What kind of school is best for an expat child?


Sometimes, a wonderful opportunity to travel for work in a new country presents itself. For you and your spouse, living in and learning about another country is likely to be a pleasurable and exciting adventure. Children, however, can find such a move a challenge of adjustment in many different ways. One of the main problems to be dealt with is deciding upon suitable schooling.


Parents moving abroad with their children have choices about how and where they wish their children to be educated. Parents can enroll their children in a local public school, however, if they are not fluent in the language they will encounter enormous problems. If the child is not bilingual, however, most countries have private international schools that cater specifically for expat children.


International schools typically differ from others in that the curriculum is unlike that of the host nation, being formulated to be similar to that taught in a student’s home country. While the size and scope of many international schools does vary, emphasis is on international education and global citizenship. Typically, international schools are designed so that student coursework can transfer easily upon a return home. As the student body is mainly comprised of a transient population, with students that are multinational and multilingual, it is likely to have both an international curriculum (IB program) and accreditation (Western Association of Schools and Colleges).

The benefits for expat children of attending an international school are immense. Because international schools are made up of diverse populations, children are exposed to not only contrasting cultural experiences but also alternative perspectives. Also, these schools are more appropriate for families who travel frequently as many programs have a rolling admissions policy, which allows students to enroll mid-year. For many of the programs, students who speak another language receive academic support in that language. More significantly, because the curriculum is rigorous, students who attend international schools receive an excellent education. In fact, Hong Kong school boasts a curriculum with a strong STEMin (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Innovation) program, in addition to offering students language courses in Chinese and Spanish. The programs not only provide students with fundamental academics, but they also prepare them for real world interactions after school.


International schools are a smart choice for parents who travel frequently for career purposes or are making a permanent move to a new country. The curriculum and the academic rigor translate into real educational gains for children. Students who attend these schools not only come away from the experience with a certain world sophistication, but they also learn to manage their time, learn to think critically, and to think independently. All of these are major attributes needed to thrive at a university and throughout life.


The ultimate goal of education for children is to prepare them for life after their primary and secondary education ends. While parents can of course seek a more traditional route to educate their kids, there is something to be said for an education program that imparts tangible life skills to its students. Those skills are a fundamental part of the curriculum in many international schools.

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