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Academic focus and school choice

Choosing a school for intensively academically-focused and less academically-focused kids

When choosing a school for your child, a vital factor to consider is academic fit: what are your child’s most salient academic traits and how might these inform your school search? Here, we’ll discuss one academic trait—academic focus or orientation—and what role it might play in choosing a school for your child.

To learn about how to choose the right school in general, read the Our Kids’ step-by-step advice guide and our expert tips. To get school-choice advice customized to your child's unique traits, create a child profile through your user account and read our seven ways to choose a school based on your child's needs (i.e., overall fit, more academic challenge, social struggles, academic struggles, intensive learning interests, university preparation, and special needs.). 

Intensively academically-focused and less academically-focused kids' school fit

Kids also vary widely in how academically-focused or oriented they are. Below, we consider intensively academically-focused and less academically-focused kid's school fit.

Intensively academically-focused kids are very eager students. They enjoy school, are keen to learn, and are academically ambitious.

Intensively academically-focused kids’ school fit: key take-homes

  • Intensively academically-focused kids often enjoy high-level courses, enrichment, and academic diversity and competition, which are more prevalent at bigger schools. That said, it’s often easier to enrol in a wider range of specialist courses at smaller schools, due to the ease of scheduling them on request.
  • Single-gender schools allow kids to focus on academics free from the distractions of boy-girl interactions. A coed environment, though, is sometimes more socially (and academically) stimulating and enriching, since your child can learn from the perspectives of boys and girls.
  • Montessori schools offer highly individualized learning, allowing your child to move through the curriculum at their own pace and focus on tasks of interest, which can strengthen your child’s love of learning. 
  • The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a demanding Programme with high-level learning, which provides the right kind of challenge for many academically-focused kids. But since its curriculum is restricted to eight subject groups, it offers fewer specialist courses.

To access far more detailed information about intensively academically-focused kids’ school fit, read our in-depth guide.

Less academically-focused kids aren’t especially keen on learning or focused on school. Academic achievement isn’t a major goal for them: they’re not obsessed with grades or how they compare with their peers.

Less academically-focused kids’ school fit: key take-homes

  • Smaller schools with small classrooms offer plenty of individualized learning and one-on-one support, which can help less academically-focused kids really engage with their work. “Big schools”, though, “normally have a wider range of extracurriculars, which can help your child recharge their batteries and stay focused during the school day,” says Janyce Lastman, Toronto-based education consultant.
  • Coed schools offer less academically-focused kids a broader scope of social experiences, where they can learn from the perspectives of both genders. Single-sex schools, meanwhile, can allow your son or daughter to develop their identity, confidence, and self-esteem in a lower-stakes and less pressurized environment.
  • Montessori schools offer highly individualized learning, allowing your child to work at their own pace and choose tasks of interest, with teacher guidance. This can help motivate and inspire them, and cultivate a love of learning. 
  • The demanding curriculum of International Baccalaureate (IB) schools can be a tall test for kids less interested in academics, but “since different IB schools have different approaches and standards,” says Toronto-based education consultant Dona Matthews, “talk to school directors to gauge whether a particular school is likely to be the right fit for your child.”

To access far more detailed information about less academically-focused kids’ school fit, read our in-depth guide.

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