It is admission time once again and parents are rigorously shopping for schools. Some are transiting from primary to secondary; others are actually shopping for new schools as their previous ones probably failed to meet their academic or administrative expectations.
Private education system became very lucrative when decline in standard set in in public schools. It is so bad that even the public school officials have their children in private schools. What an irony! Population explosion in cities like Lagos has also contributed to exponential increase in the number of private schools around. Besides the issue of standard, private schools also fill the gap between the city’s population and the number of public schools available. There are different categories of private schools. Some are far worse than the worst public schools and due to high rate of poverty in the land, these schools are still patronized.
What should parents look out for in an ideal school? Below are some of the areas every parent must inspect before choosing a school:
- Customer Service: As the business world evolves, schools are now becoming very conscious of the fact that a private school is also is also a private business. As a result of this, parents or prospective parents are not just seen as stakeholders but also clients. As a parent, you can assess the customer service during your enquiries by visiting and interacting with the staffers of different sections of the school.
- Quality Delivery: The quality of the content delivery could be assessed by looking at various records such as the previous results of different external examinations. Competitions the school entered and the prizes won are also pointers to the quality of delivery. Such competitions may include essay writing competitions, Science and Mathematics competitions etc.
- Quality of Teachers: You can request to see the staff list, not necessarily the official nominal roll but such informal documents that show the profiles of some or all of the personnel. An example is prospectus or the most recent Year Book. You can also request to speak to some of the teachers if possible.
- Environment: How clean and conducive is the school environment? Do you see rubbish littered all over the place? What happens when it rains? Are the drainages properly channeled? Do you have open dirty gutters around the school? How clean and safe are the play grounds? Check all of these before making your decision. Do you see students running around uncontrollably? How calm is the school or is it terribly noisy?
- Facilities: This is very common, almost every parent asks about this. They request to see the science laboratories, library and possibly the ICT room. But, in this era of information explosion based on technological advancement, parents should ask for modern learning facilities which include: audiovisual equipment, modern tools that teach modern ways of doing things. I wonder what some schools are still doing with manual typewriters in their Business Studies Rooms. Such schools should not interest you.
- Interaction with the Outside World: Aside competitions and excursions, what else does the school do to expose their students to the world outside the four walls of the classroom? Do they access opportunities in the real world? These include the opportunities that can help them put their skills and talents to us while studying. Some students are good in sports, others in entertainment or even in public speaking. How does the school assist them to develop these talents and connect them to the world of such skills and talents?
- Management/Administrative Structure: If you observe that the owner of the school is the Director, the Executive Director, the Principal/Head Teacher as well as the Accountant, the school is most likely not to be a good one. This type of micromanagement structure breeds constrictions and limitations.
- Staff Development Programmes: Find out if the school creates an opportunity for their staff to study further and develop their career. Find out how often trainings are organized for the staff. Ask questions about the staff welfare and their readiness to go the extra mile in bringing out the best in their learners.
- Security: In this era of kidnappings and terrorist attacks all over the world, ask the school what their policies are on security. Look around the school too and see things for yourself. Are there security men? How many are they? Are the gates thrown open for anyone to go in and out all the time?
- Moral Standards and General Ethics: The school officer should tell you in clear terms, the policies put in place to ensure that students are not just taught numbers and letters but also morals and general ethics. What are the programmes put in place to ensure that rooms are not created for misdemeanors? I went to a school on one occasion and right from the gate to the principal’s office, I met no fewer than ten students and none of them uttered any form of greeting. I concluded that courtesy has left the school.
If you are satisfied with answers in these ten areas, you are most likely in a good school.