Home or away?

In my family, sending a child to boarding school was a long-held tradition. Because my grandparents and parents attended boarding school, it was inevitable that my siblings and I would not escape this custom. My parents firmly believed that boarding schools offered a better quality education compared to day schools.

Why parents choose boarding school

  • A parent’s career might involve so much travelling and moving homes that the parent feels it’s affecting the child’s education.
  • Parents who fight constantly may opt to send their child to boarding school.
  • A parent may wish the child to learn a bit of self-sufficiency away from home.
  • A parent may decide to send a difficult child to boarding school in the hope that the school authorities will correct the parents’ mistake.
  • Living in a far-flung area, there may be no suitable school nearby.
What should have kept my parents awake at night

I enjoyed my five-year stay at boarding school but there were some worrying challenges:
  • Although I was 12 the first time I went to boarding school, I remember being traumatised by being ripped away from my parents. A cousin, now in his mid 20s, recently confided in me how he felt disconnected from some of his siblings as he ‘did not know them’ because of all the years he spent in boarding school.
  • Without parental guidance and support, it was easier for students to buckle under peer pressure to do drugs, smoke, abuse alcohol or engage in premature sexual relations.
  • I feel that the risk of abuse --sexual, emotional, and physical -- may be higher at boarding school. The bullying of new students was viewed as an acceptable form of initiation at my former school.
  • Although most teachers at the school were professional, some were cold, if not cruel and harsh and students were at these teachers’ mercy.
  • By spending most of my teen years in boarding school, I missed out on learning life skills from my parents. For example, when I first moved out of home I had a rough time performing basic household chores.

What can a parent do?

Granted, there are many good boarding schools out there. If you have to send your child to one, I’d recommend you do the following before you sign the contract:
  • Visit the child’s dorms or rooms. Check if the beds are in good condition and the general cleanliness of the place. Determine how many children will share a dorm. Check the bathrooms.
  • Ask the school authorities how they deal with bullying and other abuses at the school and find out if there are any recent cases of abuse.
  • Request a copy of the weekly menu to see if the school offers a balanced diet.
  • After you’ve enrolled your child into the school, keep lines of communication open. If your child tells you horror stories about the school, give her the benefit of the doubt.

Did you go to boarding school? How was it for you?

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