Choosing an expat school for your child is a big decision and will require a significant amount of research. It is worthwhile considering the following factors and options.
Choosing an appropriate 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 choosing an expat school. A good place to begin your search is the website of the consulate of your home country in the host city. A full list of consulates can be found in the each Expat Info Desk relocation guide.
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 be tter 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 will 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 an expat 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.
International Baccalaureate or IB Diploma
If your child is aged between 16 and 19 and you do enroll them in an international school you may wish is consider the two-year International Baccalaureate (IB). This program is offered at schools in over 138 countries globally and is a challenging, aptitude-based learning plan that is aimed at offering students an opportunity to gain skills that can be applied in today’s rapidly changing world. The diploma is recognized throughout the world and is highly regarded. It is worth noting, however, that the program must be completed in full at one school. For further information see the IB website.
The Boarding School Option
Some parents elect to send their children back to boarding school in their home country for their education. This may be a logical option if you are moving to a country where the education cost is high or of a sub-standard to that available within your home country. Boarding school provides children with a secure and stable environment in which to learn and can offer a wide range of opportunities. However, it is important to note that this option is not suitable for all children.
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 and can be of great help when choosing an expat school. 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.