Our children spend a large portion of their weekdays at school. So what should we as parents look for in a school these days? Besides the obvious things such as academic approach, a school that “looks to the future”, quality of teaching staff, and the school’s safety and wellbeing policies, an often-overlooked area is a school’s culture. Every family has its own set of values, so it is important to consider how well a school’s culture and values align with those of your family.
Here are a few values that you may or may not consider important. You may have others that are also important to you.
Let kids be kids! In today’s fast-paced world, where children seem to grow up so quickly, as parents we want to give them the opportunity to slow down and be kids. We want them to wander freely in their imaginations, learn by playing and doing, and – as they grow older – provide them with access to age-appropriate learning and resources. In practice, this means a school that allows children to learn through play and experience, that gives children lots of outdoor time and that allows and even encourages our kids to take (appropriate) risks. I mean, I love seeing my daughter trying to climb trees!
Nurture their hearts, not just their minds. While scholastic aptitude is important, I believe that giving children the support and experiences that they need to grow into happy and resilient young adults is equally, if not more, important. With mental and emotional health issues on the rise throughout the world, what better gift can we give our children than to feel comfortable in their own skin and the foundations they require to create meaning in their later lives. A school that prioritizes mental and emotional health creates an atmosphere of safety and recruits a very special type of teacher that is able to nurture and guide our children.
Understand and appreciate our privilege. In one way or another, we are all privileged – especially so when we can send our children to international schools and experience life in another country. Helping our children to recognize and appreciate that privilege from a young age can go a long way to creating young adults who inherently want to learn about their surroundings and make the world a better place. A school can do this through teaching students how the world works in all its different forms, how people live in different ways, current events (in an age-appropriate manner) and, in turn, ways that children and their families can give back. This includes through outreach and seeing if our children can make an impact in their own communities and neighborhoods. An international school that also appreciates its place in its host country, in this case Indonesia, and gives its students the opportunity to learn about Indonesia’s local cultures and language is also, I believe, giving our children an important gift. Finally, an international school can help our children to understand and appreciate their privilege by teaching restraint and moderation – for example, through asking parents to keep things simple when it comes to birthdays in class and goodie bags!
Love and look after our Earth! In light of the increasing importance of sustainability issues around the globe, I believe it is important for our children to understand the issues, have the tools to take action and plan their own “activism”, and to process any feelings of “eco-anxiety” that they may have. A school that can incorporate teaching these things into its curriculum and community, as well as modeling what it teaches by reducing its own impact on the environment, is doing a true service to our children and their future.
Ultimately, each family values different things. Figuring out what you value makes for a fun – and important – conversation in which you can include your children. I hope some of these values above can help you to think about what is important to you and for your children and, in turn, find the best school that fits your family!
Article written by:
Nesya Hughes Suwarso
Parent / Board Member
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