Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Before School Starts: A Look at Expat Education

Often, the most important decision a parent makes when moving abroad with their family concerns their children’s education. Which language should they be taught in? Which school should they attend? Which qualifications should they prepare for? In this blog post, we explore some of the key considerations for expat parents to take into account as the new school year begins around the world.

International or local school?

More than two in five (44%) expats in the 2015 Expat Explorer survey said that their children attend international school, whereas almost one third (31%) attend a government funded or state school. This is the first decision many expat parents have to make when it comes to moving abroad.

It’s important to take into account the qualifications your child may need in later life as well as their emotional wellbeing. How will they settle in and which environment can help them to make the transition into a new life abroad?

International schools tend to offer more globally recognised qualifications. This is particularly important if you plan to move around frequently or if your children plan to study abroad as they get older. Typically international school curriculums are modelled on those in place across English, American or Canadian schools. These schools often encourage pupils to work towards internationally recognised qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate, which is highly respected by universities around the world. The International Baccalaureate typically means a wider breadth of study[1] than other qualifications such as A Levels. There tends to be an English speaking focus in most classrooms with a wide mix of different nationalities, cultures and backgrounds. This provides opportunities for your children to meet other expat children who are going through similar experiences.

“As a result of my time at an international school, I have a network of close friends around the world – from Boston to Munich to Singapore. Learning alongside such an eclectic mix of kids creates an incredibly accommodating environment you don’t find anywhere else, as well as so many different opportunities. American Football became a huge passion of mine thanks to my schooling. The breadth of the qualification and all of the extra-curricular activities I was able to get involved in prepared me for both university and the working world better than even I expected.” - Matt, an English expat schooled in Nairobi, Prague and London.

If you’re expecting to stay in a country for a long time, or if you’d like your children to attend university in your host country, you may want to consider a local school which raises a different set of advantages and challenges.

A local education provides expat children with the opportunity to experience the local culture and country, to develop their language skills and make new friends outside of the expat bubble. Your children may also find more opportunities to develop longer-term friendships as international schools can be somewhat transient – with up to half[2] of the student population changing each year.

“Enrolling your children in a public school, if they are between 4-7, helps children to learn language easily, and makes them feel connected to the community. And it instantly connects you with the community as well.”     – Expat Explorer 2015 respondent in Germany

Be wary, however, of enrolling your children in a local school without a strong grasp of the language. Although children tend to be much quicker than adults to learn languages, it’s important to provide support to help your children build their confidence. This might involve engaging a local tutor or taking some language lessons before you arrive.

Learning styles

Whichever schooling system you choose for your children, it’s important to appreciate how much learning styles can vary between countries. Just as culture shapes your experience at work, it also influences your children’s experience in education.

One area where these differences may be particularly apparent is within the Chinese education system. Whilst western students are encouraged to be curious and question information, in China teachers tend to expect more discipline and diligence from their pupils. School days are often longer[3], starting as early as 7AM and sometimes going on into the evening. Classes are not graded on achievement but on ability in comparison to the rest of the class, which can often inspire competitiveness in pupils[4].

Conversely, the Montessori approach of peer-tutoring is more common in European, American and international schools. This typically applies to younger age groups and involves a more collaborative learning style[5] which brings together children of different ages in a single classroom, aiming to foster an environment in which children learn from and teach their peers.

Researching the educational styles of your new host country is an essential part of your move. Seek advice from your contacts, visit the area before you move and make the most of online resources – but don’t underestimate the importance of having a conversation with your children to understand what they’d prefer.

Planning ahead

It’s important to plan ahead for the financial costs of childcare and education, and ensure you are prepared for any fees. In our 2015 Expat Explorer survey, over a third (38%) of expat parents rated the quality of their children’s education as better than their home country - but more than half (58%) said it is more expensive.

Singapore in particular stands out above the crowd for its fantastic quality of education; where 66% of expat parents report an improvement on the quality of education their children receive (compared to a global average of 38%). However, education in Singapore is also reported as being more expensive, with 85% of parents agreeing that education costs more than at home (compared to a global average of 58%) – so it’s a good thing that expats in the island nation also reported relatively high average salaries of USD158,705, significantly above the global average of USD104,000.

“Be sure you get allowances for schooling and housing as the cost of these two are very prohibitive.”     - Expat Explorer 2015 respondent in Singapore

Our 2015 Expat Explorer survey also revealed that 14% of expats received a contribution towards their children’s schooling, but that might not be the only way your employer can help you with your children’s education. HR departments are often well versed in co-ordinating every aspect of a relocation including schooling, so it’s worth checking if they can offer any support with the decisions you need to make for your family.

For more information about planning your children’s education as part of your move abroad, visit our website: https://www.expat.hsbc.com/1/2/hsbc-expat/wealth-management/power-of-planning/education-planning

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/secondaryeducation/10017618/International-Baccalaureate-is-it-any-good.html
[2] http://www.expatarrivals.com/article/international-school-curricula
[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33735517
[4] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-04/chinese-and-australian-education-systems-compared/5135440
[5] http://montessori.edu/

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have your say here



Related Posts with Thumbnails