Child psychologists describe the first five years of life as the ‘formative years’. These are the years where you start to build the foundation of your cognitive personality, determining the path of your lifelong intellectual development.
Consequently, it is crucial to pick the right school for your child. While parents might instinctively start searching for prestigious private schools with the best ratings/reviews, or with the highest test scores, it is important to note that every child has different needs and that it is hard to construct a definitive top-ten list when it comes to pre-school education. Make sure that you spend enough time understanding your child’s personality, weaknesses and strengths, as well as gain sufficient information about the potential schools, its teachers, and its curriculum. Here’s a quick checklist of things to look out for when selecting a school for your child:
Understand your child
While this step appears to be a bare minimum in the school-selection process, it cannot be overstated. Every child has a different set of skills and traits, and it is important to have sufficient interaction with them to form a thorough understanding of their key personality traits. Some traits to look out for include social skills, emotional intelligence, obedience, curiosity, and independence. Through this, you may choose to hone specific gifts that your child may be displaying, or strengthen some of their weaknesses to develop them more holistically.
Identify a suitable curriculum
There are multiple educational philosophies available that target different aspects of a child’s cognitive development. Relationship-based education, experiential learning, project-based learning and spontaneous learning are some examples of the numerous approaches to education. Here are some of the more popular learning philosophies:
This is spontaneous learning dependent on the educational environment. With teachers as facilitators, particularly when a child explores new tasks, this educational philosophy rewards individualism and recognises the uniqueness of each child.
Focusing on the child’s interaction with his or her environment, educators and fellow students, the child is in control of his or her own educational journey. Through this system, the child’s path of discovery and exploration is based on his or her own interests.
Generally believed to develop the creative and spiritual aspects of a child, the Waldorf Steiner educational philosophy engages the child’s senses through physical activities and close relationships with the educators. Rhythmic daily routines are common in Waldorf Steiner education systems.
The HighScope approach to education has a stronger emphasis on intellectual development with a structured curriculum designed to challenge the child’s mind through hands-on experiences and reviews of the day’s activities.
International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP)
Featuring transdisciplinary themes to encourage confidence and identity, the IB PYP is designed to instil 10 core attributes in students: curiousity, critical thought, expressive communication, courage, strong knowledge, principled, morality, compassion, open-mindedness, all-roundedness, and reflectiveness.
There are a lot more learning philosophies out there, and most schools would offer a combination of these in their curriculum. Identify the philosophies that you feel would be most beneficial to your child’s development and make a list of schools that have incorporated them into their curriculum.
Do deep research
Make sure that you’ve done sufficient research on the school of your choice. This would include speaking to key personnel, visiting the school site, and gathering data and statistics.
While school test scores and teacher-student ratios are useful in determining your school of choice, they should not be the be-all and end-all of your decision-making process. Information about the facilities available at the school and the quality of the educators are also an important part of the decision-making process – visit the school to find out about the learning and play facilities available at the school and safety regulations put in place.
As for the teachers, a high teacher-student ratio will mean nothing if the teacher is untrained or incompetent. Speak to the teachers and the administrative staff at the school to find out about the quality, development, training and tracking of the teachers.
Know how and when to enrol
The final step to selecting your ideal school for your child is, of course, school enrolment. Find out the deadlines for applications, the necessary documentation (proof of your child’s identity and age, your residence, vaccinations, records of vision and dental check-ups), lottery sign-up procedures and government subsidies (if applicable).
If you are a working couple and the school is located at a considerable distance from your home, you may wish to sign up for additional activities, transport, or after-school care. Find out if the school of your choice offers such services or activities, and make sure that you apply for them.
Whether it’s a prestigious private institution or a public government-funded school, your extensive research will be an important factor in determining your child’s developmental years. Their first foray into education will set the path of their future. As a parent, this is a major decision you will have to make for your child – their future is in your hands.