As yet another academic year begins in June, young parents find that choosing a school that meets their standards is not child’s play
Rakhee Krishnan had tried out at least five schools, before zeroing in on a play school for her son, Mithun, now in his second year of kindergarten. But even that is far removed from her concept of an ideal school.
“An ideal school is where all students are equal, a place where maths and science toppers are not considered superior to those who are good in other subjects. A huge playground, airy classrooms, innumerable activities in and out of the classrooms, no unhealthy competition… It might be quite impossible to find a school that I have in mind. So, like many other parents, I settled for a school that fulfilled some of the criteria...,” she says.
Rakhee isn’t the only one who has made this compromise. There are thousands of parents in the city who have been forced to choose the best available option for their kids, that too after discussions and deliberations with other parents, friends and well-wishers. Preparations start many months in advance, starting with identifying the best school, if not the ideal one, which involves practical matters such as the fee structure, transportation, the school’s history and overall academic performance. These days parents are also looking at the big picture, where they take into account parameters such as infrastructure, faculty, teaching methodology, extra-curricular activities, inclusive education, and general discipline.
“I don’t want my son to grow up into a bookworm. For me, co-curricular activities are as much a part of school years as academics,” says Radhika R. S., a higher secondary school teacher in a reputed school in the city.
However, even upmarket schools that claim to have ‘holistic system of education’ rarely meet the expectations of the parents (when it comes to games, teaching, co-curricular activities and academics) and the schools’ fee structure makes such institutions out of bounds for most parents. Which again forces the parents settle for a school that can fit into their budget and yet give their child his/her place in the sun.
Call it an impact of nuclear family culture or the changing social scenario, a lot of parents stress on the safety and security of the child. “I want my daughter to feel happy and secure in her school,” says Farvin Hazil, customer relations executive with a real estate firm. For people like Jayasankar B., an advocate, an ideal school is the one which grooms a student into a good individual.
Meanwhile, schools, on their part, can do a lot to fulfil the parameters and match the expectations of the parents and students. Rani (name changed), a student counsellor for the last 12 years, says: “Ideally, a school should balance academic and co-curricular activities. Co-curricular activities mean not just art and cultural activities. There should be due importance given to sports and games throughout the year. Teachers, on their part, should be qualified enough to identify and rectify any problems with the student. It could be emotional, physical or mental.”
However, she has a word of advice for the parents. “Most of the children come from nuclear families where they are given ‘over care’ and ‘over attention’. So, when they admit their children, these parents expect the school also to provide the same kind of attention, which is not practical. So the ideal situation is when the parents let their children be independent,” she says.
Till parents and educators schools shift the emphasis from academic excellence alone to overall development, the same situation is bound to prevail. Period.