Most families moving abroad find choosing the right school a major factor in the relocation's success. Yet few know how to begin to approach the school search. Increasingly a child's first school has been the culmination of considerable effort, with young parents determined to place their children on a path to success by enrolling them in an Ivy-prep program starting in nursery school.
Whether parents have chosen their children's school by default or spent years strategizing about "getting in," they often feel that the rug is pulled out from under them when all prior effort is wasted, and they need to learn the rules governing education and school admissions in a new country.
In a new location, parents don't know how to assess criteria pivotal to making an informed choice, including:
- Transferability of curriculum
- Ability to assimilate newcomers
- Parental involvement
Each family has different values, and every child is unique. Before thinking about schools parents should identify their key criteria as well as the most pressing needs of the child.
Parents should be asked:
- How far are you willing to travel?
- Are you committed to an international school or would you consider a local one? Why?
- How would you feel about having your child study in a new language?
- How important to you is curriculum continuity? For this move and for repatriation?
- Do you believe that the transition must be minimized or do you view education as the total experience, greater than schooling?
These questions will guide the family's approach, and help them decide whether they want international, local, public, or private, religious or non-denominational schools.
What to do first?
Once the family has identified their values as well as the child's strengths and weaknesses, it is time to investigate schools to assess fit. Undoubtedly, friends and colleagues will have suggestions. Families should listen to them as they build their lists, but should be encouraged to recognize that the opinions of others reflect the experiences of different children. Friends' recommendations should be augmented by information from the internet, books, or from an educational consultant. It is important to view options that the family wants to consider as well as those that are not on their radar screen. By visiting schools, asking questions that are important and relevant to their own child, and evaluating what they want their child to gain from the international experience, parents will have a much clearer sense of the right match for their child and family.