Choosing the right school for your child

Parents should evaluate the teaching methods that various schools adopt. DH PHOTO/ S K Dinesh

Unlike two decades ago when the schooling system was a lot simpler, now many schools offering different curricula have mushroomed up across India. As a parent, you need to evaluate several factors while choosing a school for your child. Here are some important aspects to consider:

Curriculum: Traditionally, schools in India have offered either the central Boards, CBSE and ICSE, or state Board. These Boards have similar curriculum and teaching methodologies, however, the main difference is the rigour and focus on exam preparation. 

The current trend among schools is to offer various international curricula. One such curriculum is the Cambridge Assessment International Education. Here students study the Cambridge Primary and Lower Secondary at the primary school level, followed by the IGCSE in Classes 9 and 10 and then the A-level curriculum. Another option is the International Baccalaureate which offers the Primary Years Programme, followed by the Middle Years Programme and then the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) in Classes 11 and 12.

Many schools in India have started offering a combination of these different Boards. Some schools offer the IBDP, but have a very different curriculum in the primary years, making it necessary for parents to evaluate the various options available.

Classes offered in the school: Some schools offer education only from kindergarten to Class 10. In such cases, parents will have to identify another school for their child after Class 10. 

Proximity to home: The location of the school is an important factor to consider. As traffic worsens in urban areas, you would want to minimise the time your child spends travelling to and from school. In some cases, your best-fit school might be an hour away, but you need to ascertain if it is really worth sending your toddler so far away. Many parents look for schools near their home. 

Teaching methods: Apart from the Board, parents should also evaluate the teaching methods that various schools adopt. In some schools, students in the pre-primary years and in Class 1 are introduced to basic skills through their block building programme. Educators at such schools believe that this is the core of the social studies curriculum as it provides practice in math, science, engineering, design thinking and literacy. Some other schools make their students appear for various examinations and even encourage students to write Olympiads, apart from the mandatory school exams. As parents, you need to understand what system works for your kid. 

Single-gender vs co-education: Across the country, schools are single-gender or co-educational. There has been a lot of debate as to which system is better. However, recent research shows that students in co-educational schools have performed better in Board exams.

Additionally, parents might find that a co-educational environment is a better option for children as it has its own benefits. 

“My husband and I were sure about two things. We preferred a co-educational school as we have a daughter as well as a son. We also wanted our children to be in the same school to ensure that holidays match and their schedules can be easily coordinated,” says Preeti Wadekar, a parent.

Extracurricular activities: Not all schools offer extensive extracurricular activities or encourage sports participation. However, some schools consistently encourage students to participate in several different events to gain confidence and increase exposure to different extracurricular activities.

Involvement in some of these athletic and cultural events takes place as early as Class 3 and 4, which lays a strong foundation for students. 

University admissions: Eventually, students have to gain admission in higher educational institutions after finishing high school. Schools often publish university destinations and the previous year’s results, so it is worth taking a look at these when making your decision. 

Costs: Your financial situation will play a big part in your decision. Depending on the school’s location and the curriculum offered, the annual fee varies. Fees at international schools are comparatively higher than schools that offer other Boards. Also, school fees might increase when your child goes to secondary school. 

Vacations: Most schools in India are closed for summer vacations in April and May. In some schools, the summer vacation is in July and August in line with international summer vacation. 

(The writer is with The Red Pen)

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