As Nelson Mandela observed that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”, every parent wishes that his/her child gets the best education. Best education implies a relevant curriculum delivered by good teachers, in an enriching environment to learners. The aspect of a child being placed in a good school remains a key issue. At every level of education in a learner’s path, it’s important to experience relevant education in a good school.
Finding a good school can seem like a chore. In a liberalized economy like Uganda, where there are no guidelines or a proper school rating system to guide parents in selecting good schools for their children; to get a good school can turn out to be a nightmare. While it’s tempting for many families to fill their lists with names of the top schools in the country, the school that is taken top may not be the one that offers the type of learning environment that is best for your child.
Different factors are put in consideration when selecting a good school, for example, legal status, personal values and preferences, practical considerations, school-specific factors, school communication and connections, financial and practical considerations, academic and extracurricular considerations, feelings and values and class size. A good school is one that has a broad-based and realistic curriculum with subject matter chosen not only for its relevance to higher education and jobs, but also for family and community membership and personal enrichment. It uses teaching practices that simulate the way people live in the outside world. Children are actively involved in productive tasks that combine and extend their skills. In contrast, the effective school looks at learning in terms of test scores in a limited number of academic areas. It does not take into consideration problem-solving abilities, social skills or even complex academic skills. It does not differentiate between dynamic and inert knowledge. Unfortunately, this is the trend most schools are taking in Uganda.
It’s a surprising situation that most parents still base their decisions in selecting schools for their children only on academic performance, especially based on national examinations. Yet education is far much beyond the academic performance. A good school should have a customized school curriculum extracted from the national curriculum framework that puts in consideration both the cognitive and non-cognitive skills for holistic growth and development of the learner. If we use “value addition” as a measure for a good school, one may be surprised to find out that the best school may emerge even to be the least expected. This is dependent on the type of learners you recruit and the progress on their education at the end of a given period.
The first school is a family; therefore, a good school must have a parent’s involvement framework in the teaching and learning process. A good school may not only emphasize basic skills to read, write and do arithmetic, but learn about people, places and nature. Good schools should help learners to attain Self-esteem and confidence, Empathy and respect, Resilience and positive thinking, Collaboration and teamwork, Stress and anger management skills, Cognitive and thinking skills, Creativity and imagination.
Looking at how a school performed in previous national examinations shouldn’t be enough justification that a school is good. Holistic education and child friendly environment should be major parameters when looking for a school for your child. Most schools do a lot of advertisements; home visits, organize concerts and more activities to attract public attention. These shouldn’t hoodwink parents to think that those are the best schools for their children.
As you set out to get a school for your child, it’s important to prior understand your child’s learning needs. Perhaps your child has a special language or education need. Conduct education needs analysis for your child, for example, what environment will foster his/her education needs, foster creativity, does he/she need a challenging environment, help and more other parameters. As parents, we are expected to have spent enough time with our children to understand their learning style, for example, does your child learn best by seeing how things work? Reading about how something works? Learn best by listening? Participating in discussions? Learn through physical activity? Logical or mathematical? Musical or artistic? Like to learn in groups? Like to work alone? The child education needs analysis will guide you to look for the best school fit for your son or daughter.
It’s crucial to consider the location and fees structure of the school. Should it be where you have to pay for a school van to pick your daughter/son; will you drive your child to school; do you want your child to be with friends in a school or will your child walk to school? Don’t be taken by the bandwagon because children of your neighbor go to that school then you also take your children there. If possible, avoid schools that pick children very early before 6.00am to avoid early morning risk factors.
Gather enough information about schools just as you compare proforma invoices before purchasing a product. Along with the schools’ curricula and philosophy, you will want to know about school policies and services, co-curricular programs, for example, sports, clubs among others. Does the school have a strong program of core academic subjects such as English, history, mathematics, science, arts and languages? Does the school have a special focus or theme for the curriculum? Provide enrichment opportunities for all students? Have a program for gifted students? Have extracurricular activities that support what is taught? If your child has special learning needs, does the school have a curriculum and the necessary supports to appropriately accommodate those needs? Does the school have a particular approach to teaching and learning (e.g., group projects, individual performance, frequent testing)? If yes, do you think your child will enjoy and learn from this approach? Does the school do all it can to make sure each child learns? Does it provide opportunities for children to get extra help when they need it? How large are the classes? How was the performance in the previous examinations at national level? Does it have a concrete behavior policy? How is character development and how does the school handle learners who misbehave? Facilities like a well-stocked library, computers, sick bay, monitored internet, counselling and guidance are important in a school.
Therefore, it is better to give it more time and ensure that the best school fit for your child is found. It’s also important to involve your child in decision making when selecting a school to encourage him/her participate in decisions of his/her life under your guidance as a parent. The choice of a school you make for a child, will highly impact on your child now and in the future.
By Tumwesigye Michael
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