Ellie Allen

Schools Abroad: What is the Right Choice for You and Your Children?


4 min read

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If you're planning on moving abroad with your family for any length of time and will need to enrol your children at school there, what do you need to consider? Many expat parents send their kids to the local international school, meaning there won't be the need to learn a new language and the curriculum will be familiar. Others opt to place their children in the local state or private school system. But which option is best for you?

Selecting the right placement for your child is an opportunity to offer them a new learning experience and teach them different skills in an international setting. Below we present a few of the pros and cons of each option to help you decide which is the best academic choice for you and your children.

STATE (PUBLIC) SCHOOLS

Your child's education is important, and naturally you will want the best for them when you move overseas. Sometimes parents immediately opt for private or international schools, overlooking the local public school system. While this might be appropriate if you only plan to stay in the country for a short time, often it can be beneficial for your children to learn alongside other local students.

Pros: Depending on the country or region, public schools can be an excellent choice for study. Assuming you meet the requirements for entry, education is then free and your children will be quickly immersed in the local language and customs. You will really feel invested in a country if your kids are part of the local school system, and you may also feel spurred on to improve your own language skills so as to better communicate with the teachers and understand the paperwork!

Cons: Public education can be hit and miss, and in some countries you may not be eligible unless you gain residency status. Furthermore, if you are only planning on staying abroad short-term it can be disruptive for your children to have to deal with a new language or curriculum. What's more, they may find that cultural issues make it hard for them to find friends.

Interesting to know: Finland is deemed to have the best public school system in the world based on a number of factors such as teacher to student ratio and proportion of passes at secondary education level. Japan was a close second, followed by South Korea, Denmark, Russia and Norway. The UK comes in at No.7 and the US at No.20.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS

Many assume that private schools and international schools are much the same thing. However, while international schools offer standard curricula from abroad (for example, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge International Examination), private schools can offer literally anything. Students in private schools are likely to be a mix of local kids and expats, and the teaching language is likely to be the local lingua. Bear in mind that private schools usually have a high level of discipline and are more traditional in their outlook, with some having a religious angle.

Pros: Teaching can be top notch and educational equipment and facilities are likely to be state of the art. What's more, class sizes are generally small, meaning more teachers per group of students. The academic levels are often set very high in private schools, giving students the best opportunity to achieve their dreams in later life and get into the top universities. Some independent schools are boarding schools, meaning the kids live-in during term time.

Cons: The most obvious downside of sending your kids to a private school is the often hefty tuition fee! Nevertheless, in many countries these fees are surprisingly low, and your employer may subsidise them as part of your remuneration package. Another downside is that the subjects taught in private schools can be somewhat narrow, and the students tend to all be from similar demographics.

Interesting to know: Almost all of the world's most prestigious private schools are based in the US and the UK. Canada comes a very distant third place, going by student matriculation to Oxbridge and Ivy League universities. Of course, this doesn't mean that there are none to be found in other countries - there are an estimated 185,000 of them in China alone!

INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS

You can find international schools in almost every country and major city. A modern globalised workforce often means families spending some time - sometimes years - in another country. These institutions - which can be high schools/colleges or both - are appealing because they give parents the option to place their children in an environment that caters to mainly non-national students, where a standardised curriculum is usually taught by international teachers.

Pros: The benefits of your child studying at an international school are similar to those of private schools in general. They are usually independent organisations which set their own standards and must compete with one another, meaning a higher quality of education. Students will likely be from all over the world, so your kids will be exposed to all sorts of different cultures and languages. An added plus is that they tend to be less expensive than private schools, and scholarships or grants are sometimes available. Some international schools teach all the way from primary up to undergraduate degree level, all on the same campus.

Cons: Studying at an international school can be disconcerting for students as many of the friends they make will likely often move away, making the forming of long-lasting relationships tricky. What's more, tuition fees are often not cheap, although sometimes the costs will be covered by employers. Interesting to know: Most international schools teach the Cambridge IGCSE curriculum, which stands for International General Certificate of Secondary Education, the exams for which normally take place when the student reaches the age of 16.

Moving overseas, even temporarily, can be a very disruptive process for families, so it's important to ensure the youngest members feel safe and secure in their new learning environment. Finding the right school where they will have the opportunity to learn new skills with other international students without the need for language courses could be your best option. Whatever you decide is the right educational choice for your kids, remember that learning overseas can be challenging for them, so make sure to offer them all the support they need while they are making the adjustment.

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