How to Choose A High School


Deciding which high school you are going to send your teen to is a big decision. This school will be your teen's home away from home so they need to be part of the decision. Here are some things to consider when you make your list:


The first question you should ask is: do you want to choose a public (government) or a private school?

Public schools are run by the government and, at least in theory, offer free or reduced-fee education. There are some excellent public (government) schools in South Africa, ones driven by fund-raising and dedicated teachers. 

Some of the most common reasons people consider private over public schools include:

  •     Quality of education.
  •     College preparation.
  •     Accommodation for children with special needs.
  •     Accommodation for children with exceptional talents.
  •     School violence or drugs.
  •     Public school overemphasis on moral and ethical teaching.
  •     Public school sex education programs.
  •     School security.

If private school is what you're considering for your child, you will want to interview the school as to how the school day takes place. What makes the lifestyle your child will experience at their school superior to public school? How do they handle basics like nutrition, medical needs and security.  These interview questions go beyond just asking the administration questions. You must take a tour of the grounds, view all the facilities and interview different support departments in the school.

Write down all the things you want from a school and turn that list into your 'interview questions' which you will use when you go from school to school looking for the perfect place for your teen. You need to include your teen in this process. They need to feel comfortable and happy at the new school.

Most independent schools have their own codes and regulations and also sometimes, a specific faith belief. This might be another major factor to consider.

You may have a child who is developmentally or physically challenged. There are some outstanding schools that can help with that need far better than public school. Or you may have a child who is exceptional in some particular area such as the performing arts, academics or science. Magnet schools or schools designed to give your child the additional help to move ahead more quickly in their field of specialization would be beneficial for you.

Finally, don’t overlook letting your teen add some questions to the checklist.  After all, this school will be your teen's home away from home.  She may want to know how often the school has dances or field trips to break up the classroom setting.  She may need to understand lunch hour or how the library works.  Include in your interview a complete tour of the school which might include sitting in on some classes that your child would become a part of, to watch the teachers in action. 

You can tell a lot about the level of affection between teachers and students watching them teach and then observing them in the halls as they interact with the kids.  And if the teachers like the kids, you know they are happy teaching there and they are doing a good job. Moreover, a warm relationship between the staff and the student body reflects a well-rounded administration. It shows that the school has designed everything from the school layout to the curriculum to how discipline is handled for the benefit of the students.

Overall, use all of your senses when evaluating a new school, so you come home with a good idea of whether this is the perfect next step in your child’s academic career.

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