With so many options and teaching styles available nowadays, how can a parent know what is the best international school for their children? Trends come and go but the need to ensure the best education for your child never changes. Taking into account that the learning environment is only one part of a larger spectrum, a parent also has to consider the pedagogic support of the teacher, the management of the school and how your child will be encouraged to grow. Depending on the desires of the parents, choosing a school can be a minefield. A parent may well want a bilingual school, one focused on the arts or sports or something altogether more modern. How do you know how best to navigate this often confusing and frustrating area? Here are some pieces of advice that may help you to decide.
Visit the school with your child in mind
It sounds like common sense but you would be surprised how many parents skip over visiting the school, preferring instead to focus on the recommendations of others. If you decide to visit, always keep your child in mind. For example, will your child enjoy the activities that the school plans? If your child is shy and the school puts an emphasis on drama, it might be a little uncomfortable for them. The same can also be said if the school has many sporting activities but your child isn’t keen on participating. What seems like a good idea on paper may present problems in the future.
The most important question to bear in mind is do the children there seem happy? Of course, let’s take into account that it is a school and children are there to learn, so it is normal there are some clashes, but overall, are the children healthy and content? This will tell you a lot about how your child will settle in there. It is also worth asking how the school copes with and manages issues if and when they occur. Are there counselors on hand and how does the disciplinary system work? These can sometimes be a sticking point so make sure you are in agreement before enrolling your child.
Go over the curriculum with a fine tooth-comb
You do not have to be a teacher to understand a curriculum and how it will impact your child. So it is well worth comparing curriculums between schools and doing some research on what the national or international standards are in your country. Some questions to ask are; what type of curriculum does the school follow, how do examinations work and are they standardized, and what type of pedagogy does the school utilize? It might also be worth asking how students perform generally in exams and how many go on to university. Most importantly, consider how the curriculum meets your child’s own needs and what provisions the school provides to cater for any specific learning demands. Make sure to ask about extra-curricular activities, such as language classes, sports, community events as this could well tip the balance in favor of one school over another.
The finer points of the school and teachers
It is incredibly important to know about the background of the school and the teachers there. What is the typical certification of the teachers and do some specialize in certain areas? Does the school have a good reputation? How does it perform compared to others? Does the school invest in professional development for teachers and in it’s own facilities? This is another reason why visiting the school is paramount, as you can see first hand how modern and well-maintained the facilities are. You can also see the relationship between teachers and students, and how the teachers respond to learning material and classes. Are they friendly and enthusiastic, or bored and stressed?
Class size is another important point. Too many children in a classroom could be catastrophic for your child’s learning capabilities. Ask yourself how the teacher divides their attention and how do they manage their classroom?
In our modern and sometimes unstable world, safety should be a priority. So do not be afraid to ask the school what safety precautions they have in place and if all staff are trained in first aid, fire safety and breaches of security.
Finally, do not forget your own role in the school. An involved parent can help their child to advance exponentially and the sense of community between a school and a family can be priceless. Do not be afraid to ask questions and do not be afraid to exercise caution. The school environment will frame your child’s life for the forseeable future, so the decision has to be right.