Expat's Manual

We are often asked about expatriate schools and how to find a school for an expatriate child. While some countries do offer educational establishments that are specifically aimed at the expat market, the reality is that, when moving overseas, you will be choosing over whether to send your child to an international school or a local school. Here's some help and advice on making that decision.


Settling your children into school

If you have children at school, it is very important to try and move at the end of a school year. This will be far less disruptive for your child and will minimize the risk that the move will have a negative impact on their educational achievements. You will also need to take their school records and books together with a history of what they have been studying. Choosing an expatriate school for your child is a big decision and will require a significant amount of research. It is worthwhile considering the following factors.


International schools versus local schools

If you have the budget, and a suitable school is available, it is often worthwhile to enroll your children in an international school. Here it is probable that the school will be following the same syllabus as your home country and the curriculum and school environment will be very similar to that with which they are already accustomed. International schools are used to receiving new students every year from all over the world. They will help to make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible for you and your children. International schools will also offer them an opportunity to mix with people from a range of different backgrounds and teach them social skills that they might not otherwise learn until much later in life. There will always be children in these schools who are from a similar background to your own children and it can therefore be much easier for your child to make new friends and adjust to the new life abroad.

If, however, you prefer to immerse your children in the local culture, a local school will be the better choice. Attendance at such a school will offer your children a real grounding in local life and customs, as opposed to sheltering them from the host country in an international school. Your children will probably be forced to pick up the local language much more quickly and will be quicker to fit in with the local population. You should, however, be aware that being the only outsider in the school environment could have a negative impact of your child’s psychological wellbeing and could lead to them being bullied or isolated because they are different. The quality of education available within local schools will also differ tremendously according to which destination you relocated to. Each Expat Info Desk relocation guide offers a detailed insight into the education system within popular expat cities, such information can be crucial when deciding whether or not a local school will be suitable for your child.


Choosing an appropriate expatriate school

Regardless of whether you are intent on a local or an international school, it is very important that you do as much research as you can before you arrive in your new city. A good place to begin your search is the website of the consulate of your home country in the new city. A full list of consulates can be found in our international relocation guides.

The majority of schools in developed countries have comprehensive websites that will give a thorough overview of the student population, curriculum, tuition and overall philosophy of the institution. It is also advisable to call the schools in which you are most interested to establish a personal contact. The Internet is a wonderful tool but personal contact is even better and, in the event you are unable to visit a school personally in advance, you should try to have a phone conversation with a representative from that school in order to gain a better picture of the character and attitude of the school itself. In addition, you wi ll be able to ask and get answers to pertinent questions. You will surely have questions specific to your own children and their needs, but there are a number of areas that you should bear in mind:

  • Is there a waiting list and, if so, what are the steps to reserve a place?
  • Is the faculty accustomed to dealing with children from different countries, what type of measures do they have in place to help foreign children fit in?
  • What is the curriculum and how does it compare to your home country’s system of education?
  • Do international colleges and universities recognize the curriculum and diploma system?
  • Is there any emphasis placed on extra-curricular activities to encourage well-rounded students?

Curriculum is very important in choosing a school and can sometimes be confusing. Ideally you will be looking for a school that is affiliated with your home country and will follow the education system of your country. This will ensures that 1) if your child returns home before graduation, he/she can seamlessly re-enter your home education system, and 2) if your child does graduate abroad, the education and diploma obtained overseas will be recognized by your home country colleges and universities.

Most often, even though these “country-oriented” schools will follow the basic curriculum established by their country’s guidelines, they will be adapted for the international nature of the student body and the cultural influence of its host country. If you are in a country whose first language is not English, for example, language instruction will most probably be incorporated into daily life and one, if not several, classes will be conducted in the national language.


Expat Info Desk City Guides

Each guide on the Expat Info Desk website includes a section dedicated to the both the local and international schools that are available within that destination. The expat guides will assist you to choose a suitable school by providing the following information:

  • Contact information for the most popular and accredited international schools in the city. This will allow you to quickly identify which schools may be appropriate for your children and will be an ideal place to start your search.
  • An insight into the quality of education on offer at local schools.
  • Information about waiting lists, school fees and debentures.
  • Details of which types of curriculum are available within the country and whether such curriculums will be compatible with that of your home country.

Do you have a comment about this article, a further question or even a correction? If so please do let us know. We may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all comments will be published, please be nice!

Our Expat's Manual is updated regularly so comments about the article may have already been addressed.

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