Quest for Good Schools

Colonel Shiv Choudhary
It is admission time for children and many parents are anxious about choosing good schools for their loved ones. In fact after being blessed with kids, the next most important decision parents need to make is to choose a school where they can trust their kids to be on the right path of education and lifelong learning. Searching for the right school can be an extremely daunting task as it requires committed preparation, careful research, hawks eye and finally a confident choice. In this quest, parents often encounter difficulties in discerning which school best fits the needs of their family and children. And the pressure starts!
Finding the right private school is about understanding what and where it meets all your aspirations and plans. The individual strengths and challenges of your child, your philosophy of education, your family’s circumstances are some essential core characteristics that should be considered. However, luring ads about private schools in newspapers, leaflets, TVs, hoardings, huge architectural structure, and mushrooming of branded and big names schools all over make the exercise of selecting the appropriate school quite difficult. Parents and little ones have to go through the rigmarole of filling up application forms, attending interviews and undergo stress till admission is got in the desired school. The selected school must meet family as well as school needs. Luckily, there are good books and expert advice available today to make an informed decision.
Since educational eco-system involves and affects everyone, the first step in pursuit of this mission is an idea of what one wants as the core of learning models? The questions confronting us today is….What constitutes a good school and what is its purpose in the existing era of changes? What should schools teach? How and how well?
Today the need is for an education system that can refashion itself as fast as the turnover of digital technology. Schools today need to focus on creative thinking, exploration of skills, debates and discussions, other communication skills, ethics and positive behavior alongwith other extraordinary things which are futuristic and flexible. Whatever may be the expectations of parents and claim of the schools, these fundamental characteristics are inescapable in the quest for a good school.
Viable standards based on futuristic curriculum are the hall mark of a good school. Ideal schools adopt best practices and continuously evaluate the effectiveness of decisions made regarding curriculum, instructions, assessment, procedures, standardized testing and software advances in technology. Effective educational programs must be visible in a school for initial learning experience and eventual foundation. Best of the students may actually struggle if the choice of curriculum is not considered wisely. Some special children may require specific learning resources to bring them at par. Parents with a transferrable job within India need to understand the implications of CBSE, ICSE,IGSCE and other boards.
The mission and vision of good schools must be on imparting the right learning. Educated and trained professionals who are passionate about teaching-learning; who are focused and patient, make the best teachers.This is particularly true when dealing with teenagers who are perpetually in a state of flux. Teachers are role models as they influence and shape students’ attitude and personality. It is incumbent the teachers possess admirable qualities which cultivate the students’ talents and abilities. Good teachers of the schools must help students in attaining personal goals.
Good private schools require teacher certifications and continual training to develop high-quality instructors and best practices. Such schools offer experience to students in relevant coursework, and provide authentic assessments. Academic profile must include school’s philosophy of education program, curriculum alignment, instructional and assessment strategies of the faculty, readiness of students and integration of technology.
A good school must be willing to ‘change its mind’ in the face of evolving trends, information, challenges, opportunities, technology, curriculum, compliances and aspirations. It disrupts culture of intolerance based on race, income, faith, sex, illiteracy, and apathy toward the environment. Only such institutions produce students who can empathize, criticize, protect, inspire, design and understand almost anything as a normal habit. School should be branded for understanding between fluidity of challenges and opportunities.
Academic curriculum is crucial but is not the only criteria to judge a school. Extracurricular activities (ECAs) are vital for students all round development and should encompass activities like NCC, NSS, scouts and guides, amateur radio, yoga and meditation, sports, toastmasters, essay writing, sports, music training, dance and attention to develop reading and writing skills.
Strong, dynamic and dedicated leadership is the hallmark of the best schools. They are led by women and men who have a clear vision and experience to their plans. The head of school must be a capable administrator who executes and leads by example. She/he expects the best from everybody in the school community. School leadership must be passionate to invest in administration and inject enthusiasm and school spirit in one and all. This propels the entire student body to become a community of learners.
The Head of the school must be a good funds raiser too as good education costs money. This should not be at the cost of overtly burdening parents. Management of a good school must be aptly seen investing funds for the education of students, training of teachers and growth of school, and less on accumulating funds. Existing and indicative financial implications must always be prominently displayed. Parents must plan financial management.
A good school aims at improving community and quick adaptability to social changes. It must use every available resource and opportunity for bettering education and accept its failures and limitations. Its teachers must understand the relationship between curiosity, inquiry, differences and change management. Teachers’ development must be criteria and teachers so developed must not make false promises and mislead parents. Parents and School Management are important partners in a common mission. The best private schools aim at building strong partnership with parents. They welcome them and the prospective students in show casing campuses. If necessary, plan a visit and spend time in the classrooms with the current students. All communication must remain open and constant and flow through websites, emails, newsletters, PTMs/ PTAs and phone calls.
School culture and organizational development are other vital factors for diversity and uniqueness. Great schools execute strategies to foster a vibrant and cohesive culture amongst all stake holders. It calls for parent’s involvement for its continual improvement. It provides clarity on reachable goals and measurable progress. Great schools appreciate and provide conceivable ideas for mutual cohesiveness. Schools that are committed to providing experiences that develops character emphasize on teamwork, positive competition and healthy life long habits. Students should learn what it means to work hard, improve both on and off the field conduct and cultural relationship.
All parents are always anxious of the safety and security of their little ones. Lately schools have often been the targets of both inside and outside violence and threats.The best schools should live with the reputation of being free from any fear, threat, bullying, discrimination and harassment. There should be no hold back on spending for safety, security, reliable transport, ambulance services, organized drills, crisis management and local fire control system.
Most of the schools are understandably owned by businessmen and political class. All of them may or may not be truly liberal and experienced enough towards accepting potentially progressive proposals from the Principals or HODs. The attitude and ignorance of trustees must not hinder progressive proposed changes. These people should in fact work in tandem for growth and institutional integrity. A positive or negative support will affect school reputation, parent’s choice, education, efficiency and attrition rate.
School leadership normally maintains a good teacher-child ratio especially for junior classes. However, timely application for admission against limited class sizes and possibly a wait list is essential. Parents must appreciate their duty to know where the child stands academically. They should support the schools to accommodate them.
Schools are inherently responsible to recognize, shape and make effective future leaders. These factors must help students to grow in confidence, independence, and responsibility. All children can learn. A good school needs to find genuine ways to provide real education which is futuristic, creative, innovativeand encouraging to the talented students. The best school must meet the best requirements of the families. An educational institution is not for becoming financially rich, it is there for education, providing vision, direction and growth to the future generation. It is there to meet the surging expectation of parents.
Admission time is almost on and it is important all parents evaluate their chosen options carefully and not get swayed by the artificially created hype, swanky cars parked outside, big names, tall school buildings, high percentage of scores of classes below standard 9th and false propaganda. Parents must remember that schools are for students, and not vice versa.

(The views expressed by the authors are their personal)