Written by: William Citrin
The topic of boarding schools is one that often stirs up great discussion and debate among parents.
Many parents are passionate proponents of boarding schools, and believe that sending their children to a boarding institution is academically, socially and emotionally beneficial.
Other parents have deep concerns about the impact that the boarding experience would have on their children’s intellectual and psychological development.
There is no right or wrong answer, and ultimately the decision to send your child to boarding school is a profoundly personal choice that depends on the needs and wishes of you and your child.
An Increasingly Popular Option
What can be said with certainty is that more and more parents in Malaysia and around the world are opting to send their children to boarding schools, and a growing number of schools have started to offer boarding facilities for students.
This trend is undoubtedly due, in large part, to the fact that in many families in today’s world both parents are working full-time and are consequently unable to devote enough time and energy to raising their children. This phenomenon – along with other factors – is compelling many parents to seriously consider sending their children to boarding schools.
Boarding schools typically offer three different arrangements: full boarding (seven days a week), weekly boarding (students live on campus from Monday to Friday and return home on the weekends), and flexi-boarding (students can opt to live on campus for one or several nights each week).
The Decision-Making Process
Below we have highlighted some of the key advantages and disadvantages of boarding.
If you are considering sending your child to boarding school, take the time to think about all of the aspects and impacts – positive and negative – of the boarding experience. Then sit down and speak with your child frankly about the pros and cons of boarding school in order to get his or her input and involve him or her in the decision-making process.
Together you can decide on whether boarding would be beneficial for his or her academic, social and emotional development.
The decision of whether or not to send your child to boarding school should be based on a thoughtful analysis of his or her personality, needs, and wishes, taking into account the unique challenges and opportunities that the boarding experience provides.
• Boarding instills a sense of independence and personal responsibility. Students learn to be self-reliant and govern their own behavior.
• Students develop a strong sense of emotional maturity and resilience. They learn to cope with difficult situations and handle life issues on their own.
• The boarding experience teaches children the value of discipline and time management. Students learn to follow a schedule and strictly obey the rules and code of conduct formulated for them. Boarding life provides students with a sense of stability and structure.
• Students are immersed completely in a more holistic educational experience. They have extended access to teachers, other students and school facilities, can receive extra academic assistance and support and can engage in more extra-curricular activities.
• Boarding leads to the establishment of close friendships, not just among students, but also with faculty members. The social network and friendships forged in boarding school can last a lifetime.
• Boarding parents/wardens and teachers get to know boarding students better than day students, and are able to provide constant nurturing, guidance, and support.
• Boarding parents/wardens and teachers are in constant contact with parents, and provide detailed feedback on their child’s progress.
• Parents can be assured of the physical safety of their child as he or she is in a secure environment.
• There is minimal or no commuting time from home to school, providing children more time to devote to their studies and extra-curricular activities.
• The boarding experience may enable a child to gain a newfound appreciation for his or her family and friends back home.
• Students may find it difficult to adjust and adapt to boarding life and may experience acute separation anxiety, homesickness and feelings of isolation, abandonment, loneliness and rejection. This may lead to long-term emotional issues.
• When living in a boarding house, the child may not have the emotional support system to comfort him or her if he or she is mistreated, ill or upset.
• The separation may weaken ties with parents, siblings and friends. Children may drift away from family and friends at home.
• Boarding parents/wardens and teachers are not a substitute for real parents, and many students miss the attention and affection of their families and the security of their home environment.
• Boarding children are often given a good amount of freedom and may experience a lack of supervision. Consequently, they might be negatively influenced by peers and might indulge in inappropriate or destructive activities.
• Parents may find it difficult to guide their child from a distance and teach him or her important character values and life lessons.
• The boarding rules and regulations are too strict for some children, causing them to rebel and act out.
• Boarding is significantly more expensive than normal schooling, and many parents may not be able to afford the heavy cost of boarding school fees.