The Open House: What To Ask

Local secondary schools typically hold their open house events at year-end, but there are open houses held in April and May as well, to “catch the crowd for the DSA [Direct School Admission exercise],” as one teacher put it.

Before you attend an open house event, you can gather information from a school’s web site, or get opinions from the ground via friends and the KiasuParents forum. Most parents would be concerned about the school’s pathways and programmes, subject combinations, and whether their children can continue with an existing CCA (co-curricular activity) where they have displayed an aptitude or talent.

Once you’re at an open house event, you can get an indication of school policies and goals from a chat with the teachers. However, we spoke to several teachers and they gave similar advice: Spend more time getting to know current students instead, as they will show you if a school’s environment and teaching methods have been conducive for learning and development.

To make the most of your school visit, compile a list of questions that you want answered, and encourage your child’s involvement in this area too. Here are some suggestions to help you get started.

Questions For Existing Students

  • What classes do you like or not like? Why?
  • What do you like about the teachers in school? Or, do you have favourite teachers in school, and what do you like about them?
  • Do you enjoy your CCA? Why do you like it?
  • Do you enjoy attending school? Why or why not?
  • What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before joining this school?
  • How much free time do you have every day? What do you do in your free time?

Questions For Teachers

  • What subject combinations does the school offer for its upper secondary classes?
  • What are the mandatory programmes outside of school hours that my child will have to attend?
  • Apart from the semestral exams, how often are kids assessed and what are the school’s assessment modes?
  • What is this school’s strength? Or, what does this school do better than many other schools?
  • How does the school support children who have academic, social, or emotional difficulties?
  • How does the school deal with bullying?

Questions About CCAs

  • Can my child’s involvement in this sport/activity count as a CCA? (This question is useful if your child is on the national team or represents a club for a sport or activity that is not a CCA in the school that you’re interested in.)
  • What is the parental involvement/support required for this CCA? (You may wish to check on the financial or time commitments required. For instance, sporting CCAs where training is intensive may result in higher CCA fees.)

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