Hi Parentree members,
Our child is five-years old, is studying in a Montessori school in Hyderabad and we are looking for Class 1 admission in the academic year 2024-25 in Chennai. If you or others in your circles have children studying in schools which satisfy some or more of the following criteria, would be very grateful if you could share your inputs about the school / connect us with the concerned person/(s).
(1) methods of teaching which focus more on conceptual and holistic understanding of topics, and which specifically focus on developing a sense of curiosity to learn, along with independent and rational thinking; where the teacher actress more like a facilitator and children are inspired to learn by themselves; and not like the traditional model which is mostly unilateral / one-way where only the teacher is teaching and child is absorbing and where every child is expected to learn the same thing at the same time in the same speed as other children.
(2) mixed crowd (in terms of both socio, economic and religious background) - not just / not mostly children from elite backgrounds; preferably where there are also some children of non-teaching staff, workers, etc.
(3) equal importance to sports, arts, music, etc., including the less fancy forms like stitching, folk music, etc.; along with adequate infrastructure for the same like playgrounds, etc.
(4) balanced language policy which lays equal importance to Indian languages also, without harsh rules about children speaking (with other children or with teachers) only in English; and without looking down or in any other way discouraging children from speaking in a language other than English, etc.
(5) focus on 'No / Minimal' screen time in school and after school hours.
(6) teachers and other school staff have an understanding of a child's physical, mental, emotional and physiological developments and milestones age-wise; for example, about the difficulty of children below 5 or 6 years to remember rules because of prefrontal cortex in the brain not being properly developed.
(7) a healthy evaluation system (both for academics and co-curriculars) that focuses on the functional aspects, like testing conceptual understanding /basic skills and where effort is made to find what obstacles (if any) that a child is facing in learning; allowing healthy competition without being focused on ranking, etc.
(8) focus on important values and attitudes like thoughtfulness about the impact of one's actions on others, gratefulness, positive thinking, facing failures or adversities or challenges in life, ability to deal with bullying, awareness about over-spending and excessive commercialization including birthday celebration policies, etc.
(9) where a culture of conformity (to authority, existing practices, etc.,) is not promoted either directly / indirectly; where there is a culture of allowing thoughtful questioning, including questions from students like - Why should I study a particular subject or topic and how will it be useful to me?; at the same time, where non-conformity is not promoted just for the sake of being different / cool, etc.,; where non-conformity has to have a meaningful basis; where there is a distinction drawn between conformity and respect, giving space for respectful questioning; enabling the child to think independently without becoming over-confident.
(10) children are not shy to ponder over, analyze and discuss certain areas / topics, which are taboo, controversial, etc.; and at the same time not excited to do so just because it is considered cool / glamorous or the like;
(11) Focus on reality - What is happening in our immediate surroundings, society and environment, things and phenomena that are relevant on an everyday / regular basis; and at the appropriate ages, there is focus on socio, economic, political and other issues, including those which are more directly relevant to our daily lives and which are least talked about, like damaging health aspects with most packaged food products, etc.; focusing less on the drama (like some activists) and more on the intricacies and solutions;
(12) involvement of children on some regular basis in tasks like cleaning, washing, garnering, cooking, etc., (either in school or as assignments at home or in any other way), to help them appreciate the dignity of labour.
(13) teachers maintaining a good balance between being firm (or strict) and being empathetic to any difficulties that a child may going through; where there is clarity about rules and boundaries with a focus on explaining the reasons to children and the consequences of their actions; If a child deviates, scolding / punishment is not resorted to. Neither bribes nor rewards. Just using simple, logical, non-demeaning and constructive ways to handle such situations; at the same time, where too much leeway is also not given letting a child to not be engaged in something (academics / co-curriculars / otherwise) till they show interest / willingness as children may often need some degree of push to come out of their comfort zone to explore and put in efforts.
(14) stability of the school over time, continuity of children and teachers in school without too much frequent changes, extent to which the school actually implements the principles it claims to follow, etc
(15) transparency and fairness regarding fees and financial matters; where yearly fee hikes are reasonable, where there are not many restrictions practices like where textbooks, uniforms, etc., are to be purchased from;
(16) expenses incurred by the school are focused genuinely more on well being of the students in a natural way and focused less on pomp and show or unnecessary luxury and comfort; for example, focus on classrooms which are spacious, well ventilated with lots of sunlight, etc., instead of air-conditioning.
(17) active communication with and involvement of parents and their suggestions;
(18) flexible about location, though preferably not way too far from the center of the city.
Yes, a lot of the criteria above are quite subjective and it may not be easy to assess whether a school satisfies it or not. To a certain extent, based on interactions with children studying in a specific school and based on feedback from parents, some trends can be noticed over time.
We are keen to explore alternative schools which follow Montessori, Jiddu Krishnamoorty or similar methods (like The School, KFI); and we also want to consider mainstream / conventional schools which fit the criteria.