Tips for navigating the international school experience
March 7, 2016
Were you ever the new student at school? If so, it’s likely you can recall just how overwhelming it can be, full of anxious moments and nervous feelings about the unknown.
While relocating internationally can be an exciting adventure, it can also be overwhelming for families, and the list of things to think about and manage is long. When it comes to education and finding the right school in a city that is unfamiliar, a place where the options may be limited, anxiety levels can rise simply because parents and their children are not equipped to know how to even start the process.
Education is one of the main challenges and is a well-known barrier to relocating to a new country. If everyone in the family is settled, parents can be more productive and will inevitably have a greater chance of success. The benefits of getting it right from the start are well worth the time spent in preparation.
Finding the right school
The process of finding a school in a city you don’t know is not only daunting, but can be frustrating, especially if there are limited options and long waiting lists. In addition to understanding the options available, it is important to consider everyone’s individual needs and requirements in order to make a smooth transition. You should also take into consideration your residential location requirements when it comes to making the decision about which school is suitable for your child.
Parents need to be reminded that it will not be possible to replicate the school that their children are currently attending, and therefore they need to remain open-minded about the process, possibilities and school availability. Grade year enrollment is the most common difficulty. There may be space for just one of two siblings, yet the parents want both children to attend the same school. The number of children at any given age will fluctuate, and class sizes have limits. Specific grade years will experience transient and temporary
unavailability. Schools will usually allow prospective students to join a waiting list, which frequently but not always results in an opening being found.
What do schools want to know?
When contacting a school, try to have as much information on hand about a child as possible so that you can be their advocate. The following list outlines some of the important questions schools will ask:
• What is the child’s previous school experience and what type of school have they been attending?
• What is the language of instruction of the current school?
• What is the child’s year-group called in the home location?
• Is the child currently receiving additional support for learning or English as an Additional Language (EAL)?
What can you expect from the school?
Schools have a responsibility to support families in transition too. You should feel comfortable challenging schools to offer a high level of support for the children and assignee families. Ensure that all schools provide a formal tour and orientation of the facilities.
Key to finding the right school for your children is to remember that, there are three vital stakeholders in the process: the child, the family and the school. To satisfy the needs of all of them, you have to be well informed:
• Know as much as possible about the child (needs, interests, previous experiences, current situation, etc.)
• Have a thorough understanding of the family’s needs and preferences
• Have a good knowledge of the available schools (size, philosophy, availability, approach to teaching, approach to new students, etc.)
Need local advice on schooling? Contact our local office for education assistance.