FROM the comfort of your living room you will be bombarded with commercials of schools advertising their state-of-the-art facilities. The images are exciting and depict that dream school you would wish your child to attend.
However, experts warn that this should not be a basis of choosing the right school for your child. Behind the enticing commercials is more than meets the eye.
Rwanda Education’s Board (REB) deputy director general in charge of Education Quality and Standards department, Janvier Gasana, says education devoid of quality does not deserve to be referred to as education.
He explains that quality education hinges on a good environment, quality inputs and a good process to yield quality education.
“Quality education environment consists of settings, surroundings and context that are conducive or favourable for the good unfolding of the education process. Quality education inputs form a large and challenging factor of quality education. It encompasses different components such as recruitment of quality teachers, curriculum, infrastructure, learning and teaching materials,” he noted.
Conducive physical school environments should be in areas that are noise-free and outside environments that would cause distractions to students or their facilitators.
For instance a school should preferably be far from a market or factory to avoid noise and pollution.
It is also important that you consider how safe a school is. Avoid taking your child to a school that is for instance in a war-torn area or where the crime rate is high.
Cost of education
For long there has been a school of thought that the higher the school fees, the better the quality of education offered by an institution. However, Gasana says that an ideal funding model is one that is built around cost sharing.
“The ideal education funding mechanism is by cost-sharing between parents and school owners. In order to cater for quality private education provision, there is need for substantive funding as there are usually no subsidies because quality is an expensive commodity,” says Gasana.
Style of teaching
Gasana also advises parents to look at the methodology of learning and teaching as well as the past performance of a school.
“Schools can also be evaluated by the quality of their graduates. Do they for instance produce graduates whose knowledge, skills and attitudes make them citizens who solve problems instead of creating them, who create jobs instead of seeking jobs?”
Stephen Gasasira, who has had two of his sons rank among the top students in the country in Primary Six and Senior Four, says a good school can be identified by it’s reputation and style of management.
“Parents should not assume that because a school is expensive, it is the best for their students. There are other factors like how competent the teachers are, how the administration handles matters and how much they engage parents in the students’ welfare and development.”
Visit the school
In this technology era, many parents might be tempted to search for schools on the Internet to save time and money. However, it is advisable to physically visit the school of your choice and not depend on the information given on the website because sometimes it is inaccurate. A visit to the school will help you inspect the hygiene of the dormitories, toilets, classrooms and compounds. You are also able to see if they have the necessary facilities to enable your child get first class education.
Over the past few years, it has also emerged that faith-based schools have featured prominently among the lists of top performing schools and also ranked highly in co-curricular activities.
“As a Christian I would like my children to grow up in an environment where important values of life can be inculcated into my children. That is one thing I have always considered when choosing a school for my children,” Zechariah Mbanda whose children go to Groupe Scolaire St. Joseph Kabgayi, and Petit Seminaire Ndera says.
The performance of these schools has been attributed to the high levels of discipline observed both by students and facilitators which interests many parents and guardians.
Some parents also consider factors beyond academic performance and worry about their children’s growth and development and engagement in extra curricular activities.
“Most times we look so much at the academic performance but forget other aspects of students’ progress such as nurturing talent. Does a school for example value extra curricular activities? Considering all these factors, we chose that our son goes to a public day school that performs well and also takes into consideration students’ development,” Diane Uwitonze, a former teacher and a mother whose son goes to Lycee de Kigali in Nyarugenge district, says.
She adds that contrary to most people’s perception, public schools sometimes offer a more conducive environment than private schools.
Proximity and accessibility
Another factor that parents should consider, according to Uwitonze, is proximity of the school to home especially if it is a day school.
She says a school that is near home will reduce transport costs and minimise chances of the child arriving late at school or getting home late at night and tired.
Your views on what a good school is
Marie Joselyne Umutoniwase, a graduate
There are a lot of things parents should consider when selecting a school for a child. You need to look at the methods of teaching, qualifications of teachers and availability of facilities such as a functional sickbay, water, power and the security of the school. Does the school promote extra-curricular activities?
Willis Kayijamahe, a parent
You need to look at your child’s character and performance before choosing a school for him or her. But you must also go for a school that you can afford otherwise your child will always be sent home for school fees.
Ann Baguma, teacher
The one and only thing I would consider for my child is an academically sound school. The previous performance of the school would be my guide.
Nicholus Kizza, a parent
I would choose a school with the ability to develop my child’s talents, build their confidence and enable them excel academically regardless of the cost. I can always look for the school fees.
Ephraim Uwitonze, a parent
For us in the rural areas, we don’t have an option because we only have government schools whose standards are all the same. But I would opt for a private school in the city because they usually perform better than the public ones.