Thursday, January 9, 2014

Choosing the Right School for Your Child

“What is a teacher? I'll tell you: it isn't someone who teaches something, but someone who inspires the student to give of her best in order to discover what she already knows.” Paulo Cohelho

Choosing the right school for your child overseas is one of the most important factors when evaluating or even accepting a foreign assignment.  If there is not a suitable school for your child you may even decline the opportunity.

Once you've checked there are a few viable options this important decision becomes one you can manage.  Here is what I do when choosing a school for my children.

If schooling is not part of a salary package the cost is always the first thing to consider as international school can potentially be more expensive that a college tuition.

Then I pay a visit to their websites, check their mission statements and find out which school holds a  curriculum that will give my children a smoother transitions in the academic front.  If your child has already been attending a British or American or Montessori school it will be easier for them to continue with the same style of education to which they are accustomed.

If you know someone already living in what will be your new city, ask for names of people that will be willing to give you references.

International or American schools have always been my first choice, but I know people with longer assigment lenghts that have chosen local or bilingual schools in order for their children to acquire the language skills and fully immerse in the culture.  I have seen children acquire foreign languages in record amounts of time (specially younger kids), and local or bilingual schools may be the better options for those moving permanently or for extended stays.

Through my experience I have learned that most international schools are proficient at communications specially with applicants.  If you couldn't get contacts through others, ask the registrar or admissions officer for the e-mail addresses of people who are willing to answer your questions regarding the school.

Find out the ratio of locals vs. foreign students.  Decide whether is important for you (or even possible) to immerse yourself in the culture or maintain an international perspective.  Know that locals attending International, American or British schools overseas are most likely of well to do families.  These local children may have several people tending to their needs, nannies, drivers, etc and this could be a bit of a cultural shock or in the worse case scenario make for a strong divide between locals and expats. Find out if there is a strong integration policy as part of the school culture.

Are sports a big part of your child's life? Check the school sports facilities and find out how active they are at competitions and even if they offer after-school sports and the cost associated with them.

Younger children adapt easily most of the times, but know that it will take at least six months for your child to feel a true sense of belonging.  For older children it may take longer.  The first year can be hard until they make friends and become more familiar with the new system.

We are all different on what we hold important and every child is a universe but the more time you spend doing your homework before hand the better things will play out later on.

How did you choose the school for your child?  I would love to hear and learn from your experience...

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