My wife and I are alumni of very "prestigious" primary schools. Schools that have, beyond a doubt, contributed to our development as individuals; schools that were not as popular as they are now. It would be easy for us to send our children to those same schools, since we qualify for phase 2A; since we stay within 1km of them; since everyone else wants to get their children into them.
But would we?
Because if we did so, we would be thinking about what was best for us; not what was best for our children. The purpose of education is to be educated, and while assessment is an essential part of judging a child's progress, it is not everything. It cannot be regarded as everything.
In his book David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell has a very eloquent chapter on whether the best schools are the best schools for our children. In the chapter, Caroline Saks enters one of the top universities in the US, only to find that she cannot do as well as her peers; she becomes despondent and this feeling of inadequacy inadvertently affects her self-confidence, her self-belief.
It is uncanny how similar, I feel, we ship our children to what we deem as the "best schools" because we believe it is the best thing for them. Parents fail to realise that there is a very big difference between the two. The "best schools" are the best schools because of how they've performed in previous examinations or competitions; how would that be an indicator of whether or not they are suitable learning environments for our children?
I believe I know my children well and what their interests are. When the time comes to choose a Primary school for them, I will choose one based on this knowledge, and based on certain personal criterias which I feel are essential to have in a learning environment. These are a few things I'm looking at:
1. I want to send my children to a school with different races (meaning SAP schools are out).
2. I want to send my children to a school close to our home (I want them to be well rested).
3. I want my children to attend a mixed school.
4. I want my children to attend the same school (I believe they bring out the best in each other).
5. I want to send my children to a school with a good CCA program.
6. I want a school that does not boast of its grades, but is proud of its values.
7. I want a school that treats ALL students like a gifted child.
It may very well be that my children will attend a "neighbourhood" school (whatever that means; afterall, aren't all schools neighbourhood schools?) But regardless, my wife and I will make a decision which is best for our children. We will visit the school, speak to the principal, visit the classroom and make this decision based on what we see at the present, and not how the school has done in the past.
I am excited for that day: when my children step into the school for the first time. I look forward to the day when they come home from school, and they don't do that well for their examinations.
My older sister once told me, when I was choosing whether to attend film school, that when it comes to big decisions, there is no such thing as a wrong decision. I don't think there's a wrong primary school to send my children to, so long as I have their best interests at heart.