By Dayo Adesulu
IN making a choice for a good school, children rely absolutely on the decision of their parents. The outcome of such decisions made by parents either makes or mars the education of the children.
It has been discovered that parents want the best for their children, but in many cases, their choices may not be good enough for the wellbeing of such children. Often, what many parents believe to be qualities of a good school are far from what makes up a good school.
Parents choose different schools for different reasons. Some of the reasons are proximity of the school to the home, low fees, high fees, name, or beautiful school environment. Some parents are known to even raise loans to place their children in an ivy league school. It’s no longer news that in their quest to see their children socialise with the rich in society, some poor parents do go to any length to place them in ivy league schools in the belief that the child could end up marrying into a rich family.
Meanwhile, the core value which is key to quality education that parents should look for in schools are missing in their quest.
In examining the issue, former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, NUC, Professor Peter Okebukola, listed three things parents seeking good schools for their children should look for. According to him, academic standing, safety and level of focus on values and 21st Century skills are key variables to look for while searching for good schools.
Speaking on academic standing of a school, he said that the primary goal of sending the child to school is for the development of knowledge and skills, adding that the academic standing of the school will largely play a role in meeting this goal.
He maintained that if a school is well rated academically and the products are known to excel in school and public examinations, parents should encourage their children or wards to select such a school. He explained, however, that high standing in the academic profile of a school will come with other features such as good quality teachers and good quality environment for teaching and learning. “These collateral features are great attractions for prospective students,” he said.
Closely allied to academic standing is the safety of the child in the school. Okebukola urges parents to be reasonably satisfied with the safety of the school environment and the safety procedures in place at the school before taking their children there.
He said:, “in recent times, this factor is rising to greater prominence on account of kidnappings and cult-related killings in our schools. Parents will have to directly or indirectly assess the safety profiles of schools and advise their children and wards to select those schools with minimal safety threats.”
The third factor that parents should look at while searching for good schools, according to Okebukola, is the values that are promoted by the school. He said, “parents will be excited to send their children to schools where good morals, values and 21st Century skills are taught. Parents will have embarrassing moments if after a semester or two, their children come home with obnoxious manners and depraved values.
“On the other hand, they will be pleasantly surprised and happy if their children attend a school and after a year or so, they are better behaved and there is a positive turnaround in their negative behaviours.
So, parents should have an ear to the ground to get a picture of schools where good morals and values are taught and advise their children to gravitate towards selecting such schools.”
Speaking in the same vein, Professor of Educational Psychology and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Calabar (UNICAL), Prof. Florence Banku-Obi, said quality teachers, security, curriculum, size of class and facilities should be considered while making choice of schools.
She said: “The watch word for parents is the quality of teachers. Are the teachers in the school we covet to place our children really trained? There are expensive schools all around without teachers. What many parents think of is the big edifice without quality teachers. However, the quality of teachers should be number one. Moreover, parents should look for the security of the student.
“Is the place called school adequately fenced? Is it so close to the road, so that the kid while playing could run to the road? This should be considered first in your choice of schools. The curriculum in use is another factor for consideration. The curriculum is important, because we are Nigerians. I know some private schools that tell you that they are using American curriculum. They are running American curriculum in Nigeria environment.
“Meanwhile, the children in the school are being prepared for the Nigerian society. Such students in the future will sit for WAEC, NECO and JAMB that are Nigeria-based. If ever they must use foreign curriculum, they must ensure to blend it with the Nigerian curriculum. Once teachers are trained and they know what to do, they will be able to relate well with the children.”
On number of children in a class, Banku-Obi said: “Parents should not send their children to schools where the class population is too large. Forty to fifty children in a class should be discouraged. Twenty to twenty-five should be the maximum in an ideal class for good classroom management and individualized attention of the children.
“For parents to pay huge amounts of money for their children in any school, their children should be given the maximum attention and teaching, because some children are high performance, while some are low performance children. In private schools, we need to individualize our teaching so that slow learners could be easily carried along. Parents have to consider the type of attention the school use in teaching, whether individualized attention in teaching or collective teaching.
“Besides, we need to think of the facilities in the school. What type of building are they using? Do they have teaching aides to guide the children while teaching? We are to look at the library and the computer library of every school if they are adequate for the pupils. Parents should not use the huge fees paid in a school to determine the quality. High fees do not necessarily determine the quality. Many parents take delight in saying, ‘I pay N500,000 a term for each of my children, how much do you pay for yours?’ Many of such parents know nothing about quality of the school, but the high fees. This should be discouraged.
“We have seen cases where parents send their children to private schools and when they come to the university, we still found them wanting. We have some of these private schools where their teachers are not well trained, but want to give this impression that their schools are good and doing well. These are the schools that keep exposing answers to the children to make good grade at that elementary level. You may think the children are doing well, but when you examine them one-on-one, the children are not able to perform well.”