How to choose the right school for my child?

Published: May 13, 2021 at 9:24 am

Last Updated on May 13, 2021 at 9:24 am

In this article, author Smriti Tuteja discusses how to choose the right school for our children. One aspect of raising children that worries most parents is education. We are always striving to give them the best and ensure that they have a secure future. It begins right after they take birth. I know people who start right brain education programs or prodigy development courses when the child is 4 months old. Well, that is a personal choice and this article is not about the positives and negatives of those choices.

About the author: Smriti is an author, freelance content writer and avid reader. She quit her six-year-long IT career to embrace her love for writing. Her previous article – How much money can I make as a content writer – went viral. She writes content across genres and takes pride in her ability to research and carve magic with words. Over her six years of content writing experience, she has developed a knack for technical and digital marketing content.

She also passionately writes about parenting and is currently working on her book. When not writing or reading, she can be seen running behind any of her two kids or learning Deutsch. Reader’s may recall Smritis is the lead author of this popular book published via freefincal: How to profit from content writing.

These days, I see most online forums bubbling with queries regarding schools.  The decision to join an online school, to take up homeschooling or to let them be in these tough times is another tough choice. However, what is the toughest is the choice of the right school. Once you have decided that you want to enrol them into a school, the confusion just hits the ceiling. You begin by looking for schools around you. Each one is promising to be better than the other, they are boasting facilities like swimming pools and horse riding, they are promising you a secure retirement by sending your child to the IIT and some are even giving away Ipads when you confirm the admission. But, once they tell you the fees structure, you are left gasping for breath. To be honest, my entire graduation degree costed less than the annual nursery fees for some schools.

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So, which school in the city is the best choice for my child?

I have hunted google, online forums and family opinions endlessly for an answer and realized that no one has a correct and concrete answer. The answer lies within the parent and their goals for the child. Well, before you hit that close button, let me explain. 

Each family is different, each child is different and we all have different needs, expectations and budget. There cannot be a single answer that works for everyone. What we need is a good knowledge of how to find the right school. We need to determine what works for us and not what will help me make a good impression. 

Trust me, when people refer to a certain school as amazing, 70% of them are referring to the public opinion of the school. And general opinion is influenced by several factors such as fees structure (there is a huge chunk of people that believes that expensive is better), the difficulty in securing an admission (many times a marketing gimmick), the seeming niche crowd that admits their children there, admission of students to IITs, AIIMS  etc. and several other reasons that are inconsequential to a lot of us.

Below are some prerequisites that you must fulfil before starting your school hunt:

  • Figure out your expectations: You must know what you expect from the school and your child. Do you want them to ace academics or be the next cricket champ or a mix of both? Do you think your child has a natural inclination to art and would like to encourage them? Are you expecting a doctor after 20 years or just want them to interact with peers and grow? You could also just be frustrated with them and want some time off by sending them away to school. Well, I am one of those homeschooling parents who thinks that a bit of school time may help me drink my coffee in peace. We are all good parents and our concerns and expectations are valid (unless we expect the children to fulfil them of course). You may be looking for a school within a walking distance only because you are scared of using a bus and that is ok. Just know what you want. A comprehensive list of your negotiables and non-negotiables will help you filter some schools from a seemingly endless list.
  • Assess your child’s needs: Some children bloom better in a fixed routine and a structured curriculum. Whereas some others prefer to explore at their pace. My child is inclined more towards art than sports, yours could love numbers. Some children have special needs. Enlist child-specific needs that you’d like the school to address and then weigh the options at hand.
  • Set a budget: When it comes to choosing a school, your budget doesn’t need to be directly proportional to your income. You may not find it sensible to spend 1.5 lakhs per annum despite being able to afford it, or you may cut on other expenses to pay those 2 lakhs for the school. It is ok both ways. And, I cannot say this enough- the worth of the school has got nothing to do with the fees structure. The worth will depend on how it fulfils your expectations and helps your child grow and that will depend on the above two points. Decide on a budget that you can afford and that sounds sensible to you. I, personally would like to save the money for sending them to university, but that is me.
  • Make your mind about the proximity: Some parents are ok to let their child travel an hour each side whereas others like me think it would be torturous for the child. Make up your mind regarding how much you want them to travel. If you ask me, I do not prefer that kids get too tired travelling and have no energy to play after school. Play is an important part of learning and overall wellness. However, one of my friends sends her child to an alternative space 45 minutes away. She seems to be ok with the long ride because the school meets all other parameters for her. 
  • Check the balance of academic and extra-curricular activities in the school: All kids need a fine balance of both for balanced development but that is a debate for another day. Some schools train students to go to IITs and medical schools right from the 5th standard and there are free learning spaces that build on the interest of the child. Talk to other parents to know what the school in question stands for. Ask the school too. Once you have an idea, make a decision based on your requirement.
  • Teacher to student ratio: The lesser the number of students that each teacher has to handle, the easier it will be for the teacher to concentrate on each student. 
  • Board and curriculum: Read about the different boards such as ICSE, ISC, CBSE, state board etc. and see what works for you. Again no good or bad here, just what you like. Some schools also follow their curriculum till the 4th or 5th standard and then offer a choice based on your child’s interest. At a later stage, you can also take help from a counsellor to assess the inclination of your child.
  • Amenities: A big playground, functional science and computer labs, greenery, swimming pools, skating rinks, and the list is endless. Think about the amenities you prefer and filter accordingly.

Non-negotiable factors while choosing a school:

Well, time to be bossy! Because I am the writer and I think this is non-negotiable! 

  • Hygiene and cleanliness: A school with dirty washrooms or puddles of stagnant water is not the right one for your child. If you can see cobwebs when you visit, run in the opposite direction.
  • Safety and security: This is another factor that you cannot compromise on. Check how child-friendly the school is. Do they have first-aid facilities? Many schools have an ambulance too and that is great. Also, check their rules around handing over the students to their guardians and assess the security.
  • Their approach towards the children: Are the teachers friendly or too bossy? Do they believe in hitting and scolding? And no that is not right. Because I said so. Even if you believe that you got the cane and turned out ok, it is not ok. Respect and empathy in interaction is a must. Check with other parents. Also, try and get permission to observe a school day.

Figure out your expectations and options and use these pointers to find the best option for your child. If there are points that you’d like to add, let us know.

All the best!

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Pattabiraman editor freefincalDr M. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He has over ten years of experience publishing news analysis, research and financial product development. Connect with him via Twitter(X), Linkedin, or YouTube. Pattabiraman has co-authored three print books: (1) You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) for DIY investors. (2) Gamechanger for young earners. (3) Chinchu Gets a Superpower! for kids. He has also written seven other free e-books on various money management topics. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India,” an organisation promoting unbiased, commission-free investment advice.
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