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EARLY YEARS CHECKLIST: CHOOSING YOUR CHILD’S FIRST SCHOOL

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Choosing the right learning environment for one’s young child is essential as it will play a large role in the success of the child’s learning experience throughout the rest of their life.

A child’s first encounter with learning in a formal environment sets in motion the way in which they will view learning, how they foresee their role in society, and the contributions they will make locally and globally later in life, education experts say.

The process of choosing the learning environment that will best suit a child’s personality and needs is complicated by the numerous options available to parents and guardians. This can make them feel overwhelmed and even confused about how to determine what is and isn’t right for their child’s journey ahead.

However there are a number of factors that should be considered, which will help clarify what the best road for a child may be, she says.

The first step is identifying the things that you value as a family – your hopes and expectations, and what you are wanting to get out of an education system for your child. While we know and celebrate the importance of academic achievements, we often forget that the child is both capable and competent and comes with unique qualities and talents.

It should be recognized that children are in charge of their own learning – meaning that as much as we try to mold and drive them, ultimately, they will follow their own interests and curiosities.  By meeting these unique needs, interests, and talents and recognizing that success comes in many forms, we have a better chance of helping the child reach their full potential and ensure that they in their own unique way contribute positively to their community in the future.

Secondly, the aim of a school is the development of academic excellence for the students in their care. Schools must continually evolve and adapt to ensure students are highly prepared for the world of tomorrow. Students must be able to progress incrementally from the start of their academic journey and be supported in the development of global competencies and 21st Century Skills. Ultimately, learning must prepare students for high-stakes exams later in life and successful entry into adulthood.

Thirdly, academic excellence requires confidence if a student is going to reach their full potential. This requires that the school provide a safe and enriched learning environment and that the student’s well-being is nurtured and protected from the very beginning. Where the child feels safe, they will be open to learning.

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When looking for a school, parents/guardians need to be open to possibilities and feel confident that the learning environment will support learning in a holistic way.

It is important to listen carefully to the messages being delivered by the school, align their views and expectations to that offered by the school, and more importantly, research and ask questions, listening to not only what the school is saying but also to what they are not saying.

The fourth consideration is non-negotiable:-  that the teachers are fully qualified, that the ratio of competent and responsible adults to students is in place, and that the integrity of the curriculum is not compromised but rather enhanced. The focus should be placed on future-focused teaching and learning techniques and strategies, and all this takes place in a nurturing and responsive setting.

Angelica Ouya, Education Director at the Makini Group of School

It is advisable for parents and guardians to visit schools in person so that they can gain information firsthand, make comparisons, investigate, interrogate, and explore the integrity of the learning environment, the approaches to teaching and learning, the schools’ views on discipline and assessment, as well as how they view the child.

Learning in the early years is often perceived as not being as important as the learning that takes place in the older years. However, this is a misconception as the early years lay the foundation for all future learning.

When choosing a school that best fits your and your child’s needs, it is important to be aware of global trends, fully investigate the possibilities and options available, and be prepared to hold schools accountable. This all leads to a better-quality experience for one’s child in the early years, while building a foundation of a love of learning for future years and helping to establish the life-long love of learning required in later years.

Written by Jenny Coetzee, Managing Director at Crawford International School Kenya, and Angelica Ouya, Education Director at the Makini Group of School, brands of Africa’s leading private education provider ADvTECH.

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