5 Steps to Choosing Your Child’s First School
Are you thinking about enrolling your child in an international pre-school or kindergarten, and finding that there are an overwhelming number of such schools in Bangkok? Fear not, we’ve been through it all – identifying and applying to appropriate schools, visiting the premises and interviewing staff, and in some cases, getting on a waiting list. Below are our top 5 considerations to guide you through the selection process.
1. Identify your needs and priorities. Do you require a school near your home or office for travel convenience? Are you looking for a specific curriculum (International Baccalaureate; Primary Years Programme; UK Early Years Foundation Stage; American curriculum; bilingual programmes; etc.)? Do you want your child to initially attend pre-school for three or four days a week to ease into the experience?
2. Conduct a search for schools that meet the needs of your child and family. Talk to people you know and get referrals from other families – word of mouth is extremely helpful as people usually won’t recommend a place unless they have had truly positive experiences, or they will readily share what they didn’t like about a particular school.
3. Consider whether the school is accredited and if so, do some online research on the accreditation body. While not a guarantee that the school is an ideal match for your child, accreditation helps back the school’s quality as an early childhood care and educational facility.
4. Do the legwork. Visit the school when it is open (many offer summer sessions). See the facilities and talk to the administrators and staff. Ask the school’s director about everything, from hours, fees, educational philosophy and teachers’ credentials to the children’s daily schedule, including typical lunch dishes, classroom activities and opportunities for creative play and social interaction. Also, enquire about the primary schools the children go on to attend after kindergarten, whether it is within the same school or elsewhere, and how their transitional experience has been.
5. Have a peek into a classroom to gauge the class size and see examples of the children’s art and classroom work hanging on the walls. At the same time, observe how the children interact with their teacher, and vice versa – are the kids genuinely engaged and happy? If possible, visit the school with your child to see his or her reaction to the facilities and staff. Children are inherently intuitive; definitely consider their gut feelings.
Additional Tips: Apply to several schools to keep your options open. Don’t get stressed out if you are waitlisted; you can periodically inquire whether there are openings (and the school will know you are keenly interested in their programme and may keep you on a priority list). Also, if you are flexible as to when your child begins school, the school may be willing to accommodate you in the second or third term of the academic year, when spots open up (this worked for us!). In the end, if you find that the school you chose isn’t right for your child, you can always re-consider one of your other initial picks – this is the advantage of having so many choices in Bangkok!