School is a wonderful time in almost every child’s life. Not only is it a time for fun and mischief, but this time also decides what shape a child will take in his/her adulthood.
In the modern Indian educational system, schools have a lot more to offer than just education. They focus on improving personality, inculcating self-discipline, and creating independent and mature citizens who can contribute to society. This is furthered by residential/boarding schools, which take a step further and groom students in an overall fashion. Many parents choose to send their children to residential schools for the quality of education, sports, communication skills and life skills they are able to inculcate in them.
Choosing to send your children to a boarding school is a big decision as it has the potential to impact their learning and psyche. Thus, you need to equip yourself with an understanding of all the consequences that your decision can have. This is what we will address ahead in the article, to help you make the right decision.
Impact of Boarding Schools on Children: Learning from Real Life Incidents
To understand more about the impact a boarding school can have on a student, let us take a look at 2 real-life examples.
Example 1 – The Problem Child
Sana, a 13-year-old girl, started throwing tantrums at home and at school. Both her parents were doctors, and very loving, but were unable to give her enough time due to their hectic schedules. They noticed that she had not been doing very well at school and spent a lot of time watching television at home. Her teacher suggested that they pay more attention to her, such as taking personal care of her homework, and trying to limit her recreational time. Her parents, after a long and thoughtful discussion with Sana, decided to send her to a boarding school since they could not take out enough time to be present at home for most of the day.
After 2 months at the boarding school, Sana has returned home for the holidays. She seems happy to see her parents and displays no signs of her previous behaviour. She spends most of her time completing her science and art projects, and the rest is spent with her parents. She seems more confident and upbeat, and fondly narrates her boarding school stories to her parents. She receives much more attention from her teachers and friends at boarding than she did at home, and it has really turned things around for her.
Example 2 – A Turnaround in Behavior
Aakash, a class 10th student, had always been an achiever – top of his class and state-level debater. He was shy and had only a few close friends. His father worked in an MNC and mother was a homemaker. Aakash shared a warm relationship with both his parents, and their involvement in his life was adequate. Even though he liked his school, he had always wanted to go to a residential school to study. He thought he would make more friends there, and be exposed to varied experiences. His parents were apprehensive at first since he had never been away from home for prolonged periods of time, but they gave in. They decided that living away from home might make him more independent.
After about 6 months of being in the boarding school, teachers have complained about Aakash’s behaviour. His grades have dropped and he refuses to participate in extra-curricular activities. He thinks it’s “uncool” for him to obey his teachers or parents, and that he can do whatever he thinks is right for him. He says that he’s discovered that grades don’t matter as much as one’s personality and network in order to be successful. His parents are worried and thinking of bringing him back home.
The names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.
These are two very extreme examples of how a child might react to living and studying independently in a boarding school. Before jumping to a conclusion about what a boarding school can or cannot contribute to your child’s development and academics, there are certain factors that you should consider.
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Things to Keep in Mind While Deciding to Send Your Child to Boarding School
Here are a few things to evaluate before deciding if sending your child to boarding school is the right call or not.
1. Assess your Child’s Willingness and Mindset
Any discussion revolving around sending your child to school should involve him/her. Keeping them in the loop ensures that they are better prepared to go and stay there.
The first cue to figuring out if boarding is the right choice is the child’s willingness. Since the child needs to adjust to the new environment, it is necessary that s/he feels comfortable with the idea.
Now, as a parent, you will need to understand the reasons for the children’s willingness to go to boarding if they come up with the idea on their own. In the 2nd example above, we see that the child who convinces his parents to send him to boarding school starts displaying inappropriate behaviour. Maybe he was looking to be set free, or he felt liberated at boarding, which led him to question certain priorities.
There are always signs to look for while you assess your child’s willingness to go to a boarding school. If your child is shy or has trouble mixing with other children, then it might be difficult for him/her to make friends at the boarding school. Some kids are also more prone to pick up on habits or get influenced easily, while others may insist on going away due to not being able to adjust in the present environment, at home or in school. You need to pay attention to these things before making a decision.
2. Avoid Using it to Punish Your Child
Many parents make the mistake of using boarding school as some sort of punishment for their child. While it makes you look imposing and authoritative, you may lose love and respect in your child’s eyes. You should introspect your own reasons for choosing a boarding school, and then communicate these reasons to your child. It will help to preserve your bond and the child will not feel punished.
For example, rather than saying “You are going to a boarding because your grades are not up to the mark!”, say “We think we can discuss the idea of you attending a boarding school so that you can focus on your studies and extra-curriculars properly. What do you think?” It’s all about perspective and communication.
3. Evaluate What Areas Your Child Needs Improvement in
Before deciding if a boarding school is a good idea or not, you need to have a clear-cut vision of what your child stands to gain by going to the boarding school. For example, if you live in a small town, then your child may not be exposed to advanced tools of learning and education. In this case, you may decide that the child needs to be in a more stimulating environment, which is a justified reason for choosing a residential school.
Another example can be that you want your child to focus more on academics and personality development, rather than being involved with distractions (such as TV, gaming, etc.) at home. Whatever you think are the areas your child needs help with, make sure that s/he will be getting the help that’s needed.
4. Know that Your Child Will Go Through Changes
A residential school is a place where students need to look after themselves, adjust according to school rules, follow a set routine, and make friends on their own. This will lead them to become more independent, which sometimes can make them seem emotionally distant. This does not mean they do not want to share things with their parents, but that they can also take care of themselves on their own.
They will also be exposed to information on sensitive topics, which you may feel are not appropriate for them. But they will, and will also learn to deal with such information. To ensure effective communication, let the child know at all times that you trust him/her. Keep communication open about topics such as peer pressure, bullying, sexual development, etc., so that your child knows s/he can share with you without any fear.
School years are the primary determinants of how a child will turn out to be, and being in a residential school will certainly have an effect on them. As a parent, you should be aware of that and be willing to accept the changes that come along.
5. Pick the Right School
While making the decision of sending your child to a boarding, you also need to pick the right school suited to their needs. For example, certain residential schools are known to focus more on sports and extracurriculars, while certain others lay emphasis on grades and subject learning. Make sure you are sending your child to one that complements and enhances their talents.
The right school will definitely groom your child and make him/her more confident, active, and eager to do well in life. On the other hand, if the school is not suited to your child’s needs, it can prove to be detrimental to your their well-being.
We hope these pointers will coax you to think hard about your decision and aid in making the transition smoother. Whatever you do, keep in touch with your child’s teachers, and make sure that your child is enjoying his/her time at the school. If you see any signs of discomfort, get to the root of it and give your child a safe space to talk about it.
If the decision still remains up for discussion, then seeking help from a professional career counsellor will help.
Hope you enjoyed reading the article. If you have anything to add, share in the comments below!