Moving abroad with a family brings a large range of different challenges. One of the biggest decisions you will face when relocating with your children is choosing the right school for them to attend. Not only will you need to find an educational establishments that suits your child’s academic background, capabilities and personality, you will also need to bear in mind additional considerations such as how readily your child will adjust to the social challenges associated with attending an international school, the curriculum on offer and the long-term impact on their future education.
You should never underestimate the importance of choosing a school and educational curriculum that is right for your child. You need to bear in mind both the time that they are living overseas and their eventual repatriation back home. Finding the right school will take time, effort and thoughtful consideration.
Questions you should ask yourself
Sometimes you may be tempted to choose a school because it has the reputation for being the best, or because it suits your mental image of the type of establishment that you would like your child to attend. However, you should not base such an important decision on your own preferences alone, and should ask yourself a number of key questions in order to gain clarity on the type of establishment that will meet your child’s needs:
- Does your child have any specific learning needs? Do they need any special educational support?
- What type of learning approach are you seeking? What are your children used to and how does the teaching methods in the school fit with their existing experience?
- What are your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses? How will the school cater for these?
- Will your children need any specific qualifications or examinations to repatriate and/or attend higher education in your home country?
- What aspects of the overseas experience will contribute to your child’s education?
- Do you want your children to learn the local language? If so, is there an opportunity for them to do this in the school?
- Do you wish your child to have an opportunity to learn alongside children from different backgrounds and nationalities or would you prefer them to attend a school where the majority of children are from the same country as them?
- What kind of school environment/teacher(s) has (s)he thrived and/or struggled with in the past?
- How does the location of the school fit in with where you live/are planning on living?
- What other logistics may govern your school choice?
- Are you aiming for public/private, local, national or international schools?
- What are the costs associated with the school? Can you afford them?
- How should the school holidays fit with your own lifestyle/commitments?
- How long are you planning on living in the host country? Over what period of time will you be required to commit tuition fees? Do the two align?
Do your research
Once you have asked these questions, and more, you need to start your research process. Do not rely on the literature and prospectuses provided by the school alone. Supplement what each school tells you with additional information sources such as books, the internet, online forums, friends and colleagues in your host country and online reviews. Visit each prospective school and remember that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Some of the things you may wish to verify during your visit/within your research are the following:
- School scores, audit results and other performance. How do your shortlisted schools stack up against each other?
- The school’s facilities and access to resources.
- Their links with higher educational facilities.
- The qualifications and backgrounds of the teaching staff.
- The support systems that are available for children that have transitional, learning or other difficulties.
- The methods by which the school communicates with parents and keeps them involved in their child’s learning.
- The homework and home study requirements that will be placed on your child.
- There any religious cultures or practices your child will be expected to adhere to if they attend the school.
- The financial and contractual obligations you will be expected to follow if your child is enrolled at the school.
While choosing a school for your child when you move overseas can be a challenging and testing process, it is crucial that you invest the time and energy needed to ensure that you choose a school that is right for your family’s needs. Involve your children throughout the process and find out as much as you can in advance of making your big decision.
For details of schools and education facilities in expat destinations throughout the world, see our expat destination guides. They contain comprehensive listings of educational establishments that offer recognized qualifications, together with information about expected fees and entry requirements in cities throughout the world.