How to spot a great school?

Writen by Gian Carlo Binti
09 September 2016

In the past 6 months since I’ve first joined PT. Melintas Cakrawala Indonesia (MCI), I’ve had the privilege visit schools in Greater Jakarta area for two reasons:

1. To understand the common problem schools were having in order find solutions we can provide

2. To start building relationships with schools and introduce our company and what we aim to accomplish for Education in Indonesia

After meeting and presenting to over 20 schools, I’ve was fortunate to be able to gather many information such as:

· How schools live up to their values and vision

· How concern they were for the development of student’s success

· How passion and competency must go hand-in-hand in order to achieve success

· What are they doing to solve education issues in their own schools

· How to spot a good school

I’m not an expert or have actually done extensive research on what qualifies as a good school. However, before I joined MCI a good school to me was good facilities, strict rules, good security and international teachers.

Interestingly, after actually visiting different schools I’ve begin to acquire a new perception what it means to be a great school, and just by the questions they ask, the passion they display, and commitment shows a great difference on what makes a great school.

1. A great school is always more education-orientated than sales-orientated

Previously being fairly naive, I was under the impression that all school leaders are education-orientated which means the primary reason they work in a school is because they want to do what’s best for the students. However, the reality of it was that not all school leaders are in it for the improvement of a child. I’m not being judgemental but it’s in fact the way things are, I’ve learned how to spot the difference between the two, which are:

Education-orientated schools will develop programs or introduce new innovation that are research and evidence based.

This means they are concerned on the benefit for their students and wants to ensure that whatever is being utilized must have a strong research foundation and has proven success.

Schools that are sales-orientated tends to make short cuts, and is mostly concerned on how to acquire more students into their schools. Although this is fair objective, the actions and motivation makes all the difference.

An example is during our introduction of the AJT CogTest, schools who are education-orientated will ask the right questions such as how important was the norming process to the success of the report outcome? Or What was the impact in countries who had implement this program? And although our program may at times provide some challenges but since it provides valid and accurate information about a child’s cognitive profile, they will at least consider as long as it is evidence based product.

On the other hand, sales-orientated schools will not take that challenge for reasons such as not practical and doesn’t bring in more revenue. I came to understand that most of them preferred the Fingerprint Assessment which does not have any scientific or research-based evidence to support what it claims. But, this was easy to sell and was more practical, the fact that it is unethical becomes secondary.

2. A great school will have passionate and competent staffs

Passion in education is a great virtue but sometimes passion without the right skills will not manifest breakthrough. Great schools have staffs such as Principals, teachers, and other members that are both passionate and competent; which delivers a high quality education to students. What type of passion and what type of competency are you talking about?

Well… Passionate about the well-being and growth to achieve success for their students. And competencies such as understanding child psychology, effective learning strategies, dynamics of social and motivation, etc.

While sales-orientated schools will have international teachers that is not necessarily qualified but for the sake of him/her being international.

3. A great schools facilitates students to achieve great heights

When I say facilitate I don’t mean facilities, although great but does not necessary reflect on being a great school. Facilitate means providing the right tools at the right time for students to reach their maximum potential. A great school will just to do that.

A sales-orientated school will provide facilities just to provide a gimmick in order to acquire new students. An example I see is some schools will build a kitchen just to use it as promotion communicating they are the only school in the area that provide a kitchen with a cooking class, or they will build a choo choo train because it attracts the child to want to go to the school.

4. A great school will produce great students

So I guess ultimately a great school will want to produce great students. Another way to spot a great school are to talk to the students, any students not just the a-graders. Great schools will be able to make a student with learning difficulties to achieve great success by providing the right program based on the right data. Great schools will anticipate and prepare for the most challenging case with students, and have a well-planned program to support and facilitate students who have learning difficulties or giftedness.

5. A great school will lead by example

Finally, a great school does not only educate through discipline but educate through leadership, by providing an example of what they expect a student to achieve and acquire. Being the person they want their students to become.

Conclusion

Whether you’re a parent or not, being able to spot a great school will demand you to ask hard questions to the principals and to understand whether they are education-orientated or sales-orientated. Open houses don’t tell you much, facilities don’t tell you much, international teachers don’t tell you much; what will tell you a lot is the vision and value in which they execute – and this requires asking difficult questions to school members.

#happyhunting

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