By Kartik Bajoria
School is the first exposure a child has to formal education. It is a place that should nurture, encourage and spur creativity, imagination and true learning. It ought also to be that one space which inspires. However, what presents parents a complex task is to choose between a boarding school (a residential school generally located in a different city, where students live for majority of the year away from homes and families, and study) or a regular day school (in one’s own city/town of domicile). How, and on what basis, is a parent to decide whether to send their child away, or keep them at home?
To shed some light on this justifiable conundrum, let us first examine some truths about both systems of education. Here are some plain and simple truths that could be advantageous or not, depending on one’s point of view.
Boarding school education
By living away from home and from the protective cocoon of parents and family, generally boarding schools are able to instill a sense of freedom, independence and confidence that is hard to match if a student attends day school.
By that same token however, if the home base is not emotionally strong, students who attend boarding school might become emotionally detached, unable later in life, to cohabit with family.
The focus in most boarding schools extends far beyond academic or scholastic excellence. The emphasis is on overall development. With a plethora of options for extra-curricular activities such as sports, debating, dramatics, students are presented with a better prospect of honing their personalities than at day school.
Most boarding schools also espouse a philosophy of simple, spartan living. Those used to a more cossetting lifestyle will initially find it hard but if they settle in, they will come out as individuals who can survive on very little luxury. This is further developed by being one with nature and ‘roughing it out’ through experiences such as trekking, cycling, rafting and other excursions that are a regular feature of a good boarding school’s calendar.
It is a myth that if a child is behaving badly at home, or is too ‘spoilt’, a boarding school will ‘fix’ the problem. Often, those who have behaviour issues or deficits will find that boarding school, the freedom and independence it brings, can exasperate the issue. These aren’t ‘correctional facilities’ and should not therefore be perceived as such.
Boarding schools initiate tremendous bonding and a genuine ethos of shared living that can become lifelong qualities in a student. They also tend to attract people from various parts of the country, abroad even, and therefore present a wonderful opportunity for inter-community interaction and living.
A boarding school is also a very strong brotherhood/sisterhood and post school, the tight-knit alumni is an excellent and loyal network to tap into, commonly a lot stronger than those of day schools.
Day school education
The biggest and most obvious advantage of a day school education is that a parent has their ward at home with them. This is a great feeling for the parent and child.
However, this same fact can also lead to over-interference on the part of the parent into not just school-related matters of the child but also in the general day to day life, which could, especially in the teens and beyond, become an annoyance.
A day school generally operates in a much more centralised fashion as compared to a boarding school. While most matters are handled within a boarding school between student and master, at day school, typically a child’s parents are summoned at the drop of a hat. Depending on the specifics, this could be a good or a bad thing.
For students who are studious, and have a specific academic goal in mind, day schools present an ideal setting in which to chase that aim. The mix of academic-focus at school and living at home (with certain targeted classes that parents can organise after-school hours) create a conducive environment for concerted studies that might be difficult at boarding school.
The quality of a day school can vary wildly so parents considering keeping their wards in their own cities and towns must research the school they are considering thoroughly. While most boarding schools employ similar philosophies of education, and are by and large on an even quality-standard, this disparity is a lot more when it comes to day schools. Be mindful of it.
Opinion is divided sharply on it on this final point. However, I feel that if your ward is someone who is overly attached and emotionally dependent on you, day school is a much better fit for him/her than boarding school. Contrary to popular belief, boarding schools are not ‘fix it’ places. It requires a child of a certain kind of disposition and inherent confidence to really thrive and make the most of a boarding school experience. It could be unduly and irreparably harsh towards those who are not intrinsically strong.
Having shared some home truths of both systems of education, a parent really ought to make a decision between boarding and day-school education, chiefly based on their child’s inclinations, preferences, personality, passions, interests and leanings. By and large, kids who are more keen on extra-curricular activities than academics and have an innate sense of confidence will shine at boarding school. While those who are more academic focused and are not terribly outgoing will perhaps be better served by a day-school education.
Whatever the case may be, as a parent, it is your own child and his or her unique traits that should serve as the key factor in your decision-making process. Of course, parents and families in transferable jobs, ones where there might be some marital discord and bad home atmosphere as a result, do send their kids to boarding schools. And those are fair reasons too. At the end of the day though, it is your child and his or her own disposition that should govern your final decision.
(Writer, educator and moderator, Kartik Bajoria holds workshops on creative writing and personality development at various schools.)