Dear Parents,

You are, and will always be your child’s most important teacher. Which is why choosing other people to share this role with you is usually a difficult task. As a parent you would want a school that reflects your values and meets your academic standards and needs. Other than the academic direction you set your child in, by choosing a school you are also inadvertently choosing who your child’s best friends would be, which sport or activity your child gets interested in and also who you would have as fellow parents of the same school. A school would also be where your child spends most of their active and productive time of their days. As this is one of the most important decisions you could make with respect to your child’s life, there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration before making that final choice. Below are a few suggestions for you to look into that could help in your decision making process.

When to Start? The optimal age to enroll your child in an educational environment is when they are around two years old. This may seem quite early for you, but there is evidence indicating that this is the golden window period for your child because this is when rapid brain development occurs. It has been seen that early education can promote a lifelong love of learning. It is during these tender years, that children are like sponges and are eager to learn. Which is why it is important to direct, shape and encourage their learning in a nurturing environment.

Educational Board. India has several boards of education to provide you with a wide range of options. There’s the State Board of Education, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), The International Baccalaureate (IB) and International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) Board.

If you have jobs that involve a lot of transfers to different cities within India, it would mean that your child would have to frequently change schools. In this case the ICSE or CBSE board would be the most ideal as they have a centralised system, making the change of schools a smooth transition for your child. If there is a possibility for you to migrate to another country, or are planning to send your child to study abroad in the future, you can opt for IGCSE or IB. These are boards that are recognised by most Universities across the world. This is not to say that students from other boards can’t study abroad if they want to. They would just need to write the SATS (Standard Assessment Tests) and get good scores to get into a University abroad.

Another thing to keep in mind is that it is not just the Board of Education, but how their syllabus is taught is important as well. The manner and methods of teaching in a school is an important aspect to look into.

Who is your Child? You know your child’s personality, strengths and weaknesses better than anyone. You can see what their interests are and what they are passionate about. Is your child someone best suited in a large classroom or a small one? Some kids learn better in large groups, while some need individual attention to learn. Does your child have any special needs? Does your child have an avid interest in any particular subject or sport? Does your child have a particular learning style? Some children learn best by doing, whereas others do best through language and reading. There are several different patterns of learning, usually crystallised when your child is 6-7 years old. For example, consider the following questions; Is your child adventurous? Or highly imaginative and inventive? Or someone who thinks like a poet? Once you identify the way your child learns, you can find an environment that would work best for your child.

Create a list of requirements that you think are most important for a school to have for your child. This could include teaching styles and methods, values and even facilities and resources you would want in a school. Out of this list that you create, decide upon what your top five requirements are, and prioritize those when you consider schools. If your child is passionate about dancing, does the school encourage that? If your child is interested in mathematics and is keen to learn more than is taught, what would the school do? As you go through your selection process you could even add or revise your list of requirements and priorities.

If your child is at an age where they can give their opinions as well, try and involve them in the process. Get them to share their thoughts about the schools you’re considering.

Do your Homework. Once you’ve got a list of requirements, start doing your research. Talk to other parents and even kids from different schools, search the internet, read newspapers and gather information about possible schools for your child. Try to learn and understand the different schools’ curricula, philosophies, policies, and services, so you can make a better informed decision.

While this happens, beware that you don’t get afflicted with “Paralysis by Analysis”, where you end up overthinking the decision and are bombarded with so many opinions, suggestions and information that it becomes almost impossible to make a decision. While it is crucial to read up about a school and ask others’ opinion, keep in mind that everyone has a different perspective. A way to reach a final decision is to keep in mind all the information you’ve collected, while at the same time forming your own opinions based on your direct observations or interactions with the schools.

Do keep in mind that your school of choice does not have to be a permanent one. There are times when after enrolling your child in a particular school, either you, your child or both of you feel that it wasn’t the right choice. Sometimes priorities change, sometimes the expectations don’t live up to the reality and there are times when it just doesn’t feel like a right fit. In these cases, time or even a chat with the school can fix whatever issues you felt were present. But if that doesn’t work, it’s important to be flexible and consider a  change. This is when you could reevaluate your choices and try and opt for another school that you think would be  better suited for your child’s needs.

Location, Location, Location. Not just a mantra for real estate agents, but should be one for prospective parents as well. The location of a school will determine how long your child spends travelling in a school bus. If you’re in a city like Bangalore, where the roads do a wonderful imitation of the craters on Mars, you’d want your child to spend as little time as possible in their roller coaster ride to school. Not to mention the perpetual state of traffic jams, which render rollerskates and hoverboards as the quickest means of transport to get anywhere.

Other than that you also need to consider whether you can travel to this school in case of an emergency. And also if it is feasible for you to attend meetings, functions and programs that may occur throughout the academic year in the school.

Go with your Gut. As clichéd as this may sound, you should listen to your instincts. Each school that you consider will have its own set of pros and cons. As no school is perfect, you’ll probably find schools that don’t meet all your pre-set requirements. But that’s okay, because there are times the Big Picture matters more that the small details. So, finally what you have to do is pick a school based on what you think would be the best fit for your child.