Selecting a School for an Expat child
Education tops the list of possible problems when expatriates assess a country. Many assume that it is indispensable to enroll their children in schools with their own national curriculum and language. This is not the case.
There are numerous choices, which are ruled by differences in national attitudes toward expectations. If you have never lived abroad before, your expectations of a good school are based on your home experiences in your home schools. But schools in other countries are very different from what you may be familiar with.
Here are the various types of schools you may consider:
Foreign National School
Schools of your own nationality cater to the needs of children who will be staying abroad only for a couple of years and then returning to their home country. They instruct your child in his/her mother tongue and based on your home curriculum. Transition and repatriation will be smooth and easier for the children.
On the other hand, the school might be so small that making friends is difficult for your child or might not be able to offer the range and variety of classes and activities you expect.
Check if the school offers higher grade classes so that your child does not need to switch to another school if your stay is prolonged beyond expectations.
Sometimes the quality of education in your child’s mother-tongue may be lower due to children of mixed marriages with lower language qualifications.
Sometimes there is no other choice than attending a local school .Many parents choose this alternative to encourage contacts between their children and locals as an enrichment program for their lives instead of just living in the privileged expatriate society.
However, the culture shock for your child will be tremendous and the educational methods may not be to your liking. Parents reported this to be an acceptable option especially for younger children who often take up the foreign languages quickly.
According to many expatriate parents this is their only option for their children as these schools are best qualified to handle the cultural and academic differences of Third Culture Kids and those coming from two cultures.
As there are often more than 40 countries represented in the student population, international schools have to blend their cultural differences and often offer the best of all worlds. The instruction language is English and they offer English as a Second Language (ESL) for non-English speaking children to speed up their language skills.
Normally non anglophone children catch up fast and are able to follow the curriculum within six months to a year’s time. The advantage of being fluent in a world language needs not to be discussed.
Your child should enter the International school system if you can envisage an international life for your future due to your professional career, or if you want to prepare your offspring for one. As International Schools are widespread all over the world (see information below) you will always be able to find decent schools wherever you will be posted. Click here for a list of International Schools in Singapore.
Schools with International Baccalaureate (IB)
If you want to avoid your child being in and out of different school systems, the IB could be an interesting alternative. Even in England the authorities are considering changing to this international exam and giving up A levels, as the qualifications are considered most competitive.
The IB is centralized worldwide as a nonprofit educational foundation based in Switzerland and offers The Diploma programmed for students in the final two years of secondary school: The Middle Years Program is for students in the 11 -16 range. The Primary Years Program is for students aged 3 -12 years.
There are more than 800 participating schools in more than 90 countries around the world. The three working languages of the IB are English, French and Spanish: with the additional choice of your national language as standard for a higher-level degree. Universities and other institutions of higher learning in over 90 different countries have accepted students holding the IB and some even grant advanced standing of up to a year to students who successfully complete it. The IB is increasingly becoming a benchmark for worldwide education.