Families moving abroad, whether for business, military service, or personal reasons, often face the dilemma of finding the right school overseas. While school options in the U.S are complicated enough, the choices abroad may be even less clearcut.
The majority of countries offer a state education system crafted for their own citizens that may fit the needs of an expat child expected to remain in in one place long. But a growing number of schools around the world exist specifically to serve the needs of expats and their school-age children.
Whether choosing between a state or international school, or private or public school, this daunting decision (one that may leave its mark on children for a lifetime) can be harrowing process. But answering these five questions will greatly narrow the field and lead to a better understanding of what type of educational environment your child may be more comfortable in once abroad.
How long will the family remain abroad? If the move will last less than than two years, international schools may be better suited – and are often best – for transient students. These offer seamless transition from one school to another through a traditional International Baccalaureate curriculum.
What schools are available in the country of choice? Lengthy research, trusted word-of-mouth recommendations and visits to narrowed-down options will yield a list of potential schools. Expat organizations may include parents who’ve faced the same issue, and can be key to finding that perfect school.
If private or international schooling is the best option, who’ll foot the bill? In some countries – Turkey, for instance - private schools are abundant and can be expensive. Some can charge as much as 25,000USD annually, without figuring in the cost of transportation and meals. However, parents may be eligible for tuition assistance from their employer. It never hurts to call respective consulates or embassies too, as they may be able to provide tips on how to find scholarships and/or offer state-sponsored programs to help with education expenses.
Is your child adequately prepared and flexible enough to make the transition? Some kids thrive as expats, reaping the cultural rewards of learning in a variety of countries; others may find the instability difficult to bear. Finding schools where the student body consists mainly of children in the same situation will help new expats get comfortable. International schools are renowned for providing such programs, as well as counseling for those who might feel more comfortable discussing what ails them with a third party.
Will the school offer the educational requirements necessary to move on to college? International schools offer IB diplomas that are accepted by most – but not all – colleges and universities throughout Europe and the North America. If the child is of high school age, families should craft a clear roadmap detailing how to attain those credits. Most international schools abroad offer the services of college counselors.
While moving your family abroad may at first be daunting, it could potentially be the most exciting and fulfilling decision parents will ever make in their children’s learning, and life!