Letters

Choosing best private school for your child

school

A high school teacher helps students during a lesson. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Summary

  • All parents want the best for their children, and in Kenya, more and more parents are sending their children to private schools.
  • Choosing the right school for one’s child is a critical decision, and parents need to look beyond the marketing and sloganeering.
  • These days parents are spoiled for choice but they must carefully consider several issues before picking a school to best serve the needs of the child.

Choosing a private school is a complex process and the wide range of available options does not make it any easier. Choosing the right school for one’s child is a critical decision, and parents need to look beyond the marketing and sloganeering to identify a school that will help their child meet their aspirations, education experts say.

All parents want the best for their children, and in Kenya, more and more parents are sending their children to private schools. However, remember that not all private schools are the same or provide an equal offering in terms of academic excellence.

Parents should still do their homework to ensure that their investment pays off in terms of quality and that it will be the right fit for their child’s unique needs.

These days parents are spoiled for choice but they must carefully consider several issues before picking a school to best serve the needs of the child and ensure they receive a world-class education. The following considerations should factor into parents’ decision-making:

History and reputation: While the private school sector is growing, the ability of new schools to live up to their promises must be scrutinised to ensure that they are able to deliver well on school-leaving examinations.

Where a school is part of an established network, for instance, the ADvTECH Group — Africa’s largest private education provider — parents can look to the track record of other schools in the group. This is not possible with standalone new schools. Established schools are easier to assess as their track records should speak for themselves.

Teachers: A strong cohort of tutors will combine new teachers with their energy and innovative ideas and recent training with a group of seasoned teachers with an established track record.

A school that employs only new teachers may be more focused on costs than on achieving the outcomes you want for your child. Speak to current and previous parents as well as students to ensure that teachers are knowledgeable and have demonstrated to have the best interests of students at heart.

Leadership: Schools succeed, or fail based on their leadership teams. If parents cannot access school leaders when considering a school or if they are not able to answer questions on matters such as school culture, then it is most unlikely they will be accessible and engaging when the child is already enrolled.

If the leadership is not available to parents as prospective fee payers, they are also not likely to be accessible later. If parents try to understand what the school leadership believes about growth, discipline and community, they will quickly be able to identify synergy with their family values.

Curriculum and results: Different schools offer different curricula. Identify the academic path that is in line with the student’s future aspirations.

Regardless of the curriculum offered, a non-negotiable would be the school’s focus on 21st-century skills and global competencies. Preparing students for the future that is unfolding, vis-a-vis the focus schools, had in the past, is paramount.

Some schools offer international qualifications such as Crawford, which offers Cambridge International Assessments while maintaining a strong focus on what skills children will need to be 21st-century international global citizens through the parallel curriculum offered at the school.

Others offer the 8-4-4 system. Makini, for instance, offers a choice between the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education and Cambridge. Regardless of the curriculum, schools must demonstrate that their approach is learner-centred, focuses on holistic education, and is able to prepare children for the future.

Co-curricular options and facilities: A quick tour of the school will show where they spend their money. What the school chooses to show parents first, or most show what they value. The way in which the school has thought through the needs of parents in matters such as parking, logistics, aftercare arrangements and communication channels indicate how family-centred the school is.

Additionally, no educational journey is complete when it doesn’t include a holistic focus on co-curricular development and stimulation, so find out what extra-curricular activities are made provision for, and whether the facilities are suitable.

Have a look, for instance, at a school’s computer rooms, science labs, creative and studio spaces, laboratories, and sports facilities including swimming pools. Also, consider the recreation spaces available to students.

Jenny Coetzee, Managing Director at Crawford International School Kenya and Angelica Ouya, Education Director at the Makini Group of School