1. Educational philosophy: To what extent does the school have a clear philosophy of education and pedagogy that guides all its activities and policies? This helps the school remain anchored and not sway with various educational fads. For example, does it have a well-defined view on competition and how far to allow competition in the school? For example, does it have a well-defined view about the benefits of diversity in the classroom?
2. Attitude towards learning: How effectively has the school inculcated a love of learning in its students? Does the school produce students who become life-long learners or merely those who can crack exams? To what extent does the school encourage students to question established ideas and to think differently and critically?
3. Breadth of vision: To what extent does the school encourage and validate different talents and abilities in its students? How broad is the school’s definition of success? For example, does it promote a view that success is equivalent to earning a good salary or does it encourage excellence for its own sake? Does it encourage students to be different and not force conformity?
4. Social engagement: To what extent does the school see education as a social institution instead of merely as a provider of a service in return for money? To what extent does the school engage with its environment – the city, the state and the country? To what extent does it sensitise its students to larger social questions? To what extent does it engage with privileged sections of society and how sensitively does it do this?
5. Academic rigour: How challenging is the school’s syllabus and how well does the school ensure that students master various subjects? How sophisticated is its internal evaluation of students’ progress? How detailed is this evaluation? Does the school’s evaluation system depend on a few exams or does it have continuous evaluation? How does this reflect in its results?
6. Innovative teaching: How child-centric is the teaching? How open is the school to modifying its syllabus, integrating new knowledge into its curriculum and adopting new techniques of teaching? How open is to bringing in outside experts to interact with students? How quickly does the school adapt to change?
7. Teachers: How qualified are the teachers and how much does the school invest in its teaching staff? How loyal are teachers to the school? To what extent has the school been able to nurture a core set of teachers? What percentage of the schools’ teachers have worked there for five years or more?
8. Teacher-student relationship: How much individual attention do students get? Does the school have a good teacher-student ratio? Do students have an easy relationship with their teachers or is fear a big factor?
9. Sports: How many hours of sports are there in the school’s weekly timetable? How good are its sports teachers? How many sports does the school offer? Does it encourage all students to take part in sports or only a select few? How fit are the school’s students on the whole?
10. Cultural activities: To what extent does the school foster theatre, the fine arts and music? To what extent does the school expose children to their composite heritage?
11. Life skills education: To what extent does the school also teach students how to manage their emotions and social relationships? Does it sensitise teachers about the importance of emotional intelligence? Does it have counsellors whom students freely approach?
12. Infrastructure and facilities: How good, extensive and well-maintained are the school’s playgrounds, library, computer rooms, etc? Does the school have a bus system and if so, how well run is it? Does the school have a good canteen?
13. Safety, health and hygiene: How secure is the school? How are its safety standards? How well-maintained and clean are its classrooms and especially its toilets? If the school has a canteen, how healthy is the food it serves or sells there?
14. Diversity: To what extent does the school make a conscious effort to ensure that both its teaching and other staff and student body is diverse, in terms of their religious, linguistic, socio-economic backgrounds? Does it have scholarships for good students who might not be afford to pay the fees? To what extent does it accommodate differently-abled students and does it have special needs teachers?
15. Selection process: How transparent, child-sensitive and sensible is the school’s admission policy and process? How courteous and free with information is the school staff to those who approach it to enquire about admissions?
16. Governance: How transparent, honest and well-qualified is the school’s management? How well-run is the school as an institution? Does the school provide clear information about its fees or does it have a lot of supplementary charges?
17. Parent participation: To what extent does the school involve parents as partners in their students’ intellectual and emotional development? How open is the school to harnessing the skills of parents? How transparent is the school about its policies to parents? How often does it update parents about their children’s progress? How open is the management to suggestions from parents?
18. Value for money: Is what the school is charging by way of fees commensurate with the education it is offering? Overall, does it try to keep fees to a minimum or does it keep raising fees?