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Finding the “Right School” for your child in Jakarta

Article  by : Sony Vasandani, Sunshine Preschool

1. Finding the ‘Right’ school for your child in Jakarta

With the growing number of schools in Jakarta, parents find it even harder to find the ‘Right’ school for their child. Most are confused and many call me to ask for help. There is not only a lack of understanding of the systems and curriculum followed in each school but also a lot of expectations from parents that makes it harder for them to find the ‘right’ school, say Sony Vasandani.

Rather than confuse over other parents talks or advertisements, it is best for parents to shortlist the schools based on the following:
1. The fees of the schools that you can afford without causing stress.
2. The distance that your child can take and the means and cost of transport.

These are important factors to consider and be comfortable with or you will find yourself changing your child’s school every other year!

Most schools, international or National plus, do have the IGCSE curriculum and board exams. So, it is best not to worry about the curriculum.

Having shortlisted the schools, the tricky part is finding a school that implements the curriculum in the way that meets the needs of your child. Does that make sense?

Many schools still use the very traditional way of teaching (any many parents can actually only relate to this) and many others now use more project based activities or active learning. If your child is active, can’t keep still, not really someone who can sit long over his homework, a school with active, hands on and more interactive learning is more for him. Keeping him in a school with the traditional system will only frustrate him (and you in the long run) and you are bound to hear a series of complains over every parents meeting.

To me, a good school is one that has a good balance of academics and sports & play activities. It is also one with qualified teachers who care and understand children.

Irrespective of the school you choose for your child, it is important to see that your child’s day has a good balance of work and play! So if sports and other extra curricular activities is lacking in the school but you are okay with everything else, see that you provide your child with out of school activities. Joining a nearby club and taking your child there for any activity or even a walk for a minimum of an hour is very important for the growth of the mind and the physical body of your child.

Please remember, children who don’t get enough exercise or play time suffers with their academics in school. Exercise /play time is the best way to release stress. There is so much truth in the old saying – “ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY”!

2. How do I encourage my child to write?

Writing requires physical skills without which it can be very tiresome to a child. It also demands multi-tasking (physical, cognitive and linguistic) which a child should be ready for. Besides that we always associate writing with work which makes it very boring for the child especially when the child has no control about how much and what to write.

To encourage your child to write, we must first of all make it fun and give children support, encouragement and praise.

Physically, from the early years, children are provided with physical activities that support writing such cutting, pasting, painting (art & craft) activities. These activities support eye hand coordination and fine motor skills that are required to enable them to write.

When children experience writing only in work contexts, they will hardly be motivated. To encourage writing and make it fun, include your child in day to day activities that you do such as making a shopping list, writing postcards, making a scrapbook etc… Also, ensure that there are enough writing materials around in the house such as different variety of papers, crayons and pens of all colours.

It does take quite a lot of effort in drawing/writing as it involves muti-tasking. Give children the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. Praise the child for his/her effort and celebrate their expressions.
With Praise, children are magically motivated and will continue to develop their writing skills which will also lead to better communication, expression and linguistic skills.

3. Is your child doing well in school?

In spite of all the love and help you give, if your child is not doing well in school, it is important to check the following to know how you can help him/her.

1. Your child’s relationship with his/her teachers.
Children are more likely to work for the teacher they like. If your child has any issues with the teachers, help him/her sort it out. I have known children who do well in the subjects they dislike and do badly in subjects that they like, all because of their relationship with their teachers.

2. Peer pressure / bullying
It is impossible for a child to focus if he/she is going though pressure from peer or is a victim of bullying. Find out from your child, his/her teachers and friends regarding this. Your child is at a risk of losing his/her self esteem if he/she is going through any form of peer pressure or is a victim of bullying. Sort this out and if the problem is intense, it is best to move him/her to another school.

3. Over crowded schedule and work pressure.
Check out your child’s schedule and make sure that it is not over crowded and that he/she has enough time to play and to sleep. Also check to see if his/her work is too hard for him in anyway. Special coaching and helping organize his/her schedule if required will go a long way to help your child in this case.

4. Overrule any medical problems.
Have a simple medical check up. Maybe his/her vision is rapidly changing or his/her hearing is impaired. If all is good with his/her vision and hearing, I recommend that you have a therapist look at your child. Even if you are the most caring parents in the world, your child could be one who is very vulnerable to life’s ups and downs and may find it hard to speak to you. (I know this is hard to accept but it happens!)

I have worked with parents whose children were not doing well in school and with all the cases, it is always one of the above that is the issue. Even if your child is doing well, it is always good to keep a regular check of all the above.

4. Is your child ready for Primary school?

Traditionally, in Indonesia and many South East Asian countries, it is required that the child should be 6 years old when he/she attends school in July. However, many schools take in children when they are even a little over 5 years. Whatever is the age of your child, prior to seeking admissions in schools, use the checklist below to see if your child is really ready. It will not only take your child a longer time to adjust but school life may do more damage than good to him/her if he/she is not ready.

Does your child:
Separate happily from the caretaker/family who drops him/her in the morning to the preschool?
Mix well with other children?
Cope well with the preschool’s day to day activities?
Work and play independently?
Concentrate on a task for a period of time?
Control his/her feelings and actions most of the time?
Sit, listen and follow instructions?
Express thoughts and feelings?

Knowing to read and write is not everything! In addition to the three ‘R’s’ (Reading, writing and arithmetic), a child’s ‘readiness’ is very important to ensure smooth transition and life long learning at school.

Moving from a preschool to a primary school is challenging in the beginning for all children. Besides the environment, children have to adjust with new teachers and subject teachers, older children, bigger classroom size, lesser attention from teachers, 7 periods a day and lots of homework. A child who is physically, intellectually, emotionally and socially confident will adjust and do well academically.

Meeting your child’s teacher to simply have a ‘chat’ about your child is an ideal way to find out where your child stands in all areas and give you a good ‘feel’ about your child’s readiness for school.



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