Should I send my children to international school?

If you’re moving overseas with children, making sure they get the best education possible is going to be a top priority.

The difficulty in finding a good school partly depends on where you’re going. People identifying candidate schools within regions that have cultural and administrative similarities tend to experience a smooth process. Those of you moving within Anglosphere countries, particularly from the U.K. to Australia will have a comparatively easier time than those moving from the U.S. to Hong Kong.

Two broad options are available to you, both with advantages and disadvantages depending on what your family circumstances are:

  1. International schools Ran according to international curriculums, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB).
  2. Local schools Ran according to the national curriculum of your host country. Usually owned by the state.

Firstly, consider your personal circumstances. If your children are teenagers and you’re moving to a country with a language they aren’t familiar with, local schooling will be hard to adjust to. It could hurt their educational attainment in the long run. Local schools are more viable when starting primary education.

How long you’re staying also needs to be considered.  If you are permanently relocating, local schooling becomes an even more attractive proposition. After all, you’ll want your children to acclimate to where you’re planning on living indefinitely; which will also improve their prospects.

Secondly, assess the quality of local schooling vs. international schooling. There are many international assessments you can use. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is the most well-known. Popular expatriate destinations such as Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo all have international schools of high caliber, usually pursuing the IB curriculum. One complication is that international schools in these locations are heavily over-subscribed, so you’re advised to act early.

While local schooling may rank highly in international programs such as PISA (primarily in East Asia), it may not be a good fit if your children are used to western education, which is less intensive. It’s important to identify things like the length of the school day, how frequently students are examined and how common private tutoring is. In many East Asian countries, students will attend local schools as well as private cram schools in the evening. Many local schools have entrance exams, even for students as young as five.

Thirdly, consider language barriers. Learning a new language is never easy for any child, but to a native English speaker, learning German is an easier proposition than learning something completely different like Korean.

Fourthly, legal barriers may hinder admission into a local school. In places like China, work visas don’t permit you to enrol your children in government-run schools. Make sure you identify this in the early stage of planning your move.

Finally, understand what international schools are in your price range. Here are some helpful online resources, and it’s something we assist in. Check out our school search services page if you’d like to know a bit more.

Ultimately the choice of whether to international school or not, depends on the circumstances of your move and your children. To summarize:

  • How old are your children?
  • How long are you moving for?
  • How culturally and administratively different is local schooling?
  • How good are the international schools in your host destination?
  • How difficult will the language be to learn?
  • Are there legal barriers to enrolling your children in government schools?
  • How much do international schools cost?

We provide a comprehensive school search service to many of our customers. Our Move Managers work with other experts to identify a candidate list of schools for your children based on your specific requirements. To learn more, get in touch.