• The priority is academic excellence and future-focused curricula
It can be a challenging and sometimes a confusing process for parents when the time comes to consider which high school will be best for their child.
Questions about whether the school will properly prepare students for a successful future or whether the school culture will be the right fit for their child are variables that are often hard to pin down without having objective information on which to base the decision.
Jenny Coetzee, managing director at Crawford International School Kenya, says, “Visiting a school in person is always advisable to allow parents and prospective students the opportunity to view and get a feel of a campus, ask questions and decide whether a particular school is the right fit for them.”
She said they always advise parents to visit a school ready with a list of questions that will help them get a better understanding of what a school offers. Otherwise, such a visit might only help with surface-level insights, which are not sufficient to make such an important, life-changing decision as which school is best positioned to prepare one’s child academically and emotionally for an uncertain future.
Angelica Ouya, education director at the Makini Group of Schools, agrees that parents need to visit schools with a strategic outline about what they need to consider and objectively compare schools on the various key elements required from an excellent institution.
The first factor – and a non-negotiable one at that – is the question of academic excellence and future-focused curricula, she says.
“There can be no compromising on ensuring that the school you choose for your child will provide the absolute best on the academic front,” she says.
“An easy gauge of a school’s ability to deliver is to have a look at their academic results to evaluate the performance of various schools against each other.”
It is also necessary to look out for clear visibility of student-centred practices as an important part of the academic model, intended to build confidence in an environment that values every student.
Furthermore, parents should enquire whether the voices of the students are considered valuable in their learning journey towards academic excellence and student success, and whether they are they included in academic conversations with their parents about their plans for progress.
It is also a non-negotiable to enquire about the curriculum. A school must be able to provide evidence that their curriculum choice is implemented with integrity and is future-focused and geared towards equipping students holistically across a broad range of technologies and global skills. Ask for evidence of what they do, how they do it and outcomes.
With the above basics satisfactorily answered, parents can move on to broader questions, such as the following.
FACILITIES AND AMENITIES
The question that needs to be answered here is how the offering supports the overall learning experience of students. Many schools select a focus for their offering, aligned to their fees, and may not offer all the bells and whistles, but rather ensure that the academic model and subsidiary activities are of an excellent standard instead of offering a wide bouquet.
Check that classrooms are neat, well maintained and that they cater to a wide range of interests and offer flexible seating possibilities. For instance, do classrooms have useful educational technology, is WiFi available, are equipped laboratories accessible, if promised, and are spaces for art, design and innovation utilised for future-focused learning?
On the sports side, do they cater to a variety of sport codes aligned to their model and offering, well-kept fields and facilities for those particular sporting opportunities on offer? Even if a child is not particularly sporty, well-maintained grounds are a good sign to take into consideration.
If a student requires additional support, whether it be emotionally or academically, what support structures does the school have in place, and how are they accessed? What disciplinary processes are in place to address bullying and other issues that may impact on the well-being and success of students? Does the school support the values of respect, diversity and inclusion, and is this evident in the classrooms and across the culture of the school?
What is the ratio of teachers to students in classes? And does the school highlight the academic practices to ensure all students are mentored and supported no matter the class size?
Are all teachers suitably qualified? Are the teachers offered professional learning opportunities to ensure curriculum and pedagogy are foregrounded to support student success?
In addition to regular subjects that can be expected at most schools, which additional subjects or skills development may students access? What is the school’s approach to 21st Century skills, such as communication, collaboration, analytical thinking, creative thinking, digital literacy and problem-solving? How are these skills embedded in the curriculum and the everyday learning experience of students?
“A child’s high school journey is a life-changing one, and choosing a school must be done with the best information possible. The decision should be made on more than just a gut-feeling idea about how prestigious a school may or may not be, or whether a child’s friends will be attending,” Jenny said.
“High school is one of the most important formative experiences on the road to adulthood, and choosing the best fit academically and holistically for one’s child is one of the most important investments a parent will ever make for their child.”