There are two distinct aspects to finding a Mississauga school that will benefit your child. The first is to be clear about the standards and values you want your child to grow up with and into. Clearly, find a school environment that meets those standards and fosters those values.
The second would of course be academics. There are few who would argue with the premise that early language development is a key indicator to future school success. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that children with good oral language and vocabulary perform better in normed reading tests in grades 3 & 4. While this may strike many of us as common sense, it is amazing how many schools have failed to adequately develop literacy skills in our young students.
How do you as a parent prepare your child for the best possible start? In an ideal world, you would identify a long term education partner that will understand your child and your family, and will advise on each step for the child, ensuring academic milestones are met. Research shows that the strength of a student’s skill base increases with the amount of literacy work/play carried out both at home and at school, particularly in the early years. It therefore lends support to the creation of a partnership – between parents and teachers that know your family and care about your child – and that partnership needs to start early in a child’s academic journey.
Accordingly, two key requirements are direct lines of communication with decision-makers and continuity, where every person you talk to knows your child. Much as we would all like it to, the public system can provide neither. But don’t look for fault in teachers’ levels of talent or desire. Rather, it’s the system itself which causes frustration to many parents, as they push to improve the provision of education for their children. Surely, there must be a better way, so that students struggling in one area are not simply marginalized or even discarded. There must be a way to prevent gifted students from becoming bored. The impact of either scenario is lifelong.
Every school should be accountable to the families it serves. Philosophically, we can all agree with the notion that every child should have an equal opportunity. The problem with the public system is that it’s baseline for equality is unimaginative. For too many students, a good day at school is anonymity. Whether children require greater challenges or additional support, it shouldn’t take months and months to get something done. These are critical years to establish solid academic skills, and must be independent of political dogma.
There is a fault line running through the whole system (arguably the whole of society), and that is trust. So many parents talk of broken promises and failure to deliver. Continuity, team thinking, and a staff that knows your child are key. Processes need to be in place that enable teachers, parents and students to agree, in writing, on individual academic development objectives for the year. There needs to be a fixed structure solid enough for collective growth, but fluid enough for individual expression.
So if the question is, ‘Why choose Private Schools over Public Schools?’, part of the answer lies in accountability, continuity and more efficient decision making. To this, add the positive impact of small class sizes and the effective increase in available one on one time. Add the specialist work that can be done with all children as the need arises. Consider also the greater flexibility in structuring academics and sports to suit individuals of any level.
In the end, the discussion should not really be about Public VERSUS Private. Rather, we need to ask ‘What are the criteria that will suit my child best?’ ‘What are the values I want my child to grow up with?’ ‘Does the school leadership match my values?’
Most importantly, your question should be, ‘Who do I trust to deliver on promises made?
ARTICLE SUBMITTED BY BELINDA BERNARDO
Belinda Bernardo has been a Professional Educator for more than twenty years with Bachelor degrees and Graduate Work in Education and Child Psychology, Principal Papers and an E.C.E. She has published articles in the press and journals, contributed to media programmes and has spoken at many conferences. She owns and operates Star Academy, a private school in Mississauga.
This article originally ran in the 2010 Mississauga Kids Annual Guide.