Are international schools worth it for expats? – that will be the topic of today’s article.
Before introducing this article, if you are interested in our core services which are expat financial, insurance and mortgages, you can contact me here.
The best time to consider your financial situation is when you are moving to a new country.
If there is anything that worries expats with families, this is probably where to enroll their children for the upcoming semester. Travel is especially burdensome for children who have no choice but to move from school to school every year.
When they have no other choice, expats usually send their children to international schools. There are other advantages and disadvantages to admitting your child to one of these schools. A known disadvantage is that a year at an international school can be pretty heavy financially. In addition, you are almost unfamiliar with the local culture and language in which you currently live. But if there is a chance that you foresee travel and relocation in a few months or years, then international schools are your best choice for a quality education.
In this article we will talk about the importance of international schools, are they worth your attention and your trust. We will try to compare them to local schools and point out the main things to make everything clear for you.
History of international schools
International schools offer expat children the opportunity to study, even if they live thousands of miles from home, immersed in a different language and culture.
International schools have been the most popular option for foreign children for a long time, as lessons are taught in English and they are more gently introduced to the social norms of the new way of life.
You will find international schools in almost every country in the world. Some major cities have several competing schools, all with outstanding accreditation and sometimes incredible tuition fees.
Other schools are smaller, perhaps more affordable, and may offer a blended curriculum.
There are so many questions to consider, for example:
- How will my children cope with foreign language lessons?
- Could moving abroad harm a child’s academic prospects?
- How much do we need to invest in a decent international school?
The key takeaway is that education is a global asset. In most countries, you will find a number of outstanding schools with dedicated teachers and excellent student support.
In 2000, about 2,600 international schools enrolled about one million students, mostly foreigners. Today that number is 5,700 schools with more than 2.5 million students; by 2021, it is expected that there will be over 11,000 international schools with over 5 million students.
The growing desire to send local children to international schools is based on the quality of teaching in these schools. Local wealthier families also recognize the value of teaching in English. Costs can be high even in countries with low cost of living.
One of the researches dedicated to mapping international schools of the world and analyzing changes in the market, monitors these numbers and trends. They predict further opportunities for parents looking to provide their children with an international education, wherever they live.
Asia has been a growth leader since January 2006 with 3,000 schools. This is 53 percent of all international schools worldwide.
Currently, the leading countries for international schools are China, India, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Thailand. Europe has also grown significantly and now has 1,324 schools. We look forward to future growth in South Asia, especially India and Pakistan; in Western Asia, in parts of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia; in East Asia, especially China, Hong Kong and South Korea; and in Southeast Asia, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore.
Local schools vs international schools
One of the first questions that most expats ask when planning a move is whether their children would be better off attending a local school or an international institution.
In short, the international school caters to foreign children, often teaching lessons in English and following a British or American curriculum.
They charge a commission, which can be high in some cases. However, the best schools often have long waiting lists but high standards and excellent results for their students.
Some countries also have requirements for international schools to reserve places for local children, so they can be a significant mixture of children of different nationalities, giving them the opportunity to explore the local culture and meet friends from all over the world. Both options have their pros and cons.
Benefits of choosing a local overseas school
- Public schools make it easier to learn a language or improve language skills.
- It is more natural to immerse yourself in the local culture by interacting with local children.
- Getting used to a new lifestyle can be tricky, but making friends with peers in a group of children can make life more manageable.
- International schools can be very expensive, while public schools are free in most countries.
- You will probably find local schools right on your doorstep, but depending on where you move, you may have to travel a lot to the nearest international school.
Benefits of choosing an international school
- International schools often teach primarily in English, so the transition is less difficult.
- Some offer UK curricula with familiar qualifications such as GCSE and A-Levels so that the changes don’t disrupt pre-existing learning for children.
- If you do not reside abroad permanently, an international school allows your child to continue their education in the same program and then continue their education upon returning to the UK.
- Sometimes there are several high quality international schools to choose from, with different specialties, but only one or two public schools.
- Many international schools offer extremely high standards of instruction, including local language lessons, to help expatriate children explore the culture.
While there are many benefits to choosing an international school, a lot depends on the country you are moving to and the local educational standards.
If you move somewhere where English is the primary language, for example, this may be less of a problem as public schools will be teaching in English, so your child will not try to study academic subjects in a language that they are not already. owns.
Likewise, a country with exceptional educational standards can offer world-class instruction in its local schools.
Choosing the International School that’s right for your child
The best starting point is to think about your child, let’s say they need additional support in a specific area of study. In this case, you may well need an international school with smaller classrooms and more dedicated teacher support.
Academically gifted children will do well in alternative schools that excel in sports and creative subjects, so it is wise to consider the spirit and goals of any shortlisted school, not just practical considerations and costs.
Your intended moving location will also be an important factor:
- Moving to a densely populated city such as Bangkok, Mumbai or Dubai may mean choosing a school close to where you live so you don’t have to spend hours every day during rush hour.
- Some countries have religious schools, the rules of which can be very different from other ones. So, for example, if you move somewhere where corporal punishment is still legal, you probably don’t want to go to your local school.
- In many countries with warmer climates, more of the school day will be spent outdoors. As a result, you can find schools with fantastic sports facilities, stables, swimming lessons, and educational day trips.
If you are moving to a country with a strong expat community, you can consult with other parents in local forums to find out where most of your children go to school and therefore where your child is easiest to make friends.
Remember, the most prestigious international schools can have extensive waiting lists. However, while it may be necessary to quickly reserve a seat, parents should always do their due diligence first.
There are many ways to explore a school:
- Join forums and local groups to learn about the experiences of other expatriate parents in the area.
- Make sure the school has the appropriate accreditation from a recognized educational body.
- Ask about the teaching staff, their qualifications and abilities.
- Look at class size and teacher turnover. Schools with a longstanding management team and teachers who are an integral part of the community are best suited.
- Meet with the headmaster or headmaster and prepare questions about the school day, whether there are PTAs, extracurricular activities and clubs your child might want.
- Check out your high school university admission track record.
- Browse exam reports, peer grades and ask for average SAT scores.
Moreover, to be 100% sure on the school, try to find the answers of these questions:
Does the school have accreditation?
An accredited school has a curriculum that articulates and meets certain standards. The accreditation process ensures that the school has a supportive learning environment, a strategic plan for the future, that the school is mission-driven and that the school has high safety standards. Accreditation also allows students to transfer loans between schools. If the school is accredited by an American organization, this allows schools to offer diplomas that are valid, for example, for admission to an American university.
Is the school a member of educational organizations?
In Europe, high quality international schools are members of the European Council of International Schools. There are also councils for international schools in every country or region. To be part of these councils, the school must meet certain standards. For example, if a school in Germany is not a member of the Association of German International Schools, you can ask why.
What is the culture in the school?
When you have the opportunity to visit the school, ask your guide to describe the culture of the school. They should be able to give you a description of the school’s general values. Keep your eyes and ears open as you walk down the hallways during walkthroughs or breaks.
Is this a highly academic school? Does the school have a long tradition? Does the school respect the local culture and value the home culture of its clients? Do the students seem happy? Do they gather in places to talk and study? Do you see teachers walking alongside or talking to students?
Does the school value languages?
In most international schools, English is the main language of instruction. International schools often require students to learn the local language as well; Learning in the local language will help students adapt to their new home, so don’t underestimate the importance of this. Although most subjects in international schools are taught in English, you should hear other languages being spoken in the hallway. If only the local language of the community is spoken in the corridors, then the school may not have an international orientation.
Choosing an international school curriculum
There is often a choice of study programs. For example, international schools may teach a British curriculum that is in line with British standards and is familiar to children already in their education.
This option is usually the most preferable because children can pick up where they left off in their previous school. In contrast, in some countries children start at the age of seven or eight, compared to four in the UK, so a different curriculum is likely to be at a different stage of learning.
Many private schools in the UK have opened their international schools abroad, mainly in countries with the upper price range.
Options include Harrow, Repton, Oxford School, Wellington College, Dulwich and Shrewsbury. There is also an International Primary Curriculum for children aged five to eleven, which is used in over 90 countries.
Another alternative is the International Baccalaureate School. The IB education system covers ages from kindergarten (starting at 3) to 19 years old, which is equivalent to A-Levels in the UK.
There are four IB programs, each offering a standardized curriculum that is used in over 158 countries and taught by 1.4 million students.
What are the most important points when choosing an international school?
While you need to be sure that the school you choose provides the right teaching, support, and community for your child to thrive, it’s important to think about the practical aspects.
Some of the main considerations are:
- When does the school day start and end? Some schools start classes as early as 7 am, especially in very hot countries. For example, schools in Pretoria and Berlin start at 7:30 am and graduation times vary depending on the day of the week.
- Do they offer workarounds? These can be after-school clubs, breakfast clubs or after-school sports that are a lifesaver for working parents.
- How far is the school from your home? Large cities can have messy roads, so is there a safe public transport network or does the school offer transportation?
- What will the school do in an emergency? Can you quickly get there from home or work if needed?
- The closer to home the better. This makes transportation more manageable, but it also means that your child can meet friends who live nearby and chat with them after school and on weekends.
The main benefits your child will get from International Schools
There are undoubtedly many advantages to studying in international schools. Its strength lies not only in the implementation of curricula that are better adapted to the demands of the modern labor market and a globalized society, but also in a multicultural environment. Below we list the most important benefits of studying in international schools.
1. International curricula
International schools offer education in accordance with foreign curricula. However, many of them combine elements of more than one system, for example, a curriculum based on the Polish core, enriched with elements of the British, American and other systems. Such training programs are often much better suited to the demands of the global labor market.
A particularly interesting option is the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which prepares children for an international diploma. Its goal is a comprehensive education focused not only on expanding knowledge and skills (both academic and “soft” – communicative or social), but also on personal development and the formation of an attitude of tolerance, understanding and responsibility.
Poland also has private high schools offering Advanced Placement (AP) courses. These courses were created by the Council of Colleges, the American association of numerous US universities and schools that also administer the SAT. The AP program aims to transfer certain knowledge.
There are 38 subjects to choose from, including art history, biology, chemistry, psychology, music theory and others. It is an ideal choice for those students who want to gain in-depth knowledge in a specific field. Another big advantage is that some AP courses are recognized by prestigious universities in the US and Canada (including Harvard and Stanford). Thanks to this, you can significantly reduce costs and reduce training time. AP exams also make it easier to enter these countries.
2. Learning languages
Since classes in international schools are conducted in a foreign language (usually English), they provide exceptional opportunities for the development of language skills. These schools also offer a wide range of additional language courses: French, German and Spanish, as well as languages less popular in Poland, such as Japanese. Knowledge of languages is confirmed by appropriate certificates, respected all over the world, which is a great advantage in the labor market.
Both public and private schools with international classes are also required to teach Polish. This gives foreigners the opportunity to expand their communication skills, learn more about the culture and adapt to Polish society. It also ensures that children from Poland who attend an international class or school do not lag behind in learning their mother tongue, as well as Polish geography and history, because these lessons are mandatory for them.
3. Own grading system
International schools use not only foreign curricula, but also the assessment systems used in other countries. They are often more motivating and less stressful for children and adolescents than the classical system (scale from 1 to 6) used in Poland. It should be remembered that in primary schools, including international ones, children must take the Polish language exam in the 8th grade.
4. International environment
One of the biggest benefits of studying in an international school is the multicultural environment. Students get to know other cultures. Through this, they develop the ability to collaborate with people of different characteristics, customs and cultural norms. They also learn tolerance, mutual respect, empathy and understanding of others – their behavior, motivation, aspirations and values. This environment helps to shape the world’s citizens who will feel comfortable wherever they are.
5. Greater opportunities in the labor market
Graduating from an international school increases opportunities in the global labor market. This is especially true of the internationally recognized International Baccalaureate program. The IB diploma is recognized by most foreign universities, and employers are very positive about it.
A diploma from an international school allows a graduate to stand out and testifies to a high level of knowledge and competence, which gives its holder a significant advantage over graduates of ordinary schools.
6. A wide range of extracurricular activities.
International schools are not only interesting international academic programs. They also offer a wide range of extracurricular activities that include foreign language lessons, sports and art activities such as music, art, dance, and photography.
The wide range of these activities allows students to develop their interests, build their curiosity about the world and teach them a systematic approach to acquiring skills and achieving goals. Thanks to this, the student of the international school has the opportunity to acquire general and professional knowledge, as well as to develop socially and emotionally.