By Nick Young
Once your family has made the decision to relocate to a new country, one of the primary tasks to be focused on should be finding the right school for your children in your new location. It’s important to know how to choose a school that offers a high level educational curriculum that fits with your child’s long term plans and an environment that feels welcoming and matches the values you wish to instill in your children.
Below we’ll explain some of the factors to consider in choosing a school and why the school you select is of central importance to determine the happiness of your family while on assignment, and ultimately the success of your relocation.
Should I send my children to a local, non-private school?
This is a common question that families often ask about before relocating. If a good quality non-private local school can be chosen, the expense savings can be considerable and it can allow your family to choose from any number of locations to live in rather than needing to be near an international school.
Of course, the first consideration about choosing a public school should be the language that the school teaches its curriculum. If your family is moving to a country where your children don’t speak the local language they will most likely have a hard time adapting to their classes, making an already difficult adjustment period even more challenging. For more tips on how to best prepare children for an international relocation, you can read our article on the topic here.
Children are typically able to learn languages with more success if they start before the age of 10, but after that it can be a painstaking process. If you would still like to explore the option of placing your kids in a public school, you should ask the local relocation consultant handling your settling-in services if they can arrange a meeting with school administrators to discuss how that school helps children adapt to the new language and new school.
If your children do speak the local language then it’s a wide open opportunity for you to choose from different schools in the area you’ll be living in. Some good resources to compare the quality of different schools in different locations include https://www.greatschools.org/ for the United States and https://www.gov.uk/school-performance-tables for the United Kingdom.
Choosing an international school for my children
Since most families relocating will enroll their kids in an international school, we’ll devote the rest of this article to topics related to choosing an international school.
Most major cities offer at least one international school taught in English, either through the British or American curriculum. Large cities that attract many expats often offer a wide variety of international schools in different languages and curriculums. Speak with your relocation consultant or fellow expats at your company to get an idea of what options exist.
What are the advantages of children attending an international school?
The advantages of an international school are plentiful: top level academic programs; courses taught in your language of choice rather than the local language; administrators and students being helpful and kind towards newly arrived students; and a rather incredible selection of extracurricular activities and courses.
These international schools often offer a diverse and inclusive environment for children to learn that supersedes the average public school. Students at international schools will hail from all over the world and have a tremendous amount of international experience that your children can share. They all know the experience of being the new kid at school in a new country and typically are very sensitive and welcoming of new students. Being a part of this environment will help make for a smoother arrival and is an opportunity for your children to enrich their experiences and make lifelong friendships with wonderful families.
The quality of teaching at international schools is quite often of an exceptional standard. Teachers at these institutions are typically highly qualified native speakers of the official language that the school teaches in, making the communication easier for the students. Prepare to be impressed with the curriculum and teaching methodology of these international school teachers.
The extracurricular activities an international school regularly provides include a number of athletic teams, international school trips, opportunities to learn to sail, ride horses, mountain climb, or a number of other activities that are meant to enrich and expand your children’s horizons. Talk to the school administrator about your children’s interests and they’ll share what they have to offer.
What are the disadvantages of enrolling your children in an international school?
The major disadvantage of sending your children to an international school is that the tuition is often considered quite expensive. The price range varies by location, but it’s not uncommon to cost over $10,000 per year per student. Due to this cost, it’s recommended to ask for an employer to pay for your children’s tuition when negotiating the relocation package.
Additionally, international schools are based in specific locations, meaning you need to adhere your commuting schedule around these locations. I’ll get more into this below.
What other considerations should I make when choosing an international school?
Should you wish to make a seamless transition between your current national school system and the international school your children will be attending then it’s necessary to check which accreditation the school holds. For example, an international school operating under the British educational system should be approved by BSO. Usually the school website will list their accreditations, but you can also ask the administrator during your visit and ask for information on how to properly transfer your children’s school records from your current school.
The location of the school is important, as you’ll be planning your before and after school schedule around this location. Many relocated families will live in locations that are nearby the school to make the commute convenient, but its key to make it a consideration so you aren’t stuck in commuting purgatory every morning.
When visiting the school it’s a good idea to ask the administrator which neighborhoods are popular for families to live in. This can be a valuable bit of inside information to know which areas are popular for expat families so that your family is more connected within the expat community. This info on the best locations for families definitely should be taken into consideration when organizing your home search.
Activities and resources for parents
The administrators at most international schools are aware that it’s not only children going through a difficult adjustment when relocating abroad, and will often organize activities to connect parents socially. A top level international school will offer different possibilities, such as yoga classes, fitness classes, nature walks, historical tours, luncheons, and much more for parents that want to attend and get involved in the school community. During your initial visit feel free to ask the administrator what the school offers in this capacity.
How do I choose amongst the many international schools available?
The best way to know as much as possible in your choice of a school is to speak with your relocation consultant as part of your guided school search services. Tell them the type of curriculum you are looking for, what qualities in a school you want, and what location of the city you will be working and living in, and they’ll help guide you as well as set up visits to see the school in-person.
We wish you well on your search for a wonderful school for your kids as you transition abroad. With the right bit of help and good advice, you should expect a great result!
Gerson Relocation can help families with a wide range of relocation and moving services. Check out our site www.gersonrelocation.com to learn more and get in touch to start planning!
Nick Young writes for Gerson Relocation and his website www.relocationwriting.com.