Kids & Schools
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 Schools
• Local Schools
• Schools with International Baccalaureate
• Home Schooling
• Children with Special Needs
• The Boarding Option
Foreign National Schools
• 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.
• The school might be so small that making friends is difficult for your child.
• The school might not be able to offer the range and variety of classes and activities you expect.
• The school might not offer higher grade classes and your child might need to switch to another school if your stay is prolonged.
• 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.
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.
Education is compulsory but schooling often is not. So you may be able to teach your child at home in some countries. We advise you to check the legal situation in our home and host country by contacting the relevant authorities before educating your child at home.
Children with Special Needs
Many parents with disabled children agree that a move abroad should be carefully researched as they feel there may not be sufficient support for their special needs even within the international school communities. They argue that when everything changes suddenly around a child with special needs those needs aggravate and cannot be addressed in a continued and professional way.
Generally, international schools may be able to address minor learning difficulties and assess your child psychologically, but you will have to make special inquiries and evaluate the situation thoroughly.
In some countries there are local schools that give priority to local handicapped children. But often there are very active parent-support groups listed below, which you may contact to find out about the situation. In most Asian countries, people with special needs unfortunately are still stigmatized. The support infrastructure is sadly neglected, as laws seldom exist to guarantee availability (like wheelchair access) of the most appropriate services.
The Boarding Option Back Home
For many British, this is traditionally the best choice when living abroad once their children have reached a certain age. They still firmly believe in the advantages of this kind of independent approach for their children. In some countries there might be no other option available, in particular for young adults or girls in a firmly Muslim country. Keep in mind that there are some international boarding schools all over the world that provide the same standard and curriculum and make adjustment from other schools for your children much easier.
Advantages of Boarding
Educational stability independent of parents’ moves.Wider variety of available schools to suit interests and needs of your child.Closer relationsship to other relatives (grandparents) your child visits regularly.Staying in touch has become easier with emailing and phone talking.Social aspects of boarding and bonding with friends are often enjoyed.
Disadvantages of Boarding
Missing each other.Visiting the children/parents is expensive amd takes up a lot of time. Mothers often would like to base themselves near the children rather than staying with their husbands.The children do not see their father as much as he is often traveling when they visit.