Choosing a school for expat children

September 22, 2016

Choosing the right school for your children when moving overseas is a big decision. The choice will be influenced by many factors such as:

  • How long you plan to stay in your destination - have you emigrated for good or do you plan to return to your home country?
  • The age of your child, and at what point in the academic year you are moving.
  • Language barriers
  • Your budget – School fees vary significantly between countries and educational establishments.

Regardless of the above factors, ultimately your decision will come down to whether to send your children to an international school or a local school.

Many expat parents find international schools to be the most suitable option to meet their needs and the needs of their children. The 2016 Internations Expat Insider survey found that 32% of respondents opted to send their children to an international school.

Most international schools follow a globally recognised curriculum, such as the International Baccalaureate or Edexcel. These educational models are globally accepted, allowing children continuity in their education if they move again.

The benefits of international schools are not only academic, many expat parents also find the cultural environment of an international school more suited to dealing with the challenges their children face.

As international schools receive new students every year from all over the world, it may be easier for expat children to settle in their new school and make new friends as their classmates are from a similar background.

Of course international schools are often quite expensive to attend, and although most major urban centres will have one, they may not be available for all expat families due to geographical or budget constraints.

If an international school is not an option, or you want to immerse your children completely in the culture of their host country, then you may opt for a local school.

31% of respondents to the Internations expat insider survey stated that they choose to send their children to a local state school, followed by 21% who opted for a local private schools.

Unlike international schools, it is more likely that an expat child will be in a minority in the local school environment, and initially may not have the reassurance of familiarity with their peers.

Most local schools will teach in their local language, as this may create additional difficulty for expat children, many parents will not opt for local schooling if their move is temporary.

The quality of education within local schools will vary greatly and they are less likely to follow a curriculum or syllabus similar to that which an expat child has been used to in their home country. Moreover, academic qualifications may not be transferable, and therefore may not be recognised if children move to another educational establishment in the future.

If an expat families move overseas is permanent, local schools may be the preferred option as children become completely immersed in their new environment, learning the language and developing friendships with local children.

Ultimately making the choice between an international and local school is difficult, and will depend on an expat families circumstances and the current and future educational needs of their children.

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