Local or international school?
How do you decide on a school for your child in another country?
There are some extreme views at both ends of this debate, but in the end it is a very personal decision. Sometimes a little forced upon you, perhaps (because of financial constraints or lack of places or language difficulties). But something that no one else can decide for you, that you and your family will understand and know best.
Here are some of the questions you might want to consider before making that decision:
- How long are we going to stay in this country and is it enough to learn the local language properly?
- What is the next country (or school or education system) that our children are likely to move to? And are they of an age where it will affect their exam results and acquisition of knowledge or certificates and diplomas?
- What do I want for my children in the future? More importantly, and if they are old enough to know, what do they want for themselves? University education – if yes, in what country? What kind of career? Or do they want to travel more and discover new things? Do they want to acquire a practical skill? Don’t be surprised if your third culture kids are more mature in some ways, but also more restless than their peers.
- Can I support my child at school, do I have the language skills to help them? Do I have the time to dedicate myself to their successful social integration (which may be harder initially in local schools)?
- Do I have enough information about curriculum differences, to help them maintain their academic skills while abroad, so that they can reintegrate in their home cultures when we return? If I am unable to help myself, can I find someone to tutor them and can I afford it?
- Is it important for my child to be able to socialise locally and go and visit friends after school? Do I want to be within a reasonable distance of the school, or am I happy to be driving long distances and not get to know their classmates and friends too well?
- Do I know enough about the national curriculum in the host country? Do I know enough about the pros and cons of the education system there? What will my child gain from being exposed to it (more discipline at the expense of creativity perhaps, or vice versa)?
- Is there an escape clause? If it turns out to have been the wrong decision, is it a reversible one and can my child adapt yet again to a new environment?
One very useful piece of advice from School Choice International is that, no matter what kind of school your children attend and how successfully they have adapted to their host culture, repatriation will always be difficult. International schools will not necessarily make for a softer landing, and we should not fall into the trap of underestimating our children, their level of maturity, understanding and emotional resilience. I worry as much as the next person, I don’t go around brushing off concerns with ‘The kids will be all right, they always adapt so quickly.’ It might not be so quick, they might not be quite so all right at first. But ultimately, it does make them more mature, more complete, more sensitive individuals. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right?
Publication date unknown, and source no longer available, but the questions posed are valid and noteworthy via Questions for Choosing Schools Abroad – The Culture Broker.
Choosing the right school for your child is one of the hardest decisions you’ll make as an expat parent when moving abroad. There are many education options around for expats, and so much depends on your individual family set-up and child that there is no ‘one-school-fits-all’ solution. Each child is different and each country’s school system is different, even within the ‘generic’ international schools. Also, families differ in their requirements and aspirations, and even relocations vary greatly. What worked well for you all in one country won’t necessarily be replicated in your next move.
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