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HOW TO IDENTIFY THE GOOD SCHOOL FOR YOUR CHILD

The new academic year has just commenced and this is usually characterized with changing of schools, as many of the children are moving from nursery school to primary and from primary to secondary. To this end, parents and guardians are burdened with the responsibility of choice of a good school for their children and this can be a difficult task.

It is therefore necessary that as parent, one has a sound and sufficient knowledge of what makes a good school that will in turn assist you in achieving the academic goals you have laid out for your children. Identifying and choosing a school for your child is perhaps the most important decision you will have to make between the time your child is six and 12; whether your child is already in school, changing school or entering for this first time. You will want to know just how well that school is going to deliver its product: solid education.

First and foremost, a good school is a place where children learn enough worthwhile things to make a strong start in life, where a foundation is laid that supports later learning, and where children develop the desire to learn more. So, how do you judge the quality and performance of a school? Of course you might consult with friends, neighbours and other parents. But only you can decide what is best for your child. To do this properly, you will have to check out the school for yourself.

Specifically, a good school mirrors the realities of life in an ordered, adult society; it is rational and safe, practice ground for the things people do in the outside world. The school creates a sense of community that permits personal expression within a framework of social responsibility. It focuses on learning that grows through use, with or without more schooling; such as communication skills, decision making, craftsmanship, and group interaction. It makes children think of themselves as people who find strength, nourishment, and joy in learning.

Importantly, a good school should have 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. The curriculum of a good school must be all encompassing, that is, the school work is tailored to fit the needs of all; the gifted child, the child with learning difficulties and the normal or average child. Assignments should not just be fill in the blank but real writing; letters, stories, reports, essays. Reading about science is reading, not science. Science is doing; that is science is discovering. A good school encourages its pupils to read library books and literature, not just their textbooks, thereby imbibing reading culture in them.

The first step to identifying a good school is to visit the school with the aim of scrutinizing the school buildings, classrooms and environment. If the school authority refuses, something is wrong. No school with any faith in its program is going to deny you an opportunity to observe it in operation. Even a good public school would welcome your visit. Any quality private school will likewise be anxious to have you view its programmes.

In the first place, it is important that you know what to look for when you go on this visit to any school you are interested in. you should have a talk with the school head or principal, requesting for the description of the school’s programme or prospectus. In your discussion with the Head of the school, be attentive and ask leading questions that would give you clearer picture of the performance and operation of the school.

Also, while on visit to the school, it is advisable that you enter at least a classroom and watch the movement of the children. The movement of children in the classroom should be purposeful and well controlled. Are the children on task? That is, are they reading, writing, working on a project, or doing some other appropriate activities? Are the children able to do the assignments given to them? Do the children seem bored or enthusiastic? Enthusiasm is contagious. Kids get it from their teachers.

Equally take a good look at the classroom. Is it bright, cheerful and interesting to look at? Are bulletin boards available and vibrant? Are science activities and reading materials available? A classroom without a wide assortment of books on hand is sterile. How large is the class?

Some schools both public and private try to make ends meet by squeezing more children into each class. No matter how bright or well-behaved the children are, they need individual attention, and it is sometimes difficult to get that good attention in a class with more than 30 pupils. As a parent, it is ideal you know the teacher/pupil average or ratio of the school.

The principal needs to be available to parents, teachers and students. He or she should be highly visible during the school hours and days; in classrooms, cafeteria during lunch time, in the corridors-talking with students and offering correction and encouragement as needed. A principal locked away in his office is out of touch with his school.

The location and vicinity of the school is very important in deciding which school to choose. This is of paramount important as it goes a long way in determining the success of the learning process in the school. A good assessment of the school ground is necessary to determine whether the area appears safe, the buildings are well maintained and graffiti or defacement minimized. However, no school wall or other surfaces can be free from graffiti, but it can be contained by prompt and regular removal.

There should be good and sizable playgrounds in the school, though this has become almost non existence in most schools today, most especially the private schools. Children need plenty of space to play games. Thus, there should be space for sports, equipment such as swings, bars and ball courts. And there should be enough play equipment for the school population.

All other things being equal, your child’s success in school for at least a year is going to depend majorly on one person: the teacher. In fact, the teacher has to be effective and must care enough to do the job with imagination and commitment. Besides, a disinterested and burn-out teacher just putting in time is not likely to give the kind of energy and enthusiasm necessary to ensure learning.

Similarly, organization is crucial, as learning does not occur in an uproar or in gaping hunks of idle time. The materials have to be right at hand, and the teacher should move from one lesson to another in smooth transition. Laughter and learning travel together. The joy of learning should be evident in a classroom, and the teacher is the fountain of that joy.

Any good school should have a good and cordial parents/teachers relationship. There has to be a vibrant Parents/Teachers Association in the school, with regular meeting of parents and school authorities. Parents should be allowed to make positive input in the school.

In addition, a very good school should have a policy that emphasizes routine homework assignments. These may be practice materials designed to reinforce basic skills. Children in the primary school should receive at least half an hour of homework nightly. Those in the secondary should spend at least an hour on homework. The homework should be duly evaluated by the teacher and necessary corrections are given to the children. Reading should be part of this assignment. As parents, encourage your child, to read for enjoyment so that you can help build in your child, a habit that can last a life time.

Meanwhile, you should check the bathrooms and toilets. Many schools exhibit carefree attitude about sanitation. The toilets and bathrooms should be clean, properly ventilated, safe to use, and equipped with soap and hand towels. Apart from the sense of cleanliness itself, poor hygienic facilities mean that children will be exposed to more illnesses and miss more school days.

It is also important that you watch the kids at recess and listen to their chatter. A sensitive observer can sense their attitudes. Notice if the children, most especially those in nursery and primary are properly and superbly supervised with at least one adult on duty. Misbehaving children should be promptly corrected so as to prevent unruly behavior such as bully. In a good school, most students will be involved in some sort of physical activity during recess. Too many children hanging around, moping about, or disturbing others indicates problems.

Nevertheless, any school can become a good school when its teachers have made the connections to life in the outside world. It operates as an organic entity. A good school is like a healthy tree. As it grows, it sinks its roots deep into its native soil: it adapts to the surrounding climate and vegetation; its branches thicken for support and spread for maximum exposure to the sun: it makes its own food; it heals its own wounds; and, in its season, it puts forth fresh leaves, blossoms, and fruit.

Equally important is the value system of the school. The values a school upholds is very much of relevance, as values are the adhesive that hold our society together and ultimately make life meaningful. As parents, you want the values you have instilled at home to be reinforced at school. These values ought not to conflict with that of the school.

Your final judgment of your child’s school is based on all of these criteria along with your own special needs. Most schools would be better in some areas than others, of course you should decide to work on improving those weaker areas by bringing your concerns to the teachers, the principal, or if necessary, the Local Education Authority (LEA). A good school will welcome input and make every effort to correct weaknesses.

Summarily, the criteria of a good school amongst others in brief are; committed teachers, easy access to the principal, children are on task doing meaningful work, high expectations for all students, routine daily homework assignments, values are fostered, clean rooms, good play areas, clean bathrooms and toilets that are safe and properly stocked and it empowers its students and strengthen its teachers.

By taking into consideration these criteria, taking the needed steps and doing some homework, you can certainly send your children back to school with confidence that they will find strength, nourishment, and joy in learning, thereby bringing your desired academic goal for your child into fruition.

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