Ten Things to Look For in a Pre-school

When we think of sending our kids to school for the first time, we want them to be in safe, loving and caring hands. But the fact that most schools are out there only for money makes things complicated. What the schools say and show to parents differs quite a lot from what actually happens inside. So what do we do?

I have been there, made my mistakes and learnt from them. Here are my few cents, based on my own experiences, to help you choose a good pre-school/play-school for your kid.

  1. Management vs Teaching Staff - Please understand that almost all schools have a management person/team whose primary role is to interact with the parents, attract them and get the fees. These folks are very good at people skills. They will speak what you want to listen. So don't take them at their face value. Don't make an image of the school and the teaching staff based on what they say.

    Insist on talking with teachers - particularly the teacher who will be assigned to your kid. The connection between child and teacher is more important than anything else. Does she comes across as a friendly and loving person? Ask her about her current class, the challenges she faces, etc. She should be able to speak about individual students' strengths and weaknesses and be well informed of their background, interests, likes and dislikes. Ask her how discipline issues are handled when conflicts occur or problem behaviours arise. Teachers should show empathy as children experience the ups and downs of a typical day.

    In our case, we made the mistake of admitting our child without meeting the teacher. When we finally got to meet her after 2 months, in the first ever PTM, we instantly knew how harsh and bossy she could be with kids. Kids were trying to run away from her and she did not even know what is the mother tongue of our kid! It was apparent that she did not find it necessary to make any connection with the kids.

  2. Settling In Period - If mother accompanies a child into the school for first few days, it will make the transition easy for the child. Ask the school whether mother is allowed inside the school at least for a day or two. A sensitive school should allow this.

    In our case, we had been told by the management that mother can be there with the child for a week but they backtracked later and did not allow parents inside (not even on the first day). So its advisable to take this in written beforehand or at least make it very clear.

  3. Transport charges - If you are taking up the transport facility (van/bus), be sure to ask the fees and inspect the vehicle before admitting your kid. Some schools don't own the transport themselves and rely on private vans. In such cases talk to the van person about the fees, the approximate pick up and drop time for your kid, the attendant and safety measures, etc.

    In our case, we talked with the van person after admitting our kid to school and found out then that the actual van charges are 2.5 times more than what the management had told us!

  4. Security - Have a look around the campus. Get to know how many male staff are there and how security of kids is handled.

  5. Language issues - Its difficult for a child to feel comfortable in school when all he hears is a foreign language. Though it cannot be helped much in a multi-lingual city like Bangalore, you should at least know what is the mother tongue of all ayahs and all teachers and what is the language they use in routine and does any of them has a partial knowledge of your mother tongue. The best we can do to avoid this problem is to talk in English at home using small sentences so that the child can pick up words and the structure.

  6. Proximity from your home - You need to consider the travel time for pick up and drop of your child and take into account the traffic issues. Most schools start at around 9 - 9:30 a.m. which is the peak traffic time.

  7. Food - Ask how are they going to handle food. What if the child is not eating himself - will they try something so as to make him eat? Its a sensitive issue for parents and a difficult one for schools to handle. I have heard from friends working in schools that schools usually throw most of the leftover food from the tiffin so that mothers don't come and complain to them.

  8. Philosophy - Take time to understand the different philosophies on which schools are run. Make a judgement based on your child's needs and nature.

  9. Extra fees round the year - Be very clear in that they don’t ask any extra fees for outdoor trip or such activities.

  10. Don't get stuck - Last but the most important point. Preschool does not have to be a life-time sentence. If the school does not match up to your expectations, always keep the option of changing schools open in your mind.

Category: schools