Class is now in session.
As you probably already know, each country runs its school systems in different ways. This can make understanding and navigating foreign school systems … well, foreign.
Although confusing, finding the right school for your children while living abroad should be one of your top priorities as you prepare for a life in another country.
Even if your children will only be attending a foreign school for one year, selecting the wrong school environment could have long-lasting impacts on their educational future.
Do Your Research to Help Find the Right School
Unless you have prior experience with international experience or the opportunity to interview the school, it’s important to do your research to determine what’s the right school for your family.
Here are the three main types of educational environments you’ll need to pick from when finding the right school for your children.
1. Attending American-Run Schools While Living Abroad
Your first option, and probably the best solution for children who are used to receiving education in the states, is an American-run International School.
The U.S. Department of State provides assistance to nearly 200 schools in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, and the Caribbean. These schools are generally located in the largest or capital cities of each country and may include both elementary and secondary educational curriculums that are similar to public schools stateside. In addition, some of these schools offer clubs and extracurricular activities such as sports, music, and theater.
American international schools generally have a multicultural staff and student body, but many of the educators and students are from the U.S., and lessons are taught in English. Programs are generally designed to help prepare students for college or other forms of higher education. This types of schools also favor more school and parent involvement, similar to PTA or PTO programs in which many parents in the U.S. participate.
One of the main drawbacks of an international American school is the tuition, which can rival costs for private schools in the U.S.
2. Attending International Schools While Living Abroad
Some international schools may operate a little bit like American-run schools, but most will blend in formulas from other nations to create an environment that’s welcoming to children from a variety of nationalities. As such, the staff and students will likely be from a mixture of cultures and backgrounds.
Many of these schools – but not all – will follow an International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, which offers educational programs for preschool aged students through secondary or high school. This program is also designed to prepare students for higher education and college.
Just like American-run schools, international schools are mainly located in more populated areas and may be a wise choice for children who have attended foreign schools in the past, especially those which follow the IB curriculum.
3. Attending Local Schools While Living Abroad
It’s important to note the quality of local schools can differ greater depending on the country, and just like in the U.S., the location within a country.
These schools will be attended by the native population of the area where you are living. Lessons in local schools will follow a curriculum that’s been created by the local school system or government. If you’ll be living in a remote location, these schools might unfortunately be your only option.
Things to Ask Yourself When Searching for the Right School
If you’re still debating which type of school you’d like your children to attend, there are a few other factors to think about when finding the right school.
Be sure to consider your work location. If you will be working in a big city, you should have educational options. But if you’ll be in a more rural area, the schools nearby will be limited. Remember, American-run and international schools are generally only located in populated areas.
It’s also important to consider the transportation options to school. If you’re living in the city, your children may be able to take advantage of public transportation to school. However, if you’re in a more rural or less developed country, you’ll likely need to provide transportation yourself or live in an area where your kids can safely walk or ride their bikes. Not all countries or school systems will provide public buses like the schools in the states.
Keep in mind the right school will be different for everyone. You’ll need to just find a place that fits in with your family’s values and priorities.