This is our second installment in a series on choosing the right school for your child in Vallarta. Last week I talked about the differences between the private and public system, and began a list, in order of priority (in my view) of what you as a parent should be checking carefully when visiting schools in PV. The first item was school accreditation. The next one I will be touching on here is teacher quality.
Obviously this one is tied to school accreditation, but it needs its own section. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of teacher quality. There has been so much research done on the impact good teaching has on students, one of the most recent being a study done by economists from Harvard and Colombia universities where they researched the impact of one year of good teaching. Nicolas Kristoff of the New York Times put it this way in January 2012: “Having a good fourth-grade teacher makes a student 1.25 percent more likely to go to college, the research suggests, and 1.25 percent less likely to get pregnant as a teenager. Each of the students will go on as an adult to earn, on average, $25,000 more over a lifetime — or about $700,000 in gains for an average size class — all attributable to that ace teacher back in the fourth grade. That’s right: A great teacher is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to each year’s students, just in the extra income they will earn.”
Be sure to ask if the schools’ teachers are teaching in their native language, since you will likely want your child’s English teacher to be a native speaker. Check also for the percentage of teachers with their bachelors and masters degrees in their specialized areas.
Every school should be able to provide you with a copy of their school philosophy, mission and goals. Read this carefully and be sure that it coincides with your own.
If you cannot support what this school aims to achieve with its students, your child’s chance for success will be impeded. Ask about teaching methods, what sort of student support is available if this becomes necessary, and what sorts of methods are used to control student behavior. If extra-curricular activities or student leadership opportunities are important to you, don’t forget to ask the school what emphasis they place on these things. There are some schools with particular religious programs, so be sure to find out more about these if that is important to you. You will also want to know what types of ethical and community programs are being implemented in the school. Some schools are very active in the community, which again are important elements of leadership and values training.
You should definitely check on the academic results of the schools you visit. While the philosophy of the school is very important, you need to know if the school is doing what it says it will do in its philosophy and mission statement. One way to find this out is by checking on SAT scores for high school, and some type of standardized testing in the lower school.
You can see how the school does in relation to other schools, and you can also see if this is the kind of school that would be beneficial for your own particular child.
The last area I will mention is the schools’ physical facilities. This one may be important to you depending on your child’s interest and abilities, but a beautiful playground and huge soccer field will not necessarily reflect the quality of the school’s education.
Certainly a school should pay attention to the whole child, which includes physical, social, and emotional development, but the academic facilities of a school should then be up to the same standards. Next week we will finish our series with some advice about the school visit– what you should be looking for and what questions you need to ask on the tour. We will also provide a list of some private schools in the area with contact information.
By Leza Warkentin