Liz Perelstein – School Choice International
When companies are faced with the need to cut costs, education allowances are always an area of sensitivity. Historically it was not uncommon for families to forgo an assignment unless their children got into the “right” schools, and the assumption was that companies would foot the bill for the entire education. Often allowances included everything from school tuition and fees to transportation, meals and uniforms. Assignees had no hesitation asking for exceptions for music lessons, exotic field trips to other countries, and it was not uncommon, certainly not unheard of, for a company to acquiesce.In today’s economic climate, when expatriate packages have diminished and localization is an increasingly popular approach when sending families overseas, there is a great deal of confusion about whether education allowances can be subject to the same type of austerity. Localization plus packages usually continue to support schooling on assignment; for families otherwise being localized, support for schooling may be withdrawn more gradually or in stages.
While education has long been a sacred cow, it is not impossible to reduce corporate spending on education, and, in fact, local schooling may be desirable if we are to think about the real purpose of education, and the opportunity that a global assignment offers children. In some communities overseas, children attending international schools are so sheltered from their host country that they never encounter a local person except for their maid and their driver. To really learn about a country, many children may benefit tremendously from genuinely opening their minds to new cultures, languages and world views.
The key to including localization in corporate education programs is to do so thoughtfully, offering different approaches in different countries depending on whether or not local education is viable for an expatriate child, and it should depend on the country s/he comes from as well as the one s/he is going to. An analysis of the local curriculum, customs surrounding education, as well as assessments should be compared with similar information from the home country at various age levels to ensure that children are not placed in a precarious situation. Of course, exceptions for children with academic, physical or other special needs do need to be considered on an exception basis.
School Choice International has developed a web based tool called Global Education Explorer which enables companies to compare this critical educational information across countries to ensure that policy decisions are grounded in research and information and not simply made in a vacuum. If cuts in corporate education support are made thoughtfully and appropriately, our children can be our genuine future ambassadors in our quest for true globalization.
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