How to Choose an International School for Your Child
As an expatriate parent how do you choose the right educational approach and international school for your child?
Sure, each international school in the world has a list of reasons why you should consider giving them your cash and entrusting them with your child, but before you get down to looking at the specifics of a single educational establishment, we understand that there are other issues to think about such as whether your child will cope away from home at boarding school, thrive better in a state school or need to go to a school where their familiar curriculum is being taught.
Moving abroad is a massive undertaking, and when you have children to consider as well, so the size of the operation and the weight of the consequences become even more substantial.
If you’re moving to a location such as the United Arab Emirates or a major capital city of the world such as Paris for example, the options open to you for the schooling of your child are almost endless. In Paris you have state French schools, British schools, American schools, bilingual schools and you can even send your child back home to a boarding school for example. In other locations less popular with international citizens your only choices may be home schooling, state school or fly back home to boarding school…
So, assuming you have at least some options if not the most ideal ones, how can you choose an international school for your child? First things first you need to think about the age and educational ability of your child. If they are young, bright and adaptable it’s likely they will learn the new language of your adopted nation easily and therefore may thrive at a local state school. If they are older or less inclined to pick up new languages you may find they will struggle if they have to enter a school system in a tongue other than their own.
If this is the case you can think about international schools. If there is a choice then it can make sense to keep your child in the same educational model and curriculum that they are used to or that they may one day return to. If this is not an option, you may need to think about whether putting a British child in an American school, for example, will have along term detrimental effect on their prospects when it comes to university placement in the UK for instance.
If your child is confident, outgoing and seems willing to consider the idea of being away from home in term time, what about the option of boarding school? If you’re traveling a lot, living in an unstable nation or in a country where educational standards are poor, it may make sense to think about this option.
For certain types of parents boarding school isn’t a consideration it’s a given! But really, it shouldn’t just be the parents’ decision – you need to think about each child on an individual basis and think about whether they will thrive away from home because they are confident and outgoing, or whether what spirit they will have will be crushed away from the watchful eyes of a caring parent.
Finally, when it comes time to assessing each school you can of course look at results, class sizes, teachers’ abilities and the subjects taught, you can and should of course speak to teachers, pupils and other parents – but far more importantly is watching the children interacting in the playground and between lessons. Watch the way they walk and talk, watch their faces. If you see happy and confident children who interact well, this could be a good school for you to consider.
Peer Support Networks for Parents and Children
International schools form the hub of expatriate communities. As such, they offer social opportunities as well as an academic education. Through the international school community, parents and students can develop friendships with others just as mobile as they, just as used to living and interacting across cultural differences. Local communities, on the other hand, may be wary of forming friendships with expatriates who they know will someday be leaving.
The international school system offers parents one way of providing for their children a measure of continuity in a discontinuous life. This is particularly true for American/English-language families for whom the curriculum may be at least somewhat familiar, and also for those families of all national and linguistic backgrounds who are multi-movers. Single sojourn non-English speaking families (unless they attend institutions modeled on their own home country’s curriculum) will not find the same sense of continuity through an international school; however, their reasons for attending an international school in the first place may be different. Some plan to earn the International Baccalaureate (IB) and attend higher institutions abroad, particularly in the US.
When a Local School is the Right Choice
Independent, international schooling is a popular choice for many expatriates. There are some situations, however, in which choosing a local school can be the right direction to take. Children typically learn the local language very quickly when attending a local school, and certainly learn the host culture more thoroughly than when attending an international school. If the sojourn is relatively short (2 or 3 years) and the child relatively young (still in the earlier years of academic preparation, with exams not yet a critical issue) the advantages of a local school may balance with or even outweigh those of an international school.
Choosing Between International Schools
When choosing any school, international or local, parents must ensure that the school’s educational philosophy matches their own insofar as possible. Is the curriculum progressive or traditional? Does it emphasize rote learning or critical thinking? Does it allow corporal punishment or insist upon cooperative problem solving? Evaluate the school according to your own requirements and the needs of your child, assessing such things as proximity to your home, curriculum and diplomas offered, degree of ‘internationalism’ (if that is important to you), cost, and whether your sponsoring organization restricts your choice of schools, placement availability, academic rigor, etc.
Sources: shelteroffshore.com, transition-dynamics.com
Please see the short description of all Kiev’s international schools and kindergartens here.