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A guide to choosing the best international school for your kids

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Moving to another country with your family is exciting, but can be stressful and full of worries. One of those worries could be the very real dilemma of trying to find an international school that fits your children’s needs. Such things as the quality and type of curriculum, classroom size, location, and cost can complicate your international school hunt. However, The Thaiger is here to help you organise your thoughts with our simple guide on how to choose an international school.

Application

This may seem a bit ‘off’ to recommend checking the application process of your potentially chosen school, however, many of these international schools have waiting lists. Thus, some schools don’t allow students to join at any time of the academic year. Truthfully, it does make a bit of sense, as you don’t want your children jumping into a school midway. If they do, they may be overwhelmed with trying to adjust to the new environment, peers, and curriculum. These factors could, unintentionally, push them towards falling behind. Moreover, many schools have a list of documents that may take some time to acquire and prepare. Such things to keep in mind include a previous grade report, as well as making new students sit an exam before being accepted.

Costs and Fees

As many expats can attest, international schools are far from being cheap. In fact, many are in the thousands of US dollars per month. Furthermore, most of these schools don’t allow monthly payments, and instead, charge by the term. This can mean an unexpected, large amount of money to be paid before your child is considered enrolled. Deposits, enrollment fees, lunch fees, uniform fees and transportation fees are some of the additional costs that can make the total price to be paid in advance quite high. And, as your child gets older, their tuition will increase in accordance to their grade level. Another thing in which to inquire about is if your employer would cover some of these costs.

Curriculum

When you are finished narrowing down the international schools that are affordable, the next thing to consider is the type of curriculum offered. The most prevalent curriculum is that of the International Baccalaureate, or the national English or American curricula. Most larger international schools will offer a choice of 1 or 2 types, however, it is different around the globe.

When looking at curricula, it is important to consider what your child has been taught in the previous years. Moreover, your future living circumstances and goals for your child’s secondary and post-secondary education also have weight in what curricula is best. The key to choosing a curriculum is to maintain consistency in your child’s education. Even if your child previously studied an American curriculum, your future goals may include living in Europe. Thus, a Cambridge or IB curriculum would be the best for your child’s future. Special needs and gifted students will also need to be appropriately taught, with less challenging or more challenging lessons. Thus, the school’s ability to have educators that differentiate their instruction is paramount.

Your child’s interests should also be considered. For example, if your child loves to play sports, then finding a school that has many opportunities for playing sports is a good idea. If your child loves to draw or play an instrument, then finding a school that incorporates art or music classes into their curriculum is ideal.

Additionally, making sure that the school follows up on its chosen curriculum and ethos is paramount. Many schools can look quite great when you visit their website, but if they don’t follow through on their promises, it is a no-go. Don’t be afraid to ask how the school holds educators accountable, as it is vital to students’ learning.

Other considerations

Class sizes, student demographics, and languages offered are also very important, especially when your kids are younger. Making sure your younger children have access to more 1 to 1 time with the teacher is paramount. This early intervention can especially help when your child is adjusting to the new school. An assistant in the classroom is also something to consider. Many schools that have over a certain number of children employ a classroom assistant. Special needs and gifted students also need extra attention and/or a specialised curriculum.

Although it is a personal choice when deciding if you want your child to study another language, most schools should offer English. Moreover, a second language and the native language of the country in which the school is located are offered by reputable schools.

Ethos

When looking at the school’s ethos, it is important to read their mission statement on the website. And, surprisingly, many schools are lacking a comprehensive mission statement. This is important because reputable international schools should implement their ethos into everything they teach. Additionally, your values should ideally match up with the school’s values. Such things as studying religion in the school, primary languages, praise and punishments should all be clearly communicated with potential enrollees.

Logistics

The next thing to consider when choosing an international school, is its proximity to your home or work. If you are not sure where you will be living, it is best to try to find a place by the school. Checking out rent costs and available housing around the school’s location is a great idea. If you don’t, you may be stuck in a long, daily commute. Furthermore, check to see if your school offers a bus service and where their routes pick up and drop off students. Opening and closing hours are also important to figure out, as you don’t want to be caught at work while your kids are ready to come home. After school activities is one way around this potential issue. Many schools offer extracurricular clubs after school, while allowing them to stay a bit longer every day.

Conclusion

Every family and every child is different. Needs, interests, and wants are among the factors that should be considered when enrolling your children in an international school. When they are young, it is important to allow them to experiment with things that they like. However, at the end of the day, your child just wants to be happy, have fun and make friends. Although some schools may seem attractive on paper, their written qualifications may not be the best for your child. The best way to know, is by visiting the school and letting your child have input when deciding on a school. After all, if your child is getting their immediate needs met, they will have more room to focus on learning!

 

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Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.

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