Moving overseas for work or lifestyle reasons can be an exciting and life-changing experience for you and your family. In addition to finding somewhere to live and sourcing adequate international health insurance coverage, one of the most critical aspects to consider when relocating with children is finding a suitable school that meets their educational needs and supports their overall well-being.
Let’s explore how you can do that.
Research the education system in the country you’re moving to
Before searching for a school, familiarise yourself with your new location's education system. Understand the structure, curriculum, language of instruction, and any other specific requirements or standards.
This is an excellent starting point in making an informed decision about the available educational options for your children.
Consider international schools
Many countries – and not just those with a significant expat presence – have international schools that deliver an educational programme closely aligned to what your child is receiving now.
Opting for an international school can ensure your child avoids needing to deal with language barriers or too many cultural differences when they're already dealing with the gravity of relocating. It can also be an excellent - and easier - way for them to make friends and may help you make connections with other expats, too.
Evaluate the curriculum
Examine the curriculum offered by different schools and assess how well it aligns with your child's educational goals. Determine if the curriculum is academically rigorous, well-rounded, and promotes the development of essential skills. If you’re considering non-international schools, check if the institution offers language support for non-native speakers to ease the transition for your child.
Consider your child's needs
Each child is unique, and their educational needs may vary. Consider factors such as your child's age, learning style, academic strengths, and any specific interests or talents they may have.
It is also worth considering your child's future plans as well as finding an overseas school that will cater to their needs now. For example, if they plan to return home to attend college or university or to move to another country to study, you might wish to opt for a school that will facilitate that pathway.
Seek recommendations and advice
Speak to friends, family, and work colleagues who have experience living overseas. If you're moving abroad due to work commitments, connect with people from your home country who work in your new office and ask them where their children go to school.
In addition, it's worth seeking out online expat forums and groups on social media platforms to get recommendations and advice from other parents who have already made the move you're about to make.
These conversations will prove invaluable and provide information you won't find anywhere else, helping you make a much more informed decision about your child's education overseas.
Do other online research
As well as using social media to research and connect with others, do your own broader search online.
You should be able to find schools' websites and reviews from parents and students on reputable school review platforms. Government websites and educational directories will also provide information about academic standards and accreditations, making it easier to identify the highest-quality school options and narrow your search.
Seek international accreditation
International accreditation can be an excellent indicator of a school's quality and adherence to global educational standards. Accreditation bodies such as the Council of International Schools (CIS), the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), or the International Baccalaureate (IB) offer recognised certifications and can provide assurances that your child will receive a world-class education in your new location.
Visit schools in person
Plan a trip to your destination country before the move and schedule visits to potential schools. This will allow you to observe the school environment, meet the staff, and understand the atmosphere. Pay attention to factors such as class sizes, teacher-student ratios, facilities, safety measures, and the general level of engagement between teachers and students.
If your children are old and mature enough that you can involve them in this fact-finding trip, then do so. After all, they will be the ones going to school every day!
Consider extracurricular activities
A well-rounded education goes beyond academics, so you should evaluate each school's extracurricular activities and opportunities.
Consider your child's interests and ensure that the school you choose can cater for these. Some schools may specialise in specific areas, like sports and music, while others may run a general program. You may also seek to find schools that offer extracurricular activities that will complement your child's education as well as help their social development.
It is also worth asking if the school has partnerships with external clubs and groups. For example, if your child enjoys playing tennis but the school has no tennis courts, they may have a connection with a local sports club, which could help your child pursue their passion.
Assess support services
If your child has any special needs or requires additional support, investigate the availability and quality of support services within the schools you are considering. Look for schools with experienced staff, counsellors, and special education programs that fit your child's needs.
Involve your child in the process
Involve your child in the process as much as possible. Consider their preferences and concerns and encourage them to ask questions and share their thoughts. By involving them, you can ensure they feel heard and invested in the choice of their new school, which can ease their transition, help make them feel better about such a significant change in their lives and safeguard their overall well-being.
How to find an overseas school
Finding the perfect overseas school for your children is a crucial step in ensuring your child finds their time living overseas as rewarding and life-enriching as possible.
Use the steps in this guide to help you make the right choice for your child's educational objectives and social development needs.