Going on a school tour soon? Here are the questions you need to ask!

Make like a girl guide and have these questions ready on your next school tour

If you’ve moved to Singapore and are on the lookout for the perfect international school, or are thinking about switching schools altogether, the chances are you have a whole load of school tours lined up. (Pst: don’t forget to check our monthly guide to what’s on in schools for all the deets of upcoming open houses and school events). But those school tours can be hard work if you’ve not done your prep. You’ll get information overload in just a short space of time, wear yourself out walking around the campus checking on every little thing you have on your checklist, and then feel a bucket-load of pressure to make a decision that could potentially have your kids resenting you for years – maybe even decades – to come. No pressure. But as we like to make things easier for parents here at HoneyKids (including ourselves), we’ve been asking several top international schools why we should be taking a school tour, how to get the most out of it, and thinking beforehand about the questions we should be asking…

Admissions department, Singapore American School

Do you recommend families take a school tour before enrolling their child? If so, why?

We strongly encourage families including kids to visit the campus for an admissions tour or Open House if they have the opportunity to do so. When parents visit a school, they are able to experience the culture of the school and see firsthand how teachers and students interact and how learning takes place.

We understand that due to travel and time constraints, not all families can visit and therefore we have ensured our website provides the comprehensive admissions and school program information to support families in school decision making.

What tips do you have for school selection – what should families do before they take a school tour?

Choosing the right school can be pretty overwhelming. As parents start exploring, they will soon realise that even here on this little red dot, there are dozens of options. And they are all a little bit different. Looking through websites and brochures seems overwhelming and exhausting! However, they will probably end up with several schools which meet their requirements fairly well.

Parents may wish to list the things that are most important to them in the process of making their choice. We encourage parents to consider their family’s needs and their child’s learning style. The curriculum, approach to learning, facilities, and the school’s mission, vision, and culture also play an important role in decision making. Prior knowledge of these will help parents guide their questions as they take a tour of the school.

Please share one question you recommend families to ask during a school tour and why?

There is no one important question when it comes to selecting the right school. Every family has different priorities and what is most important for one family may be vastly different from another family’s needs. As they set foot on the campuses of schools that pique interest, parents are able to see how they work for them and their child and able to discern and decide by asking the right questions and comparing the responses.

Jasween Gill, Head of School and Learning, OWIS

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When is the best time to do a school tour and should the whole family come?

We encourage parents to visit during school hours, both with and without their children, so they can make an informed decision regarding enrollment.

How can parents take advantage of the school tour to help with their decision?

Visiting the school ahead of time allows parents an up-close look at our school culture and programs. List down questions and group them into categories such as curriculum, teachers, admission process, fees etc to ensure your questions are answered. It is also good to know transportation options or the school’s exact location to avoid unexpected delays, especially when you are bringing your children along.

Please share one question you recommend families should ask during a school tour and why?

How do you maintain your fees point when other international schools with the same international curriculum charge so much more?

Dr. Margaret Alvarez, Head of School and Head of Learning, ISS International School



Learning is always fun at ISS!

Why is it important for families to take a school tour before enrolling their child?

We believe a school tour that focuses on classroom activities is important to gauge the learning environment and determine whether or not the school culture is the right fit for the student. It is important that the student comes along too to guage their level of comfort with the classroom environment and for parents to watch their child’s response to what they see and do in the school.

Do you have tips for parents to consider before taking a school tour?

It is recommended that families talk to parents of children enrolled in the school prior to a tour so that they can compare what is said about the school with their own perceptions. It is also important that parents draw up a set of criteria that lays out what they are looking for in their child’s school. This helps focus questions asked during a tour and helps parents filter out what is not important to them and as a result make decisions based on what is key for their child This strengthens the decision making process.

Please share one question you recommend families to ask during a school tour and why?

ISS International School (ISS) has created a set of ten questions that we recommend parents should ask during the school selection process. One of these questions is: How long has the school been running its programmes? This is important to determine the level of expertise in the school and the extent to which the learning outcomes, skills, knowledge, activities and attributional aspects of a curriculum are embedded in the fabric of the school. It can also be indicative of the level of teacher expertise.

Sebastien Barnard, Head of Marketing and Admissions, GEMS World Academy  – Singapore

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Is taking a school tour an important part of the ultimate decision when selecting a school?

There is no better way to evaluate a school in this regard than to go on a school tour either individually or in a group. Meeting up with the school’s Leadership Team and Teachers will provide insights and perspectives not always available from websites and prospectuses. It is also a good idea to bring your child along with you. After all, they are the ones who will be spending their day at school. Including them in the selection process even if it is just to experience the playground or shoot hoops at the gym, will provide insights into how they feel about the education environment. Including your child will also help in the eventual settling in process and will make things easier in the long run for them.  

What are the important factors to consider before choosing a school?

There are many factors to consider when choosing your child’s next school. Price and prestige; approaches to teaching and learning; personality and the people at the school. However, it is critical to also assess the academic, sports and arts facilities and infrastructure both physical and intellectual. Look for schools that are true innovators and have a clear mission. That are driven to provide quality education. Not just rehearsing the past, but pioneering the future of learning. Schools that are passionate about instilling values and providing practical skills that will equip your child for the real world. And finally look for passionate, pioneering educators that are dedicated to providing quality education and building real-life skills, every day, in every classroom.

Please share one question you recommend families ask during a school tour and why?

It is always useful to ask the school’s leadership team and teachers what the school’s mission and values are. This will give you an indication of the personality and style of the school as well as an insight into the passion the educators and the leadership team have for their school, their work and the families they serve.

Andrea Strachan, Primary School Vice Principal, Canadian International School (CIS)

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Do you recommend that families go on a school tour before enrolling their child?

Parents should absolutely take a school tour before enrolling their child. It is important for parents to see that the facilities and the philosophy of the school are a match for the educational goals they have for their child. We always encourage parents to bring their children with them for a tour because it gives them a voice in their educational choices, gets them excited about starting a new school and gives them an idea of what they might expect on their first day.

What should families do before they take a school tour?

Before taking a tour, think about what the needs are for your whole family.  Do you want a school where your children can begin in Primary and stay through to Secondary School?  Do you want a school where all of your children, not matter what age, can attend? Are you most comfortable with a traditional approach to teaching and learning that is familiar with what you experienced as a child, or are you ready to embrace a focus on 21st century learner competencies with a more inquiry-based approach?  What motivates your child to learn — can you picture your child enjoying his/her time at this school? What area will you be living in — is proximity to your child’s school an important consideration for you?

Please share one question you recommend families to ask during a school tour and why?

What is the best thing about your school and why should I choose this for my family?  You can often get a good feel about what the school values as being important through their answer to this question.

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