Choosing the right international school can be tricky for expat parents

Choosing the right international school can be tricky for expat parents

Choosing the right international school can be tricky for expat parents

Relocating with school-aged children can be an expat nightmare as regards making the right choice of international school.

It’s long been realised that expat children's’ ongoing education is an absolute priority for professionals relocating overseas. Over the past decade or so, international schools have been springing up like mushrooms all over the expat world, and are now a cash cow for investors as well as a hopefully successful lifeline for concerned parents. Choices of available educational institutions are wider in upscale expat destinations such as the UAE, Dubai, Singapore and Beijing, all offering ‘top quality education’ – but how do parents decide which one is right for their children?

As many as three million expat children are now enrolled in international schools, with the market valuation at somewhere between $20 and $25 billion US dollars. Brands such as Malvern College, Westminster and Dulwich College are ever-popular and, in general, fees are eye-wateringly high, even although they may be slightly lower than in the best home-based schools. Most expat parents set the costs against lower tax rates and assistance in relocation packages but, similarly to private healthcare insurance, ‘cheaper than at home’ doesn’t exactly mean ‘affordable’.

A recent parent-oriented survey aimed at discovering expat professionals’ priorities for their children's’ overseas education revealed that quality Western teachers plus a diverse pupil demographic are favourites. Parents recognise through their own experiences as expats that a global environment within the average international school is beneficial for young people, especially as the world seems to grow smaller year by year.

As regards schools concentrating on the skills of the future, the picture isn’t rosy, as around 35 per cent of those surveyed believe the current system is almost obsolete and a further 30-40 per cent were neutral about its implications. Educational needs not being provided include emotional skills, social skills and, most importantly, the skills needed to become successful in the 21st century. Lack of tech-based education was a particular issue with many respondents.

In addition, many employers fail to recognise expat parents’ ambitions for their children as regards places at top universities. In most cases, the preferred universities are in the West, causing many expat families to return to their home countries sooner than employers would like. It would seem that a majority of employers aren’t up to the challenge of ensuring expat professionals’ needs and those of their children are met without having to lose experienced workers due to a lack of first-tier universities in many popular expat professional destinations.

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