It’s Back to School Time: Seven factors to consider before you enrol your child in that school

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Recently a friend asked me on WhatsApp what my suggestion will be on choosing a good school for his children.

That is a tough question to answer because no ‘school’ is perfect and no two schools are the same. However, there are some basic factors to consider when selecting schools for children. Before I go further, I have to say that this post is particularly targeted at parents who are considering fee-paying private schools for their children in Nigeria. Although, some of the suggestions in this post might be applicable to those that are considering state-funded free schools for their children.

Below are some of the important factors I would consider if I was to send my children to a fee-paying private school. Please, remember these are mere suggestions and they are not absolute suggestions of what you should do in your situation, as you’re in the best position to know what is best for you and your family.

  1. The school fees – as far as I’m concerned this is the most important factor that I’ll consider if I was ever going to send my children to a fee-paying private school, because if I can’t afford the tuition fee of a school, then the school is not worthy of my consideration except I’m certain that I’ll be eligible to an accessible scholarship grant from the school and in that instance I will want to be certain that such a grant will cover the whole duration of my child’s stay in the school and that it is not just a one-off grant. Also, I will want to be sure that I can afford all the other auxiliary expenses – school trips, uniforms, meals etc. – that will come along with me having my child in the school, otherwise, it’s best I stay away from the school and apply the old saying of ‘cut your coat according to your cloth’ and not ‘according to your size’ as some people would erroneously say.
  2. The second factor I will consider in choosing a school is the location of the school. There’s the argument that the distance of a school does not matter, in as much as the school offers what one thinks is best for one’s child and I accept this view but for me if the distance is too far for comfort and there is an alternative school closer home that can offer something similar but not necessarily exactly the same ‘quality’ of education that the school in the faraway place will offer, I probably will give it a second thought of: (a) to relocate closer to the school of first choice or if the school offers a boarding facility, send the child there (I have to say I’m not a big fan of boarding schools); (b) choose an alternative nearby school that offers e.g. 70% – 80% in terms of quality of education to the one that was my main choice of consideration, ab initio. However, I have to say that there is no ‘perfect’ school but with the right leadership any school can be transformed to a quality learning environment; my suggestion is that you should engage with the heads of the potential schools you’re considering for your child, as this will give you some insights into what to expect from their schools.
  3. Thirdly, I will consider the school’s culture. As a parent I want my children to be educated in a safe and supportive environment. More often than not the people within the locality in which a school exists in are the best people to engage with when one is trying to find out about how students from a particular school behave off-site (outside their school’s premises). The local community usually feels the positive or negative vibes of a school situated in them and they are more likely to engage with the school’s management team and staff on issues that relate to students’ off-site behaviour than any other group of people. Also, the school’s behaviour management policy and implementation strategies will help a lot in understanding the school’s culture.
  4. The next consideration I’ll make is the school’s curriculum. I will consider if the school is offering a comprehensible curriculum and not a cocktail of curricula as commonly practiced by some private schools in Nigeria. It is not uncommon to see a school’s banner saying: we offer ‘British, Nigerian and American curriculum’. Personally, I’ll be wary of such schools because it means they won’t be able to offer a particular curriculum with the much depth and breadth that are required to fully explore and appreciate what that curriculum has to offer. Rather, schools that offer multiple curricula are more likely to offer their students a curriculum experience that is neither comprehensive nor complete. Perhaps, it might become a case of providing a ‘half-baked’ or ‘half-glass’ educational experience to the children. I have to say that there is nothing wrong in blending ‘multiple’ curricula together but if that is going to be done, it must be done carefully and skillfully by the school’s curriculum leads and not just put together, carelessly, like a brawl in the middle of a traditional market centre. So, if the curriculum offers what I see, as a parent, as the type of education I want for my child, then I will consider going for the school.
  5. Another important consideration I’ll make is the school’s ethos. Is the school’s ambience a positive one? Is it an inclusive environment that every child or adult in the school is considered a worthy member of the school’s community? If the answer to these questions is yes, then I’m all for such a school but if the contrary is the case I would want to reconsider my decision in taking my child to such a school. Perhaps, you’re wondering – how can I know this as a parent? Well, my suggestion is that you visit the school, talk to the staff and if possible engage with one or two parents who have their children in the school but be wary of individuals that are just interested in bad mouthing the school based on their personal grievances that might not necessarily be just to the school’s actual work. In essence, listen to your intuition more and use your personal discretion in coming to conclusion on whatever you hear from people about the school.
  6. A very important factor that I will consider is the issue of security. With the spate of kidnappings that have been happening to children in schools and other public spaces in Nigeria coupled with the, sadly, growing trend of sexual abuse of children in the country, it’s important to make sure that one’s child attend a school in which the child will be educated in a safe environment under the watchful eyes of caring and supportive adults.
  7. Also, I will consider the: cleanliness of the school’s environment; quality and hygiene levels of the water and food – not necessarily expensive – served to the children.

Finally, I would consider all these factors as being worthy of serious contemplation in making my final decision on selecting a ‘good’ school for my child. I want to say that these are suggestions and they are not set in stone. I wish you best of luck with whatever decision you make with regards to your child’s education.

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