Does moving between schools damage your child’s education?
Extracted from my book, ‘Expat Education: An Expat’s Guide To Choosing a School Overseas‘
“Education is not just about going to school and getting a degree. It’s about widening your knowledge and absorbing the truth about life.”
One of the biggest worries for any parent choosing to move their family overseas is how will this decision affect their children’s ability to achieve academically. All over the world, a good education is viewed as paramount to success, but how can we ensure our children get this when the country we are moving to may not uphold the same values as our native nation would?
And besides that, if you move around a bit, will moving them between schools damage them forever? You can’t help but think that, but in my experience, this concern seems to be emphasised exclusively by people at home who have never moved and will probably never move, ever.
In many ways, a foreign education is a huge benefit to our children, as they will gain breadth and different knowledge which their peers at home will be missing out on.
But what about the things they do not gain? Should we be worried that this education is different from that which we know back home, and how will we ensure they can slot back into society if and when they return to their native country?
The impact of expat life on learning
Your child may learn about the Romans three times, but never know how to work out percentages.
If you move regularly from country to country, you need to make sure that some sort of continuity of education can happen. Otherwise, your child may learn about the Romans three times in three different schools, but never know how to work out percentages, because they always miss that lesson somehow. Unfortunately, none of us can see into the future and plans often go awry. All you can do is your best for your child.
For example, after our four years in Tokyo we fully expected to move back to the UK. However, my husband then got a transfer to Berlin. The transfer date changed, and changed, and changed. At various points during our final year in Tokyo I had to find a permanent school in our home county in England; then a temporary school in the same area; then a very short-term school in my Mother’s county and even considered a spell of home education. As it happened, we stayed in Tokyo for a further six months and move directly to Germany with no ‘stop-over’ in the UK at all. Needless to say, I now have a huge experience of choosing schools!
If you know you will return to your home country while your child is still of school age, try to work out what stage of their education they are likely to be at, because school admissions can often be impossible during critical exam years. This is particularly relevant in secondary education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with regards to GCSE exams. Especially with all the governmental changes these exams are seeing in recent years.
The answers to these sorts of questions are neither clear, nor easy, but with a little foresight we can at least weigh up the pros and cons of taking our children abroad, so that we go into our move with informed and open eyes.
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