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The best school for your child- Tips to help you choose


We all desire that children should attend the best schools where all the right values are imparted and he/she grows up to be a well-rounded individual. When your child is school age, you are faced with the task of choosing a crèche, pre-school, nursery, primary or secondary school; this is all before you get to the University level. There are various things to consider when it comes to choosing the best school for your child and there is no ‘one size fits all.’How do you choose the best school for your child? Here are some tips to help you choose.

Fees
There is a good school on every budget. The more expensive fees are should not be the only parameter on which you decide if a school is good or not. While the cost of education is one of the major costs parents will face, there is no need to go bankrupt to send your child to school. Make sure you are getting value for your money. You want to understand how much does the school charge, what do the fees cover and more. Does the school offer any scholarships?

Proximity
Is it better to choose one closest to the house? Or will it be more convenient to have one near the office? (For Lagos residents the notorious traffic will really influence the choice of school based on traffic). There is no right or wrong answer here, but put the child’s comfort in mind and ensure that it is easy for a parent or family member to get to school when needed.

Academic and Moral Standards
The standards of the school across academics, morals and extra-curricular matter and how caring the teachers and caregivers are matters. It is important to remember that this is their formative stage, what is learnt now and how the child is treated will shape him or her.It is important to ensure that you do a thorough background check of each school and find out first-hand what the school has to offer. You cannot rely on the recommendations you get from family and friends who already (and sometimes don’t) have kids in the school. Remember that what is good for your friend, cousin or neighbour may not work for you.

Talk with the principal and teachers who will be working with your child to see how they relate to you and their students. It is a good idea to plan a practice day where the child spends a day in the class. Teachers should gently guide and instruct the children, answer their questions and foster their self-confidence. Look out for schools where you have teachers with a caring attitude but are also firm. Also find out what extra-curricular activities the school offers.

Teacher to Student Ratio
It is important to note the teacher to child ratio in the classes. If the class has less than 20 children you should get better results than a class with up to 40 children for example. A good rule of thumb at the pre-k level should be a teacher and 2 assistants for a class of 10 to 15. As they get older one teacher, one teacher’s assistant can be adequate.

When planning to visit the school it can be a good idea not to make an appointment, this allows you to assess the school without their prior preparation. Appointments could mean that the school wants to get “ready” for the show-off for the day. Catching them unawares might be good to see the true reality.

Environment
You should look for a hygienic environment. Are the facilities clean and orderly? Are gutters covered? I heard of a child who fell into an open gutter in her school that was full of dirt. Is the playground safe with safe outdoor toys? Are the teachers, assistants/nannies clean and tidy? Overall is the environment clean and child friendly?

Also be sure to check the school’s plan or procedures for medical emergencies and situations. Is there a nurse or doctor on the premises? Is there a functional sickbay with beds? Have the teachers, assistants and care-givers gone through basic First Aid courses and CPR techniques?

Curriculum
Find out what the school’s academic record is and what the school offers in terms of education as well as extra-curricular activities. A good program irrespective of being a British or Nigerian curriculum or Montessori should teach social, intellectual, emotional and motor skills, among other skills.
Look out for the specifics of their curriculum; is it a blended curriculum? Or a national one? Whatever the curriculum is, it should be practicable. The traditional style of rote learning is not as effective as more hands on learning. For example, children learning about plants can be required to do some gardening and plant themselves.

Are they offering STEM, how are they incorporating technology, coding and other modern skills needs to thrive in the 21st Century? You should also ask where their children go after they graduate. For example, if it is a pre-school, what primary school do their students go to? These questions should be the same at every level.

Discipline
Discipline cannot be overemphasized, especially these days where the lack of it is normal. Choose a school where there is a high level of discipline but instilled through methods that are civil. Ask for their discipline policies and ask questions if anything makes you uncomfortable or is unclear.

Security
Ensure that the school is security-conscious. A good school will be strict about their security. They should typically only allow parents or caregivers with ID cards to pick up the children from school. Make sure you understand their security policy and that it focuses on making the child’s safety a priority. Does the school have CCTV cameras installed?What is the parental involvement expected in the school? Some schools have an active PTA and expect parents to be very involved. Some schools demand little from the parents and require parents just a few times a year.

Overall
At the end of the day balance the information you gather, visit the schools, check academic results of the school, if it’s a primary school do the children get into top secondary schools or do the students generally have good external exam results to make it to top universities. Ensure the school has a good reputation, rates security, health and safety as a high priority. Analyze the cost of the school between fees, developmental levies, joining fees and other costs associated with the school. Be sure to also make sure the school feels right to you.

Be sure to note if the students seem bored. Unclean environments, above normal levels of noise, distracted unkempt staff, big classes where the children don’t get adequate attention should be a cause of concern and re-evaluation. Last but not least it is important to take your child to visit the school. You will know if your child seems comfortable with the school and the environment or not. A child’s first school experience has a great effect on his future and how he feels concerning school and learning.

In this article:
Yetty Williams
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