Wait! Don’t go away yet. I know what you are all thinking. An enrichment centre trying to give tips on how to choose one. Wouldn’t this post be totally biased? Don’t worry, I am going to be objective here. I am going to offer a series of questions you need to ask yourself when choosing a centre. This is an unbiased view as a parent myself.
The quality of teachers is also an important criteria. Do the teachers have the required qualifications? It would be great if they possess degrees beyond the minimum required. Ask the teachers to show you their certificates. Also, does the teacher interact well with their students? Always choose a passionate and caring teacher.
Quality of Programme / Materials
You might want to ask the centre about their teaching methodology. Is the programme systematic and follow tested pedagogy? Do they have proper lesson plans? Are their materials all commonly found in assessment books in Popular bookstore? Needless to say, centres that show they know what they are doing, and have their own materials are preferred.
Take a look at the learning environment. Is the entire centre very cramped. Are there other facilities available like a study area? Or are computers available to the students? Even how well the owners maintain the centre shows how much pride they have in the school and how much effort they will put in to ensure that students learn.
A good track record might be an important consideration. Certainly, no centre will tell you that their students keep failing. But take care to look at the track record closely. Does the school select students? Some schools only allow the best students to join. Of course these centres produce great results. Also, look out for centres with huge student intakes but few students who do well. It might mean that their star students are only a few.
In a country that is very expensive, cost is certainly a factor. Of course, the general advice is to enrol in a centre that you can afford. But take note that while some centres charge very cheaply for their lessons, they tend to have many students in one class. Also, are they not confident that their programme works and need to charge low fees to attract students? Therefore, it is probably the best to go for a centre that has the best value for the fees it is charging.
Location is an important criteria as well. Is the centre near your home? Is it easily accessible by public transport? However, do consider other criteria as well. A great centre that is not too far away might be worth the trip rather than a lousy centre that is just a stone’s throw away.
Other than the progress report from school, how do parents know that their children are improving? It is important for centres to give some sort of feedback to the parents. Can parents view the materials, worksheets and assignments given to the children? Any additional reports giving more feedback to children would be great.
What is the teacher/student ration? There are some centres that squeeze 18 or even more children in a classroom. In this situation, you might as well just rely on MOE schools only. After all, their teacher/student ratio is not too far off.
Does the timing of the class if your child’s schedule? If it does, then great. If it does not, I will still look at other more important criteria like quality of teachers and programme. If the school is really good, I will reschedule to fit the school’s lesson timings.
Terms and Conditions
We all know that schedules change. People fall sick and schools plan events that coincide with lessons. How flexible is the school in changing classes? Do they need a Medical Certificate before changing? Will they be willing to pro-rate the course fees? You might want to take this into account.
Before I end this post, I would like to share a personal story of mine. I was looking for a martial arts school for my son. We found one. They had highly qualified teachers and they seem to have a great programme. However, I did not like the cost of the programme. It was structured in such a way I would not get value for my money. The criteria that killed the deal was the terms and conditions. It was so restrictive that I felt all the school wanted to do was to take all my money upfront and make it impossible to get the money back if I needed to withdraw my son for any reason.
Certainly there is a lot of consideration when looking at which centre to enrol. Choose the one that ticks most of your boxes and do look out for the terms and conditions if you ever need to switch a school.