Top tips on choosing the best school for your child

Choosing the ideal school for your child can be one of the most important and daunting decisions that a parent will make. Navigating schools in Singapore is especially challenging as the cost of international schools can be considerable and fewer ‘expat packages’ are available to incoming families.

When accompanied by a relocation agent or arranging school visits yourself, the school tour can often be confusing. What should you be asking? What is the difference between the curriculums? What does a quality school actually look like?

When evaluating a school, here are 4 Top Tips that parents should consider:

1. Class size and teacher ratio

The number of students in a class and the teacher-to-student ratio offers a good indication of what the everyday learning environment is like for your child. Ideally in Preschool parents should aim for a 1:8 teacher-to-student ratio or less and by Primary school a 1:11 ratio is considered positive.

Take a moment to check the ratio is not described as ‘adults’. An ‘adult’ ratio usually means a non- professional whereas if the school promotes ‘teachers’ you can be sure you only have fully qualified educators in the classroom.

2. Quality of teachers

It is the teachers that will have the biggest influence on your child in school. Studies have shown that excellent teachers can accelerate the rate of learning among their students, therefore it is crucial to look at the school’s teachers when considering a school.

When walking around the school review the enthusiasm and engagement in the room. Are the students interested, listening, communicating, on-task? All teachers can have a bad day (!) but the overall classroom engagement across the school is a great indicator of quality educators.

3. Academic performance coupled with Well-being Programmes

Good exam results are one of the clearest indicators of a school’s effectiveness in educating its students. Parents should review the exam results of the school and request them if they are not made freely available.

However, a school’s academic track record should not be the sole consideration. Parents should look out for a holistic curriculum that nurtures a healthy inquisitiveness in students and encourages the development of non-academic skillsets (often called a ‘Well-Being Programme’ or ‘Positive Education Programme’) which support a child’s long-term personal development.

4. School culture and environment

Ideally tour a school during regular school hours to gain a real insight into the school. It is very hard to get a feel for a school with empty classrooms.

There are small things a parent can look out for while looking around a school, such as are they politely greeted, by students and staff, as they walk around? Are the children happy and engaged in their learning? Can you see and hear the learning taking place? How are the Values of the School embedded as you walk around? Even the school’s display boards can reveal a lot about the school. Are the display boards relatively new? Is the children’s work valued? What is the quality of writing like?

These points are often overlooked but are a good indication of the school’s commitment to high quality education.

Ultimately, choosing a school is a very emotive decision. Follow your heart and best of luck!

Written by Kirsty Dewhirst
Assistant Principal
Avondale Grammar School
www.avondale.edu.sg