Your children’s education is important and making sure that they are in the right school can be difficult. After all, we want our children to be safe, happy, to have friends, to develop both academically and in their life skills.
This becomes more of a challenge when we move our family overseas. It can lead to anxiety when we think of the effect it may have on our kids. The good news is that numerous studies and our own experience of the international school are it’s a fantastic opportunity. The exposure our kids get to children from other backgrounds and cultures. New perspectives, different learning methods and generally excellent facilities tend to produce confident well-rounded beings.
The number of international schools has significantly grown over the past decade. Consequently, your choices increase and the decision process gets more complex. So how do we know that we are choosing the right international school for our children?
Firstly, and most importantly you need to visit the international schools that you are considering. So draw up a short list and make the necessary arrangements to go and visit them. Make sure that you visit in term time and during school hours so you can see it in full flow
Here are some points that will help you get your shortlist together. Questions to ask during your visits and things that you should look for that will help you make your decision:
1. Do you want to continue with the same curriculum as your home country?
2. Do you or your children have a preference country for tertiary education?
Answering both questions can help narrow your initial choices and provide a list of suitable international schools to whittle down.
Schools that use the UK, US, German and French curriculums are relatively common and can undergo assessment by approved inspectors. These are done by the education regulators in those countries and choosing an international school that is assessed is advisable.
You may be from a country that doesn’t have an extensive number of international schools following their curriculum. This will mean that you need to make a choice of which curriculum would suit you best. Our recommendation would be to look at the systems that are available from the international schools in your destination country. Research them, take into consideration language and means of assessment most suitable for your children. You can then make a decision on which curriculum is the most suitable for your kids.
1. Is the school accredited?
2. How old is the school?
3. Does the school have modern equipment?
4. What facilities does the school have and how well are they maintained?
5. What security measures are in place?
6. What transportation options are available and what would the journey time be from your home?
Whilst the age of a school doesn’t necessarily guarantee the quality of education available for your children. It can demonstrate the school’s ability to maintain quality over a long period. A newer school can have state of the art facilities though it may mean you can step into the unknown in other areas. If the school has got itself assessed, then this can help alleviate the lack of history.
The importance of security and travel will vary from one country to another. The level of crime and traffic congestion will vary from one country to another as will their importance. When it comes to security what procedures are in place, do you find staff professional and friendly, do you feel comfortable. Having lived in a country where traffic could be horrific and make short journeys slow. Proximity to school can make a big difference to your quality of your life. Also, do you want your kids sitting on a bus for four hours every day?
1. Do the children at the school seem happy?
2. How big are class sizes?
3. What assistance is available to help your child settle in?
4. What facilities are accessible for children who need extra assistance?
5. How often will you receive an update on your child’s progress?
6. What is the school’s record with university placements and how much guidance is provided to pupils?
7. If your child has special learning needs are they catered for by the school?
I remember looking at international schools with my wife for our eldest son, we had looked at many different places. All would have been excellent choices although the one that stood out and we chose had an amazing atmosphere. This was down to happy confident students who were helpful and welcoming. There was a real sense of school spirit that the kids were a big part of and we wanted our son to be part of it too.
Class size is important also with studies showing that there are strong links between academic performance and class size. For example, our children’s current school have it written into the school’s charter that class sizes cannot exceed 16 pupils per class.
1. How & where does the school recruit teachers?
2. Are staff friendly and helpful?
3. Does the school have a development program for teachers?
4. What is the staff turnover rate?
Having enthusiastic teachers who buy into the school spirit is essential. It will make your child’s experience positive, enlightening, and enjoyable. If there is a high turnover of staff it can point to low morale which in turn can translate to a poor environment within the school.
1. Does the school have an active parent teachers’ association (PTA)? 2. Are there organised social activities which help to strengthen the sense of community within the school?
3. Does the school provide the opportunity for you to be involved in the children’s learning?
When our, eldest son was in reception and year 1, parents were encouraged to come in a couple of mornings each week. The main reason for this was to read with the children in the class. There were a couple of clear benefits to this which were the parents got to see their children in the class and how they were taught. Secondly, they got to know other children in the class which added to the sense of community in the school.
1. Does the school provide a range of after school activities?
2. Does the school have regular interschool competition?
3. Are the school facilities sufficient to provide a broad range of physical activity?
If you are coming from a country that has active sporting programs for children a move to some places could prove to be a frustration. Some schools have limited sporting activities and have very few team sports though this can be down to your country of residence.
After you narrow down your list and have gone to visit the international schools on your shortlist you’ll know which is the right school for your children. The school that you choose will just feel like the right one for parents and children.