If a parent has himself/herself studied in a boarding school, the decision is that much easier. The most obvious reason parents give for not sending their children to boarding schools is that they will anyway go away in search of their own careers and life. The most commonly given reason for sending to a boarding school is to inculcate a sense of discipline and development of a well-rounded personality.
I would like to give a more nuanced take on boarding life that may help parents in their send/keep decision. Like anything else in life, both sending your child to a boarding school versus keeping him/her with you has its pros and cons. You need to carefully see what works best for you and your child. It calls for a very serious and honest introspection.
Chance to pursue multiple interests BUT inability to specialize in any one: Students can pursue and dabble in multiple interests in boarding schools. You have sports, debates, drama, inter house/inter school competitions, treks, community work all part of your life in a boarding school.
However, special infrastructure cannot be provided for just one student the way parents can do for their only child. If you are a parent who is very driven or have a child who is single minded in his/her pursuit of a goal, it’s best to keep the child at home.
No special treatment: Some kids simply need an investment of more time, effort and money to bloom. This could be due to social, medical or emotional reasons. Boarding schools are not equipped to serve such kids with special needs. If your child is a high maintenance customer or if you feel that your child needs special care then hostel life is not for him/her.
Otherwise most kids do become more attuned to community living and feelings. In today’s day and age most success comes to people who can live and work with others. Boarding school children become more attuned to change.
School/studies/social life balance for kids and parents: A day student has the same tiresome
routine of waking up early, school, return, lunch, extra class, homework, TV etc. Sometimes it becomes very difficult for children as we have guests at home or have social engagements to attend
marriages, ceremonies, parties, hospitalisations, deaths etc. Most parents and children find it difficult to balance the demands of good parenting and their own social lives. Boarding schools enable children to just be themselves. However they do not see the entire spectrum of life, for example death of a relative or grandparent.
Kids can be innocent/cruel: Young boarders are innocent and without malice. They are quite prone to saying things as they see and understand them. They may say things that are not politically correct and in some cases quite hurtful to their fellow boarders. This can sometimes impact children negatively. For example they can comment on race/gender/color/economic status without any malice but with complete but unacceptable candour.
Boarding schools offer certain advantages that day schools cannot.
Limited exposure to TV/Gadgets: Almost all boarding schools have strict guidelines for watching TV and using Mobiles/Gadgets. Boarders are expected to deposit their mobile phones with house parents at the start of the term. Usage is regulated for calling parents at appointed hours. Any parent/adult today will testify to the negative implications of excessive media watching and mobile phone usage among day school students. Schools that are both boarding and day schools combined suffer from a double whammy and can -not enforce either the boarding discipline nor can they ensure the freedom a day scholar enjoys.
Escape from difficult homes: Unfortunately, not every household provides a safe environment for a child to grow up in, whether in terms of quality time spent with parents, addiction to screens or a not so ideal marriage. Though the parents do not get along well, they wish the best for their child and do not wish their personal problems to interfere in their children’s lives. Boarding schools afford a great opportunity for children to put this difficult aspect of their life behind them. In due course they will have to deal with this, but why subject them to difficult questions so early in their lives.
Development of team work and soft-skills: Peer learning is one of the standout features of a boarding life. Whether it is in trying to understand academic, social or simply growing up issues, the naïve but intense interaction amongst your house mates is simply irreplaceable. This boarding life necessarily demands team work from students. One may be good at Maths but terrible at waking up in the
morning. Another may love to drink milk but hate eggs. Such exchanges are common in boarding schools and teach children wonderful life skills. Inter house competitions are a source of joy and pride and the entire house is actively involved in ensuring success. Secondly schools have children from
various parts of the country/other nations. This inter-cultural exchange is invaluable
Diet: Mess stories form an important part of a boarders’ life when they grow up. Boarding schools keep their students busy the entire day with studies, sports, drama, debate etc. Thus young, growing up children eat all that is served to them without much fuss. Appreciation of various kinds of food and a non- judgemental attitude to food makes boarders very understanding adults.
Pollution free living: Today most cities in India face severe water, noise and air pollution. The ill effects of pollution can be seen in aggravated disease levels, irritation, mental illnesses and an increased propensity for violence. Boarding school life protects children from pollution that most day scholars are exposed to.
Life-long bonds: A child in a boarding school grows up with other students of similar age and backgrounds. Since one lives and grows up with other students, he/she forms life long bonds, friendships & memories. Thus you would see that classmates from boarding schools meet more often, have more meaningful get- together. Boarding schools have a very strong Alumni network. This helps later in life while looking for employment, business or simply social opportunities.
President and founder of Change Makers Society