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Tips on How to Choose a School Overseas

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Moving overseas with your child is a stressful experience and can make for a difficult transition - especially when you consider the challenge of finding a new school for your child. Overseas schools are often very different from the schools in your home country and dealing with your child's education abroad can be nerve-racking - acclimating to new curriculum, culture, and educational system and standards can make an already harrowing experience even scarier. To choose the right school overseas for your child, you'll need to put in significant effort, research, and thoughtful consideration. You need to consider all the options to make the right choice according to your needs and budget.

How to Choose a School Overseas

Do proper research

Providing your child with the best education in your new country is important. Make sure to spend ample time researching potential educational institutes in your new region to find one with excellent facilities, qualified instructors, and an adequate curriculum. Keep in mind that each country's education system is different - finding out as much as you can about the differences in advance will help ease your child's transition.

In some countries, such as Japan, Australia, and South Korea, students attend school year-round, with a two-week break between each term. In France, children attend school for a half-day on Saturday and are off on Wednesday and Sunday. Learning about the differences in the education system, curriculum, and other standards of your destination country in advance will help your child properly prepare and adjust once classes begin.

International vs. local schools

Many big cities have a variety of international and local schools, and you'll need to decide which is best for your child. If you're moving from one country to another on a regular basis, an international school might be the most suitable option. Your child will be interacting with other kids with diverse cultural and social backgrounds, which can be a wonderful experience. Meanwhile, if you're moving permanently, enrolling your child in a local school might be the best way to experience a foreign culture and gradually adjust to living with the locals in their new home country.

So, when choosing a school overseas for your child, decide whether you wish to send him or her to an international school or a local school. While each option has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, consider the following guidelines on international vs. local schools to decide which educational system is right for your child.

International schools

Pros

  • International schools are for expat children and will likely follow the same curriculum as your child's old school. This means your child will be properly caught up, not lagging or being too far ahead.
  • Because your child will be studying with other expats, adjusting to the educational culture may be easier. The children will be from all over the world, but they will all be new to the country and dealing with a similar struggle.

Cons

  • International schools tend to be more expensive than local ones.
  • Your child will not get the full authentic experience of life in your new country if they are mostly socializing with other expats.

Local schools

Pros

  • Enrolling in a local school will give your child more exposure to the country's culture and help them learn the new language.
  • Local educational institutes tend to be cheaper than international schools.

Cons

  • The curriculum may not be the same as what your child was studying at home, which could make it difficult to catch up.
  • A local school might not be an option in some cases, as the quality of education is different from one country to another.
  • Your child may feel ostracized and have more trouble fitting in.

Other options to consider for your child's education abroad

Enrolling in a boarding school

If you're looking for other options for your child's education abroad, you might want to consider enrolling them in a boarding school. But be aware, tuition may be incredibly high, so do the proper research before deciding to send your child to a boarding school.

Ask around for recommendations

Speak to fellow expats, your colleagues, and call anyone who has a connection to your destination country and its potential educational institutions to find out more information about the education system. But keep in mind, you are finding the best education for your child, and what is right for others isn't necessarily what is right for you and your child. Your decision in finding a school for your child should be based on your personal values and your child's individual needs.

Other things to consider when choosing a school for your child

In order to give best education for your child, here are some other factors you should keep in mind:

  • Personal values and preferences:
    • Do you prefer public or private schools?
    • Are you interested in educating your child at home?
    • If you want to send your child to a boarding school, are you okay with them living away from home?
    • Do you want to give your child a religious education?
    • Where are your child's friends going tol?
    • Is the tution close to your new home? Will it be easy for your child to get there every day? Is it in a safe neighborhood?
    • Do you need day care for your child?
    • Is tuition affordable?
  • School-specific factors
    • Is the school small or large?
    • What facilities does the institution have?
    • Is the curriculum comparable to what your child studied at home? Will they be behind or learning topics already covered back home?
    • How is the school connected to the local community?

Questions to ask the educational administration before enrolling your child

When contacting potential educational institutions for information, there are several important questions you should ask to learn more about a particular school as well as the educational culture in that country. Here are some questions to consider asking:

  • Is the curriculum similar just like other institutes?
  • Is the schedule different from your home country? Many international schools hold classes on different days of the week, hours of the day, and even times of the year.
  • Is there a waiting list? If so, how long is the wait?
  • Are there any academic or conduct standards that differ from schools in your home country? Many other cultures have a much stricter academic atmosphere.
  • Do the teachers have experience teaching foreign students? If it's an expat education, they should be better prepared to instruct your child.
  • If your child graduates from this school, will their degree be recognized in your home country?

Where to find the best schools overseas for your children

  • The country's consulate website: Your new home country's consulate or embassy should be able to provide you with information about its schools. You can visit their website or call them directly.
  • International School Services directory: This website contains a directory of over 550 international educational institutes to browse with information about curriculum, accreditation, and enrollment.
  • Expat blogs and forums: Other expats that have moved to the same country may have experience and advice on the best educational institutions in the area.

Nicole La Capria  Posted by Nicole La Capria on April 5, 2013

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