10 things to consider when looking for the best alternative education options

alternative education

The alternative education options in South Africa have really opened up a path for those who dont fit into the traditional schooling environments – or who have not received placement by the GDE.

The growing sector has evolved into so many different branches and methods of teaching. As a parent you have made the decision to divert from mainstream schooling for your children. When searching for an alternative educational environment, there are several important factors to consider:

Identify potential alternative education options

A simple online search can yield numerous tutor venues or smaller schools in your area, allowing you to begin your research. Once you have compiled a shortlist, schedule in-person appointments where you and your child can visit these establishments.

  • Dont be afraid to ask

Before your visit, make a list of questions you’d like to ask and during your visits, take note of how your queries are handled. The staff should treat you with professionalism and respect, creating a positive first impression.

  • What sort of environment does the centre offer?

Additionally, pay attention to the overall atmosphere of the alternative education space. In recent years, there has been a notable shift towards learner-centric environments that prioritize student wellness, particularly mental health. Seek out individuals and places that view your child holistically, embracing their strengths and weaknesses rather than merely seeing them as a number.

  • Does the centre follow a recognised curriculum?

This is important. Do you know the various curriculums available in South Africa? Please click here to understand the various matric passes and education journeys to achieve these.

  • Handle the registration process yourself!

Be cautious of anyone who promises to register your child with a curriculum provider. It is best to handle all registrations yourself, working directly with your chosen curriculum provider to avoid any potential issues. Unfortunately, some parents have been misled or defrauded, resulting in their child’s registration not being recognized. This can lead to tears and the necessity of repeating a grade. Therefore, it is crucial to exercise caution and ensure proper registration with the relevant parties.

  • Progress reports and accountability

Another consideration is whether the alternative school provides regular progress reports. Reputable curriculum providers, such as Mindscape Education, issue credible progress reports on a termly basis, provided the necessary academic milestones are met and portfolios are complete. These reports are recognized by mainstream schools and other distance education providers, serving as proof that your child has completed assessments in line with the curriculum policy statement.

  • Approach to teaching

When evaluating potential alternative education options, it is important to understand the approach to teaching. Some places focus on facilitation rather than traditional teaching. Facilitation involves self-study, with tutors available to answer questions as learners work through the material independently.

  • Infrastructure of the centre

Is the space conducive to learning, with adequate desks, chairs, lighting, and ventilation? It is important to find a space that aligns with your values, resonating not only with you but also with your child.

  • Special needs and specific requirements

If your child has specific needs, such as being neurodiverse or is facing barriers to learning, ensure that the staff is qualified to meet these unique requirements. A supportive and knowledgeable staff can make a significant difference in fostering a successful learning environment for your child.

  • Manage your expectations

Lastly, it is crucial to manage your expectations when transitioning to an alternative educational setting. Although you sought out this alternative for specific reasons, it is not a guaranteed solution or a quick fix. Change takes time, and it is important to stay committed to the course you have chosen. Remember that you have thoroughly investigated this route for good reason, and you owe it to yourself and your child to give it a fair chance.

  • Extra murals

One of the downsides to an alternative schooling environment is that there may not be a formal extra-mural programme in place.  To this end, investigate local clubs and societies where your child can continue to participate in meaningful extra-curricular engagement.  A whole host of links to age-appropriate activities can be found here.

In conclusion, when searching for an alternative education environment, it is essential to consider factors such as professionalism, a learner-centric approach, a recognized curriculum, progress reports, extra murals etc.

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Claire Wickham

Claire Wickham

Claire is a mom of five, (two grew in my tummy and three grew in my heart), and a former homeschooling mom. Dog lover and Thermomix enthusiast, I dream of the day that our schooling system moves from the archaic and antiquated, to renewed and relevant.

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