Key Questions Every Parent Should Ask a Prospective School
This time of year is one of the busiest times for an admissions team at an international school. This means it's also a busy, and potentially stressful time for many parents who are either choosing a new school due to relocation or considering changing schools within the region.
With this in mind, ISKL's Director of Admissions, Julia Love shares her insights into the questions parents should be asking a prospective school.
Firstly, it's important to be clear on the fundamentals:
- Make sure you fully understand what curriculum is offered and how this relates to the student's current experience. If you do intend to change curriculums make sure the admissions team explain how the school will support your child.
- Ask about academic results achieved throughout the school not just the final scores of those who are graduating. Aggregated standardized test results will show you how a grade is performing and what progress has been made during the year.
- After school activities are an essential part of school life so check out what's available and the opportunities for your child to be involved.
- The size of the school can be important. Too small and your child may not have an adequate range of academic, social, and sporting opportunities available to them. Too big and your child may feel lost. Getting the balance right is essential, so ask the admissions officer about student numbers and how this is managed within each division.
- Consider how easy will it be to get to and from school. Does the school offer a busing service? Are buses well monitored and available for students participating in after-school activities?
- Investigate the demographics of the school - what is the balance between nationalities and does the diversity meet your expectations?
- Ask whether students from other schools in the area have moved to the school and vice versa. Many parents don't think to ask this question and it can be very revealing!
- Make sure the fee structure is clearly explained to you. It should be transparent from the start with no hidden surprises.
Next, find out as much as you can about how the school is run. This will give you a good idea about the philosophy and leadership of the school which will have a direct impact on the learning environment:
- How are decisions made and what opportunities are there for parent involvement?
- Is the school a 'not-for-profit' or 'for-profit' and how does this impact decision-making and allocation of funds to facilities, learning, and faculty?
- Find out how long the key administrators such as the Head of School and Principals have been in their roles - if there have been frequent changes this is something you may want to investigate further. Remember you can always schedule a time to talk with key administrators or faculty to find out more.
- Learn how teachers are hired, where are they from, and what credentials they bring. Discuss what channels are available for parents to talk with teachers and to provide feedback.
- Understand the grading system - how much information will you receive about your child's progress? Ask to see how this works in practice.
Belonging to a supportive community is a vital part of school life so take the time also to investigate the school community:
- Enquire as to whether there's an active, welcoming parent body, such as a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) that can support your transition and help you and your family integrate.
- It is worth asking if you can talk with parents or students from your home country or parents who have moved from your current school as they will give you an honest perspective on their experience.
- Find out about the school's alumni program. An active alumni community speaks volumes about a good school.
Finally, ask what support will be available to both the family and student:
- Challenge the school and find out what it will offer you and your child in terms of support both in and out of the classroom. This is particularly important if you have a child who is not a native English speaker (ask about the school's EAL program) or who needs individual learning support. Also, ask how the school stretches talented students.
- The social and emotional aspect of school life is vitally important, so ask how the school will manage your child's transition and make sure they are assimilating comfortably into their new environment.
- Finally, while it's hard to think about next steps, it's also important to know how the school will support you with the next relocation whether it's a new country or repatriation. Being able to tap into the resources of your Admissions team can be an invaluable help with the transition.
Ultimately it's about finding the 'best fit' school for your child. Taking the time to research and ask lots of questions is critical, and a good Admissions team will be more than happy to help you.
About Julia Love
Julia Love has been the Director of Admissions at The International School of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia since 2012. With over 20 years experience in Boarding, Primary, Secondary, and international schools in the US and UK, Julia is passionate about ensuring that school placement meets the requirements of every child.
Additionally, having spent a significant portion of her childhood overseas attending British, German, and international schools, Julia understands first-hand the complex transitional needs of children during relocation. Julia holds a B.A. in Sociology and Education.