Inside: How to choose the right school for your child. Whether it is kindergarten, primary school or high school, choosing the right school is a careful decision. How to go about researching the schools to find what is best for your child and his future? I share a handy guide that can help you make the right choice.
We all strive to provide the best education that money can buy for our child. There is a difference between wanting to find quality education and actually finding one. Today’s post is about what criteria you should look for when choosing a primary school for your child.
Get Your Priorities Right Before You set out to Choose a School
We all have certain priorities and limitations when it come to finding stuff for ourselves. Finding the best school for your child will mean the same. Curriculum, fees, languages, culture, co-curricular activities, discipline, innovative technologies, progressiveness, etc are just some of the things that we look for.
1. Make a List of what qualities you want in a school
When we started with our eldest, I had made a list of all the things that I wanted in the school. Since we cannot find all the qualities in one school, I also made a list of things that I would drop from the list if circumstances arose. This list making habit has helped me make an informed decision.
I am sharing this guide in a printable PDF format at the end of the post. Scroll down to get it. But first, please read through this guide…
2. Know that your Priorities may change with time.
In the past 9 years, I have school shopped for three children. Sometimes, depending on your child’s personality or your living conditions, your priorities may change.
When I chose a school for my first child, I wanted something closer home; we wanted a Montessori environment and a little inclusive play group type of school as my child was not even 3 years old.
But soon our circumstances changed. We lost his sister just two months after he joined. I was going through an emotional struggle and my child had high needs due to his loss. I needed him at home by my side as much as he needed me, so we chose to homeschool for the next year and a half.
Soon, we learnt that a school may actually do good for him. So we started looking for an all American syllabus that would nurture as well as help him develop his personality and strengths at the same time.
The school that we found was everything and more. His teacher was very good. The environment was calm and supportive of his emotional needs.
The next year however, we ran into trouble in the final term before he graduated to grade 1. The administration had changed. Although I knew that his school was only till grade 3 for boys, I found they weren’t competitive enough as compared to other schools and syllabus. The new admin had changed the books and they were making changes to incorporate new methods that did not resonate with us. They were now a fusion syllabus but very slow. When I shared my concerns with the administration, they told me that my son was smart but the other students weren’t! :0
I was a bit surprised by their answer. So my child was like a sponge when it came to learning; he needed more practice and more advanced learning resources but to say other kids his age didn’t..? Also, my son was the only one from a different ethnic background. They had very little experience teaching multilingual children.
So I looked at other options of schools available and Alhamdulillah found one very soon. This new school had very competitive teachers. They were highly experienced and the administration was very stable. They had decades of experience teaching multicultural students. They knew how to bring the best out of even the most reluctant and shy child. It was then that I understood where our previous school had been lacking. This was the best choice.
Related Reading: How to find the Best Multicultural School for your child
When my second child, joined school, we automatically picked this school for her. She was above average from the beginning so she went straight to KG1. I had already homeschooled her from when she was 14 months old. The teachers recognized her as gifted straight away and took every chance to challenge her further.
My third child was behind in her milestones. She was unable to talk clearly, she walked late, potty trained very late and I had babied her too much. Naturally, we wanted a school closer home. We looked for a school near by that had British curriculum.
We found a smaller school with multicultural children. The timings were also more relaxed as she only had to be at school for 4 hours. Unfortunately, even then, this school was a wrong choice. She hated it. (News Flash: Some syllabus require more hard work than others!!)
We had numerous problems and I decided it was better that I homeschool her a bit more as she was too young. My husband and other members of my family on the other hand believed that she needed to be at school to clear her language skills and boost her confidence. Very reluctantly, I took her to the school where my other two children were. I was afraid because sending her to this school meant she would go by bus and go very early. She would stay at school longer. Also, they made the kids work harder at this school. I explained all my doubts to the Vice principal. She asked me to test her in school for a week before I enrolled her. The difference was shocking!
The girl who hated school and had to be carried to class crying, came back home with joy ready to go on a bus the next day! She was very eager to go by herself. She continued to come home filled with joy and confidence. Day by day, she was better than the day before. I paid the fees on day 3 and we never looked back.
Moral of the story: Finding the right school for your child is important to the overall well being of your child. A good school will boost your child’s confidence. It will help them love education, study by themselves and also grow up to be everything that they can be.A good school will boost your child’s confidence. It will help them love education, study by themselves and also grow up to be everything that they can be.Click To Tweet
How to Choose the Right School for Your Child
I am a very list type person. I have always found it helpful to make a list and think things through on paper. So now… for this reason, I hope this is helpful. I am sharing the guide that I used for my children. Here is what all you should consider:
- What kind of school do you want? First decide the the kind of school you want-Public or Private. Then: What kind of syllabus do you want? There are many different types of schools here in Saudi Arabia as are the syllabus. What are YOU looking for?
- What are your priorities? The essential list. What are some things that are very important to you? Distance from home, languages, culture, fees, transportation, environment… etc.
- What are least important? What can you drop from the list. Sometimes, when weighed against each other, some things don’t look that significant. Can you name a few things you are willing to ignore in the over all result?
- Look for reviews… talk to people and their children. Always ask your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, whoever you can find, for school reviews. I have asked random strangers while waiting at the doctor’s clinic. Ask what school their child goes to; how do they like it. The reason why we should do this is because school’s reputation, academic record, administration, teacher behavior, discipline, modern technologies and whether they are on par with changing times is very important too. Some of these things we can ONLY learn by talking to people who have been there. You can even ask for reviews in Facebook or Whatsapp groups. I have heard experiences that were totally contrary to what I had expected of the school.
- Visit the school personally. Always remember that people advice based on their experience and preference so it is always good to go and see for yourself. In Saudi Arabia, kindergarten to lower primary for both boys and girls is in the girls’ section. So mothers play a very important role in choosing the schools. Go personally.
- Interview the staff and the students. Ask the right questions. When you visit the school, make sure you have a list of questions ready. Think before hand what your doubts are. Remember, your decision will mean your child’s best education, so don’t be shy in asking anything.
- Talk to the teacher. Talk to your child’s prospective teachers too. The right teacher will make your child love or hate school and his studies. I have seen this with personal experience in the case of my children. Don’t be shy in preferring a teacher over another. We all have different personalities. It is okay to change to someone else, if a teacher’s personality doesn’t match with your child’s. Nobody is at fault for this. It is just the way we are.
- Consider distance from school and other less important details like mode of paying fees too. If you are an hours drive from the school and it takes your child 2 hours in commuting, is that school really a good choice? If they only accept cash and your company does not accept their receipts.. will that work?
I know how overwhelmingly hard it is to find the right school. I made numerous checklists for my children when I was school shopping for them. Of course, my checklists were all handwritten! In the beginning, it was just a folder with brochures and scribbled notes that I had collected. I would carry them around in my bag, go school to school and then later my husband and I would discuss and rank the schools in our lists. Over time it became a big folder. It was the best idea ever because the next time I went school shopping for the next child, I had all my notes in one place! When we compared the lists and tallied them up, the decision was crystal clear for us.
I have typed up my checklists to create a guide. I am offering it in PDF format for you to download. It has 16 pages in black and white with details on how to fill it up and plenty of space for note taking.
Please note: There is no information about schools in Jeddah in it. This guide makes it super easy for you to remember what qualities to consider and then rank them up based on importance. You rate the schools based on the attributes and then compare results.