. The holistic learning process that a school inculcates is key to moulding children while they emerge as confident individuals with the right mix of knowledge, skills and character. So, make sure you ask these four questions before finalizing on which school your child going to make his/her second home.
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