When moving abroad with a family, the children’s schooling is usually the top priority for most parents. No one wants the relocation to have a negative impact on their child’s education, one that could affect the course of the rest of their life.
In fact, there is every reason to think that a period living abroad should have a positive effect on a child’s growth, education, and development, as they are exposed to different cultures and new opportunities. Nevertheless, the question of how to approach their schooling is one that has to be given serious consideration.
Things to think about
Factors that might affect your decision could include how long you intend to stay in the country, where you intend to live after that, how old your children are, and whether they need to learn a new language to communicate in the country to which you’ve moved. Are you working your way around the world, staying in your new home permanently, or moving back after a set period?
The obvious first choice would be to enroll your child in the local public school system. The advantages are that your child will be immediately immersed in the local culture and will have to learn the local language. They will have the opportunity to make friends among local children and maybe take part in extracurricular activities that will strengthen their ties to their new home country.
The disadvantages are that if they struggle to learn the language, it will affect their education, and they may be placed in a lower ability stream. They may also struggle to fit in and take slightly longer to make friends. Equally importantly, the local qualifications may not be internationally recognized, limiting your child’s future prospects. If you are not staying in the new country permanently, then this may not be the best option.
International schools are increasingly common around the globe and provide an excellent alternative to local schools. Your child will still be immersed in the local culture and have an opportunity to learn the local language, but will also be taught in English and will mix with children from all over the world. The schools will be geared to the needs of expat kids and often have a broader curriculum of arts, sports, and health than local schools.
International schools also offer internationally recognized qualifications. Stamford American’s Hong Kong School gives pupils a choice of the International Baccalaureate Diploma or American High School Diploma, both of which are recognized by colleges and universities across the world.
A final option to consider is home schooling – either doing it yourself or hiring a tutor. This requires a significant commitment from the parents but gives them more educational freedom. There is no risk of bullying but also no opportunity to make new friends or learn about the local culture.
Whichever option you choose, it’s important to put the needs of your child first, in the long term as well as the short term. Living and learning abroad can be an enormously enriching experience, but the right decisions need to be made in order to ensure that your child gets the most out of this opportunity.