Health insurance for abroad is one of the many natural things for families to consider when they move countries with their children. Not only that, but education will be one of the most pressing concerns. What sort of education options are available? How do you enrol? Will it be easy for your children to settle in, and would they be able to reintegrate back into their home education system? What is the overall quality of international education in your new country?
Choosing the right international school for your children overseas is just one of your list of things to do when you are planning a move overseas, along with finding accommodation and getting the best health insurance for living abroad. Our Medibroker experts recommend you get family cover immediately, and, to make the process easier for parents, we've provided five important questions you should ask both yourself and any prospective international school.
You've claimed health insurance for travel abroad. The next step is, naturally, to look at international schools and choose an education system with which you and your children feel entirely comfortable. Whether that be in terms of curriculum, uniform, sports or any other area of school life, you might believe the upheaval that moving abroad brings is significant enough without adding to the pressure by placing them in a ‘foreign’ education system. This perspective is understandable, especially if your assignment overseas is only for a short period of time and you know you will be returning to your home country and its education system in the future.
However, at the same time, don’t neglect the international element of what prospective schools might be offering. Your children are likely going to be growing up in a far more mobile world than we have today, and as such, the greater the exposure they can get to a wide range of life experiences, the better equipped they are likely to be for the future. Therefore, ask questions about what a prospective school does to foster an international outlook and how your child might benefit from this. While you may feel more secure sending your children to a school that seeks only to replicate your home education experience—particularly in the years leading up to crucial public examinations—try to avoid making this your overriding concern. Ask yourself what else they can get out of the experience.
Although it’s far from scientific and not very tangible, schools undoubtedly have a ‘feel’, and this feeling can often be sensed immediately. When visiting a prospective school, look at the students and how they move around the place. Do they look happy? Do they treat adults, and each other, courteously? When you visit classrooms, look at how engaged the pupils appear to be. When you see them in the playground, is there broad integration, or are some kids left on their own? These are fascinating indicators of how a school functions.
However, don’t expect perfection. The school where every child is engaged all of the time, where every pupil is a model of civility, where all are achieving their potential just doesn’t exist. Instead, take a broad overview, and go with your instincts. As parents, you can recognise when children are happy, are fulfilled, and are using their time well, and even a brief visit to a school can undoubtedly allow you to get a sense of this.
As well as all of the above, it’s also important to consider how much emphasis a prospective school places on the education that takes place beyond the four walls of the classroom. Does the school have an active guest speaker programme, for instance? What sort of excursions and expeditions do they undertake? These can be just as important as more structured, formal lessons, especially if they are programmed with a clear purpose.
How much does the school community interact with the wider community around it, and what form does this take? This will give you a good idea as to the ethos of the school and the values it holds dear. Being in an international school gives pupils the chance to go to places that they would not normally experience, and meet people who would normally not come into their orbit, and so a creative and caring school will take advantage of the many opportunities its unique location provides.
This is unsurprisingly a vexed question, with somewhat entrenched views on all sides, not least because of the way data surrounding the issue can be used (and even manipulated). In a competitive marketplace such as that of international schools, it is undoubtedly true that examination results matter—the real question is, however, to what extent do they matter and what will a school do to achieve 'good' exam results?
When discussing schools exam grades (at IGCSE, or IB, for instance), it is also integral to understand the school's policy regarding entering pupils for examinations. Who chooses which students sit which exams? If the school choose, what is the rationale behind their decision making? To keep their grades averages high, does a school dissuade pupils from entering exams that they may not perform well in? Unfortunately, this sometimes does happen, which means that some students might become deprived of studying a subject that engages them because they may not be successful in an exam. It's a rare occurrence, but when you are reading background information about a school, and they promote the success of their pupils in examinations, it can be worth your while trying to drill a little deeper into the way the school runs this predominant part of school life.
When visiting a school, the people you meet can have a significant effect on your reaction. Whether or not you meet the principal, for instance, can be vitally important. As the member of staff ultimately responsible for establishing the tone and ethos of a school, you should ideally provide the chance to discuss your children and what the school can offer directly with them. This is important because you need to get a feeling for how well a principal knows their school. It may be, of course, that the principal is away on the day of your visit, or other unavoidable circumstances prevent your meeting with them, but it is not an unreasonable expectation that you should have some direct contact with the school’s leader before you commit to sending your children there.
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