Need to choose a school for your child?

So you have set out to choose a school for your child?  Let me tell you from personal experience – this is no easy task!  There are many options (at least in the area we live in), but how do you choose the right one for your child?

Let me just be clear on something right from the word go – I do not presume to tell you that there is one school that will suite EVERY child.  In the end you will need to make the best decision you can after considering all the factors.


CAPS (Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement) and IEB (Independent Examinations Board) are the two standards for tests and assessment of for school going learners in South Africa.  The current Matric pass rate for schools that use the IEB is 98%.  The Matric current pass rate for schools that use the CAPS assessment is 75% (depending on who you ask).


What are the factors to consider before you choose a school?

For the number one factor should be “What do you want the school to do for your child?”  Spend some time to define this for yourself before you start look at different schools.   The the future of work looks very different to what we may be used to, so keep this in mind.

If you’re on this blog (The STEM Blog South Africa), it goes without saying that innovative education toward Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics should be a given.  PERSONALLY the school I end up choosing will need to be focused on teaching my child how to learn and creating the space for her to grow and develop her own understanding of things.  This is regardless of whether or not she chooses a STEM career one day.

After you figure out what you want your child to get from his/her education, here are a few basic unspoken things to look out for.

“Behind the scenes” basics:

1 – Is the school registered?  Ask the school to give you their EMIS number so you can verify with the Department of Basic Education that they are actually registered.  A registered school should be able to produce a letter or certificate of registration from the Department.

2 – Are all the pictures against the wall exactly the same?  This is probably more applicable to pre-primary schools, but the principle is to keep an eye out for the encouragement of individual expression and making mistakes, but learning from them.

3 – Are the teachers qualified and will they have a positive impact on you child? This is a VERY IMPORTANT point – the school could have best of everything, but the teachers can still make or break a child.

Ask the teacher(s) what their attitude is toward freedom of expression, discipline and free thinking.  Your child is not a robot, and although discipline should be maintained (for the teacher’s sanity mostly), making mistakes should be encouraged.  That is a whole other topic though.


The school should also have some way of keeping the teachers up to date with the latest teaching methods.  Teachers are required to achieve a certain number of SACE (South African Council for Educators) points in a year.

4 – What programs do the school offer?  This goes for everything from sport to art – and don’t forget robotics.  Extramural activities, and the recognition of achievements in them, are vitally important to the development of your child!

Choose a good school

This does not necessarily imply that the school with the “brand name” is the best fit for your child.  Get input from your child as well.  Ultimately he/she needs to be comfortable at the school you choose.  Consider the factors mentioned in this post, but like I said at the beginning – the starting point should be what you hope your child gets out of the education he/she receives.

I hope this helped you identify a few useful tips to help you choose a school for your child.

One more thing – are there enough teachers to handle the number of children in the school and in the classes?  On average class sizes range between 18 and 24 children per class.

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