The education goalposts have shifted. In the 21st Century, you need your child to go to a school like Brookhouse Runda, which will ship their art projects to the University of Cambridge in UK for grading.
Perhaps your child should attend a school like Crawford International where they can learn about cryptocurrencies and blockchain at a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) lab.
Your child needs to go to Sabis International where, by Year 1, they will use a tablet to access e-books complete with corresponding animation videos and exercises.
These are three elite schools opening up in Kenya this year, giving parents seeking premium education for their children more options.
“Everyone wants a good education for their children wherever they are but in Kenya, parents are extremely engaged. They ask many the questions, want to know everything and already know what all the competitors are doing. School is a decision that people don’t take lightly,” says Kate Jackson, the academic quality controller and admissions head for Sabis, which will open its doors in Nairobi’s Runda estate in September.
The 132-year-old international network of schools in 20 countries and across five continents has 70,000 students so far.
“We are unknown here but in Egypt our reputation is already known,” says Ms Jackson.
Strong arts programme
For Brookhouse, which opened a new campus in Runda that sits on 15 acres, their brand is no mystery to Kenyan parents. At the school, a skeleton made out of toilet paper in the Art Room is a great hint at their strong arts programme.
They also have to their name the feat of having midwifed the musical career of the Moipei sisters.
That the early learning programme at Brookhouse Runda is well-thought out is evident.
Through an approach called Reggio Emilia, which is somewhat similar to Montessori, children explore their natural surroundings; their questions and comments then direct the course of learning. The programme has an in-house play room with fake grass and a mini slide and every class at the programme has its own bathroom.
The school also runs a crèche where parents can bring children above six months old to get a feel of the school and meet their peers. On Mondays and Fridays, mothers of even younger babies can accompany their children and spend a few hours at the school at no fees.
You know you’ve read a study about how important experiences before three years old are for a person’s eventual intellectual and social abilities.
At the health office, children get first aid for both headaches and “headaches” since they get a chance to share their anxieties privately with the health manager who can advise their teachers on how to better approach teaching a particular pupil.
At Sabis which sits on 20 acres, the kindergarten is a self-contained unit and has its own mini swimming pool, mini sports hall and even a racing track.
“They get to ride their go-karts,” says Ms Jackson. Driving is one more way these schools are serious about preparing children for the real world.
Although it is not dedicated to the kindergarteners only, Sabis also flaunts a 450-seat performing arts centre with a main stage, professional lighting and state-of-the-art acoustics.
“It will be great for younger children to do their shows for their parents and to showcase their early music lessons,” says Ms Jackson.
Crawford which is built on 20 acres is lucky to get a little warmth from the sunshine of its reputation in South Africa through family member recommendations and Kenyan alumni, have interluding classrooms in their kindergarten section.
“You can have the classes opening up to create a shared learning space,” says Jenny Coetzee, the principal who also started Crawford La Lucia and ran it for 13 years before being put in charge of all the six Crawford schools in Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa.
These schools also prepare students for elite colleges.
‘‘When they decide what college they want, we prepare them for the external exam of their choice. They can take the British IGCSE or A level or the American AP exam,” says the Sabis academic quality controller.
Crawford, whose holding company Advtech acquired Makini Schools, has a long standing relationship with highly selective schools including the Ivy League.
“Because our students have done so well, schools often ask for nominations from us,” says Ms Coetzee.
Crawford prepares a child for college in a space whose design has been selected for the World Architecture Festival and the Leaf Awards. Many windows, uneven bricks, open space learning areas as well as a view from administration through the hall, then the pool and onto the serene gardens give the land, formerly home to coffee trees, a modern feel.
At Crawford, not even the Olympics will stop a student from completing course work. For Michelle Weber, an Olympics swimmer, Crawford provided the support she needed.
“While she was away at the various competitions to qualify, we sent the work digitally, she wrote some of her exams and we organised for a tutor to be present as well as to invigilate her,” says Ms Coetzee.
Crawford, like Brookhouse, starts their digital literacy at Year 1.
“We don’t wait until the children get to high school. They already do coding from the junior phases so we integrate technology with our education,” says Ms Coetzee.
Apart from the elaborate e-books, Sabis also develops its own curriculum. The in-house curriculum allows the school, parents and students to track progress at various levels. Every child logs in online and accesses their own history, preferred learning cycle and exercises targeted to what they need to do to remain on track.
“A software does a lot of analysis on what’s happening so we have complete visibility into the learning process,” says Ms Jackson.
Just like most top schools, community service is one of the requirements to graduate from these schools. But the children choose their philanthropy activities.
“It’s not managed by adults in the school. Students choose charities to fundraise for, approach them and propose to the director,” adds Ms Jackson.
“If we build the culture the children do a lot more than we would have,” she adds.
In Kenya, most top-notch schools charge up to Sh2.7 million per year, making them a preserve of the very wealthy. However Ms Coetzee says ‘‘Crawford is going to attract the middle-class Kenyan parent.’’
‘‘Some of the international school fees are quite expensive. Our school fees are definitely a lot more affordable,” she says.
Crawford fees per year ranges from Sh410,000 at kindergarten to Sh950,000 in Year 13, with boarding costing an extra Sh650,000.
Sabis says that it too wants to provide excellent education in Kenya at a more mid-market price range and they are academically nonselective. Tuition fees range from Sh200,460 per term at kindergarten to Sh350,805 per term for the grade 12s.
Brookhouse Runda fees match those of its counterpart in Karen, ranging from Sh80,000 at crèche level and Sh245,000 for kindergarten per trimester all the way up to Sh660,000 for a Year 13 day-scholar.
For most elite schools, the relatively high fees is a small sacrifice.
“You want a child to achieve their dreams and you are going to make sure you give them the support to do so,” says Ms Coetzee.
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