Finding an international school for your kids is quite a challenge even for the most experienced expat families that frequently relocate. Meanwhile ,there is packing to do, a home to arrange and endless documents to fill out. So what does a parent do, rely on the phone book to find an international school? Maybe a lucky search result on the internet will land you a school but how do you know if the school is properly accredited and meet the educational standards colleges and universities will require ? There are actually several options that both you and you kids can engage in that can help you find the right international school and make the transition to a foreign country a little more comfortable.
It’s not unheard of for schools to have different requirements before enrollment such as community recommendations, higher academic qualifications, some even have long waiting list. Here are a few helpful planning tips that can get you started on a picking the right school.
If you are moving to a location where English is not the main spoken language then you have some extra research to do. Start by contacting your Embassy in the country you will be moving to. Embassy’s have list of all the educational resources available and can advise you on the differences of each school. The internet is a great place to search for a school but what do you know about the quality of the education? The school may claim to have credentials but is it government accredited by your country? You can check the credentials at the Council of International Schools or at Council for Higher Education Accreditation. In the UK you can check with British Council for Accreditation.
Let your kids get involved in choosing a school. If they old enough, ask them to go online and do a little research on the school and see what they come up with. Let them know they have a choice and have them research some fun school activities that they may find interesting such as sports, swimming, music or school clubs. It helps to get kids looking forward to where they are going and look at the opportunities ahead and what they can do instead of focusing on what they might lose.
Make a critical assessment of the school. Find out if the teachers are certified and ask a little about the level of degrees they hold. How many staff members have a graduate degree? Ask what percentages of kids that graduate are accepted into Colleges or Universities. Find out what the facilities are like. Do they offer usage of computers, can they take courses to learn new software or Information Technology? Does the school offer extra activities, community involvement or have a sports field? As the saying goes the more the better.
The quality of education is never the same in every country. In many counties public schools are not free. Even in a paid public school, the possibility exist that your child could fall behind or not have the necessary skills to stay competitive in the western world should you return to your home country after a few years. A good way to avoid this happening is to opt for a private school. Many British or American schools are available to offer above standard education. Attending a private school gives kids an easier transition into a new culture mainly because their lessons are in English while they take the necessary time needed to learn and develop the local language. The down side is that private schools, can be a little expensive. One of the ways to reduce your cost is to know how much you will need to maintain an education for your kids and ask for it to be included in your company’s relocation compensation package. Education and healthcare are common increased expenses that most transitional families face when families move to take up a job overseas.
Visit the school before making a choice. It’s not always possible to do before you move but make your first appointment in your new home a visitation to the schools. Ask yourself, does the atmosphere seem friendly? How do the students react to the staff? Is the school structured and strict or is it creative and open. Ask yourself which style fits your family?
Every school has a different feel and rhythm. The best way to know you have the right school for your child when you move abroad is, to get a feel for the school and make sure it hits the four points of necessary qualifications of having a good teaching staff, the right credentials, a balance of extra activities and technology.
Other educational resources to find a school abroad or to get more information on international education
- US Department of State Office of Overseas schools
- AASSA –Association of American Schools in South America
- AISA- Association of International Schools in Africa
- ECIS- European Council of International Schools
- NESA- Near East and South East Asia Council of Overseas Schools
- MAIS- Mediterranean Association of International Schools