LIFE ABROAD – Published on the 07/12/2021
If you are planning to leave on expatriation with your family, particularly with school-age children, you will naturally be wondering which education system to choose. This is not a step to be taken lightly as school has a major impact on how well children settle in. Which factors require proper consideration?
If you are British and you are moving to an English-speaking country on expatriation, finding a school should not be too complicated. In general, children successfully adapt to the education system in the host country, even though differences in culture or education may come as a surprise. If your new life abroad is taking you to a non-English-speaking country, it is important to ask yourself the right questions. What type of education system is best suited to your children: an international or local school? Do you prefer remote learning or home schooling? There is quite a broad range of options. As each child is different, it is also important to consider your child’s specific needs. Are they able to interact with classmates from different cultures and to integrate into an education system that is different to their own?
Today, there are British schools in 45 countries worldwide. With a curriculum that follows that of the British Department for Education, these schools meet the requirements of British schoolchildren in terms of syllabus. They can also broaden their social horizons by meeting children from different backgrounds and cultures who also attend the British school. This option is ideal for short-term expatriation assignments. Children can resume their studies upon their return from expatriation without having to deal with a second culture shock.
There are also private schools which have their own curriculum and teaching methods. Remember to look into this option thoroughly before making a decision.
As an example, many studies conducted in recent years show that at least 20% of French expatriates prefer international schools for a variety of reasons.
The international curriculum has many advantages. It can help children to be more open-minded and to develop their language skills. Long-term expatriates often go for this type of schooling as it enables their children to further their knowledge and become more independent while forging close relations with children from a variety of backgrounds.
All this comes at a cost and this can be quite restrictive for expatriate parents. International schools are generally more expensive than British or local schools. Find out first which options are available and their cost, including enrollment fees, annual tuition fees and the cost of school supplies. If you are an employee, depending on your expatriation contract, check if your employer covers your children’s school fees or at least tuition fees. This can give you a clearer picture.
Not all towns and cities have British or international schools. You always have the option of selecting a local school. Your children will have to adapt quickly to a culture and language that they are unfamiliar with.
It is said that immersion learning of a language is the key to optimal assimilation. In many countries, classes are taught in English, so your children should not find it too hard to adapt, whether or not they are already bilingual.
If this is not the case, no need to panic! This is most likely an opportunity for them to learn a new language. Furthermore, the local education system will teach them many things that they would not have had the opportunity to learn in their country of origin or in a British school, including the history and culture of your host country, its values and standards
This ability to adapt will benefit them throughout their personal and professional lives. This method may be more difficult for children to adapt to, particularly at the start of the expatriation and upon return to the country of origin.
Whatever you decide for your children, supplementary schooling may prove to be an interesting option if you want them to stay connected to their country of origin. There are a wide range of scaled-back distance learning programs through which children can settle back into the education system in the country of origin once the expatriation is over.
This education system does not entail two times more schoolwork under any circumstances.
There is no need to go through a British school abroad to enroll. Lessons are available for all age levels, from kindergarten to higher education.
Clearly this depends on your availability, but it is an option that is growing in popularity across the globe. Many parents are deciding to homeschool their children, particularly due to the ongoing health crisis.
As schools remained closed for several months, as some systems struggled to maintain virtual classes and as digital nomadism is developing increasingly, homeschooling has proved itself to be an excellent means of renewing family ties in a flexible educational framework. Homeschooling does not require children to adapt or become integrated into a new class.
In many countries, however, the practice is criticized as it prevents children from socializing with other children and from learning the basics of communal life. Other countries, conversely, acknowledge homeschooling as a fully-fledged educational method.
There is a wide range of education options, they do depend on your financial resources and the schooling available in your country of expatriation. Make sure you consider your children’s needs and discuss the options with them. They will always feel more empowered if they feel like they took part in the decision.
To quote the famous philosopher Seneca:
«We learn not in school, but in life »