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Moving With Children: Which Are The Top 10 Schools?

By Liz Perelstein

Summary: When you're moving abroad with children, finding the right school for your child is a priority. The "top" schools aren't always the right schools for your child. Will they be happy in the educational environment? Or, is there are different school that better suits your child's personality and needs.

Moving With Children - Which Are The Top 10 Schools?

Relocating families often rely on friends, colleagues and the internet when they face the daunting task of finding the right school for their child in a new location.

In the frenzy of things they need to accomplish in order to actually move, numbers or statistics are a reasonable proxy for quality - or at least the easiest one that is available. In some places, schools, both public and private, are ranked on a national level. In others, only the public sector may be ranked and comparison may only be possible state-wide rather than at the national level. And then there are many locations where private, fee-paying, schools simply do not allow themselves to be evaluated. So at best, relocating families using rankings to identify suitable schools will find only a percentage of those actually available.

Anyone who understands children or child development is aware that not every child thrives in the same academic environment. Despite this obvious point, even under stable circumstances, well intentioned but impressionable parents use every tool in their arsenal to "get their children in" to the schools that someone has identified as "top" or "best." The sad result has been revealed to me in countless conversations with private school admissions officers and psychologists: "getting in" isn't enough. Children pushed beyond their capacity - either intellectual or emotional, are those who fail, get counseled out, or who inevitably suffer from low self-esteem. Often they are subjected to daily tutoring rather than using the hours after school to play with friends, participate in sport, or learn music or ballet.

The debate around rankings centers on the tension between accountability, which most consumers of education agree is worthwhile, versus the ability of statistics to accurately capture what a school, is about - particularly as it is a "people" business. When numbers refer to class size or teacher/student ratio, there is little doubt that small classes, individualized attention and ready access to faculty provide students with unparalleled opportunities. But in some instances rankings rely on university admissions - a criterion which is imperfect, at best. Are university admissions determined by high test scores or rigorous curriculum? Are they a function of which schools the kids attend or how they perform? Or are students admitted based on family connections, monetary donations or other measures that a new parent seeking a school for his/her child may not be aware of?

Unfortunately, parents and students take lists of "top" schools very literally; they reinforce the natural insecurity in human nature and encourage parents to focus exclusively on the name brand. For families in transition, there may be few other mechanisms to determine quality. Do facilities matter? Do children need - or even benefit from - country club like campuses? Should parents be looking at access to facilities rather than grounds and equipment per se? Who gets to play on the 15 tennis courts or the eight lane competition swimming pool or the golf course? Will their child have that opportunity? Do these schools use their lavish facilities to teach sportsmanship or to win? Is the risk-taking behavior and self-confidence encouraged by favorable teacher/student ratios undercut by the exclusivity and competitive spirit that characterize some of these schools?

Parents need to ask the right questions to assess whether a particular school is right for their children. And the right list of questions depends on the child, his or her background as well as personal qualities - not on factors intrinsic to the school alone. For families on the move it may be desirable to get objective assistance to help make a school selection for their child that is right for today, as well as for tomorrow.

About the Author

AS School Choice InternationalLiz Perelstein is President of School Choice International, a global educational consulting company. Liz is a seasoned educator who frequently writes and speaks on topics related to education and relocation. In 2010, Liz was named one of Fortune Magazine's Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs.

School Choice International works with families to help place children in schools all over the world. The company also offers educational services for employers with relocating employee families, as well as schools looking to develop a more global curriculum. School Choice International has over 12 years of experience in the field of educational consulting.

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Comments about this Article

menduca
Mar 21, 2011 22:46

Thank you for your article! Now I have a new perspective on the subject, just in time before we move overseas.

guest
Mar 24, 2011 00:35

There's some great tips in here. I think it's easy to assume that the most expensive, or biggest, school is the best - especially when it comes to prestigious international schools. Each school has a different "personality". I work with TCKs (children of expats) in Beijing, China - and I love when I see siblings attending different schools, knowing that the family has taken time to consider which option best suits their individual children.

SCI
Mar 24, 2011 13:24

Thank you for the comments Menduca. If you need any help with narrowing down your list of schools in a new location, we would be happy to help!

guest
Oct 17, 2011 07:29

Hello, Black Forest Academy is an International School for Day students and Boarding students (High School only) accredited by Middle States in the USA located on the outskirts of Basel Switzerland with over 360 students ingrades 1-12. BFA would like to be included in your section on educational servcies...how can we best provide you with any further information you might require of us? Best Regards, Jay Adams Assistant to the Director Black Forest Academy www.bfacademy.com jadams@bfacademy.com

guest
Jan 16, 2012 03:40

In the case of Shanghai, the international schools are trying desperately to SHOW they are the "top schools". These schools have shown no prof of their "top-ness" as in tests scores published. They become elitists and if you don't know how it works, even if your child is very talented they are not accepted. These schools have the budget to hire the best teachers and with these amazing teachers, children who have had a poor quality of education would and (if let in) do catch up. If they receive emotional support with an in school person, they have no problem adjusting.

First Published: Mar 20, 2011

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