Choosing the right school is becoming more tricky

2013-10-02 00:00

TIME is running out for parents to decide where to register their children for the 2014 school year.

Education experts say choosing the right school is becoming increasingly difficult because traditional factors, like proximity to home, are no longer deciding factors.

Professor Elda de Waal from the North West University is currently researching the factors that make for happy schools. Initial indications are that a school with a happy milieu do not necessarily involve high academic achievements, but depend on how relations between the principal, staff and pupils are encouraged.

While no longer a deciding factor, De Waal said a school’s location and distance from the pupil’s home is still a very important consideration. Most parents work and want to be able to easily get to attend school activities.

Other factors include the child’s unique educational needs or technical subjects.

De Waal is not convinced that parents pay much attention to a school’s matric results. “For many, it is more important what the community thinks or says about a school and if their child wants to go to that school.”

De Waal is not in favour of the current trend where schools are recruiting pupils.

“If everybody decided to send their children to schools with excellent results, what will become of the rest?”

De Waal understands when a parent with an exceptional child chooses a specific school.

“The reality is, however, that 80% of the community is not exceptionally gifted. People have to make a difference where they are and realise that — with the necessary passion — any ordinary school can become extraordinary,” she said.

De Waal said if parents can afford a private school, it is their right to send their child there. “It is, however, public schools that mirror society,” she said.

Paul Colditz, CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas), said when choosing a school, most parents first look at a school’s academic achievement, and then at how the buildings, infrastructure and grounds are maintained.

Many parents also choose a school based on ethos, discipline and values espoused by the school. For some parents, individual attention is important when choosing a school, for others sport and culture are attendant factors.

He said the standards are deteriorating in several schools in rural areas, and parents in these areas are using lift clubs, hostels or rented rooms to educate their children in schools in neighbouring areas.

He said parents no longer opt to go to the closest school, which is also unconstitutional as it does not recognise the pupils’ right to association. He said school fees were not as important in parents’ considerations, as the law makes provision for part or full exemption from school fees for parents who cannot afford it.

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