THE school calendar year is coming to an end. A good choice of school sets a good foundation for your childâ€™s education. So what should a parent look for in a school and how does one identify a good school?
Yusuf Nsubuga, the commissioner for secondary education, advises that one should look the academic history of the school, discipline, affordability and accessibility.
Ãf it is a private school, the parents should insist on schools with UNEB centre numbers.
The schools should also be licensed and registered with the ministry,â€ Nsubuga said.
Parents deploy various techniques in assisting their children to make choices. They consult with teachers on the best options. After primary leaving results, some just wait for calls and sometimes make the first trip to the school on the opening day. Others go to schools whose heads they know or are related to and ask for vacancies.
While these are important considerations, they are not the only ones. From his book, A Childâ€™s Options in School, Allan Tumusiime insists that the child is a parentâ€™s duty to nurture and schools only help parents on this.
A childâ€™s failure can only be partly blamed on schools but the parents bear all the brunt.
Choosing a school can be stressful, time-consuming and may even involve expenses. But it must be taken as an obligation and viewed in anticipation, not a burden.
Many parents I have talked to have said they go for academic standards and discipline but there should be more.
Other options available at secondary level include choice between day or boarding school, single or mixed schools, whether government, Church-founded or private, distance from home, flexibility in control and school history.
During my teaching career, I used to advise parents to identify the childâ€™s needs and abilities with the help of teachers. Are they purely academic, social, athletic, artistic or special needs? Then look for schools which have what it takes to satisfy these needs.
Children who are weak academically may get lost in highly competitive schools, lose self-confidence and resort to bad behaviour like alcoholism or drugs.
Parents need to be realistic and choose schools, which should not vary so much from the academic standards of their children. Amenities of sports, social, art or which cater for students with special needs should be considered.
This, however, must conform to your expectations in the child and whether it is achievable. If your child is planning a science career, get a science-based school. Some schools are traditional science strongholds.
It is not advisable to go about rounding on a choice alone. Parents must involve fellow parents, family members, friends or those who know for advice about a good school.
Be open about your childâ€™s abilities and aspirations and consider what these people have to say.
Schools usually prefer that you involve the teachers of your child for they can objectively talk about your childâ€™s weakness and strengths. They stay longer with them, donâ€™t they.
School fees alone may not reflect how costly a school can be. If the location is far, the requirements include beds, cement and textbooks, and if it is dominated by rich parents who will sanction extravagant expenditures by the school, additional costs may even exceed the school fees amount.
A Alfred Mugwanya , proprietor of Upsky High School in Nansana, says a good school should have much more than academic facilities.
â€œMany private schools have buried soccer talents because of either lack of facilities or over-emphasising academic pursuits.â€
He suggested that especially for talented children, schools that encourage development of extra-curricular activities should be sought.
â€œWholesome education is better for not all can go the academic way.â€
For parents of means, good schools must reflect modern traits of learning. Social and educational amenities must be of class, teaching slides, projectors, electronically furnished library, fully equipped laboratory and a favourable ratio of student to computers.
The history of a school also matters. A school, prone to strikes, with poor relationship with the community, and staff disputes may not be a good idea.
Strikes have caused deaths and always cost parents.
If you go for a boarding school, know the frequency of visiting days and how often you may have access to teachers to know your childâ€™s performance.
Some boarding schools have weekends out and you must consider whether you like this.
Join hands: Choose a good secondary school