If you thought that choosing your child’s name, bedroom colour scheme and first-birthday outfit was stressful, wait until it comes to their education. Deciding on a school in which to enrol your child is probably one of the most important decisions you’ll initiate as a parent. Making the right call could lead them on a path of lifelong learning, a good college education, and then a successful and enjoyable career. But what if you choose wrong? Talk about pressure!
As you start exploring, you’ll soon realise that even here on the tiny island of Singapore, you have dozens of options, and they’re all a little bit different. Looking through websites
and brochures may seem overwhelming and exhausting at first, however, you’ll probably discover several schools that meet your requirements fairly well.
After this, it’s time to fine-tune your choices by making some visits. As you set foot on the campuses that pique your interest, you’ll start to better understand how they work for you and your child. Reaching a decision will become easier when you start asking yourself the right questions about each school you see and comparing the responses.
So, once there what should you look for? What questions should you be asking the school and why? Sarah Farris, Dean of Student Life, Singapore American School (sas.edu.sg), shares some important factors that should influence your decision.
Keeping students engaged
Children thrive in their learning when they’re not confined to a single spot all day. Young learners require movement, stimulation, and variety. They often prefer shifting between quiet spaces and active play areas.
ASK How does your school’s educational philosophy match with the physical settings?
The way a school delivers its curriculum is as significant as the curriculum itself. Not all International Baccalaureate (IB) or Advanced Placement (AP) schools are alike.
ASK How long do teachers typically stay at the school and why do they leave?
Home school partnership
Every school differs when it comes to parental involvement. Some encourage active participation with frequent conferences, volunteering, and open communication. Others limit parental visits and conduct a more formal communication strategy. A strong home-school connection is important for student growth.
ASK What is the role of parents and the family in the programme?
Look for a healthy mix of nationalities in attendance at the school and ensure that it can effectively manage the needs of a diverse student body.
ASK What kind of opportunities do students have to explain and celebrate their cultures, traditions, beliefs, and holidays at this school?
Ask to see a school’s actual scores and results on learning measures. For every promise a school makes, they should be able to offer you concrete reasons to believe it.
ASK What does your optimal student look like, and do you believe that all students can learn at high levels? What do you do if students appear to be struggling to succeed academically, emotionally, or socially?
Graduation and university placement
Find out about the number of students who have graduated from the campus your child will attend and where these graduates have gone for further education. Especially be aware of schools that misrepresent their university placement statistics.
ASK What unique advantage does your school offer graduates? What are universities saying about your school and the students who graduate there?
Location and accessibility
Instead of asking how central the school is, ask how long it takes to get to their location in traffic. Being close to town doesn’t always mean quick access to schools, and this could impact on your child’s learning.
ASK How long does it really take to get to school during peak hours? How could this affect their education and enjoyment of school?
“As you set foot on campus, you’ll start to better understand how they work for you and your child”
A sense of belonging
When schools, parents, kids, and communities are all on the same page, children tend to do better at school, feel a sense of belonging, have higher self-confidence, and a more positive view of education.
ASK Is there a feeling of inclusivity for all, and how does your school encourage this?
Social emotional learning (SEL)
In order to be successful in and out of the classroom, students need to learn a set of social and emotional competencies (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making).
ASK What is your approach to SEL? How do teachers develop a sense of community both in and out of school? Does your school have counsellors, psychologists, and deans of student life to support both student and parent wellbeing?
By posing these questions and carefully assessing the responses, you can make an informed decision that sets your child on the right educational path. Good luck!