It’s that time of the year when many South African parents are making decisions about new schools for their children. And when it comes to choosing the ‘right’ school, three key factors stand out above the rest: affordability, safety and the quality of education.
That’s according to market research by independent network of private schools– SPARK Schools, which suggests that some parents will pay up to 20% of their disposable income to secure the best possible schooling for their children.
Other factors influencing the choice of a school include proximity to home or work, the availability of extra-mural activities, and a positive culture and values. And while most parents care about academic achievement as part of a quality education, they also want an education that develops real-world skills – social, thinking and emotional skills – and prepares their children for a life beyond school.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all descriptor for 21st century parents – but they have common priorities for their children’s education,” says SPARK Schools co-founder and CEO Stacey Brewer. “Once you cut through all the high-level reasons parents come up with for sending their kids to a certain school, though, it’s remarkably simple. They want to come home every day to smiley, happy kids who get a great education in a safe environment.”
What are the hallmarks of a 21st century parent? They want to participate in their children’s education, with regular updates on their progress and the tools to help them stay involved. They want to collaborate with teachers to ensure their children’s cognitive, social and emotional wellbeing. They want their children to grow up to be good citizens. Increasingly, they are willing to challenge conventional thinking, and want their children to do the same.
“Schools today are being challenged to facilitate the active involvement of parents in the development of their kids. This is something that parents clearly want. They’re also looking for ways that their kids can be ‘future-fitted’ with specific skills like life skills, entrepreneurship, independent thinking, financial management and leadership,” said Brewer.
There are four key factors that make parents take their children out of a school – sometimes in the middle of a school year: Relocation, or emigration; extreme bullying or abuse; an unsafe environment; and any decline in educational standards.
“Bullying is a major driver to make parents change schools. Other concerns we see include the perceived mismanagement of school fees, lax safety, inept or uncaring teachers, and teachers not being up to speed on the expected curriculum. Parents are looking for environments where their children can come into their own and thrive,” said Brewer.