Liz Perelstein – School Choice International
As businesses expand more and more into developing markets, companies are often facing new challenges in finding appropriate schools for the children of their international assignees. In some locations, schools haven’t caught up with demand for international education; in others, there simply might not be any international schooling options at all. Now more than ever, local schools are an option, but you need to be well-prepared for such an approach to work.
Schooling is a Top Priority
Assignees often state that having access to good quality schools for their children is the most important factor in deciding to accept an assignment. Parents are more uneasy than ever about relocating with children when international schools are not available. By gaining some understanding of the local educational system and curriculum differences in countries where you send employees, you will be in a better position to create policies that provide children with access to reasonable education.
Consider these facts:
Some local schools in India consider handwriting so important that teachers may not consider content if handwriting falls short of expectations.
- A study by the University of New Hampshire indicates in many European countries, parental involvement is not permitted.
- So-called “International Schools” may not be truly international. Instead, they may be targeted towards local children to help them acquire language and other skills to promote attendance at US universities and/or may exist for children whose parents do not want them to attend local schools.
- In some countries, schools “stream” students into tracks as early as 12 years old, and this could affect the ability to gain admission to universities in other countries. Admissions decisions based on an “entry examination” or prerequisites make this a clear challenge for those who do not have the language or curriculum background.
- Religious education is a fundamental part of national curriculum in many countries, such as Ireland. This may meet an unenthusiastic response from families not accustomed to such arrangements, or those that practice a different religion. And, even if considered acceptable, students may not have the religious background to fit in.
- Special education is handled in varied ways throughout the world, from mainstream educational options in the United States, to China, where few schools have an open-minded approach, and few teachers are taught to teach children with learning or other disabilities.
Language is the main obstacle that many companies are aware of when evaluating local school choices, but integrating families into a local educational system where goals, philosophies and methods are so dissimilar requires a different type of preparation on the part of the family, and a more flexible policy on the part of the company.
Tips for Success:
Here is a short checklist which is useful to help companies and assignees examine educational options for any overseas assignment, as well as for their eventual return home:
- Before moving a family, allow them time and means to review curriculum of the school in the host country, and discuss it with teachers back home. Evaluating where a child may be ahead or behind enables parents and schools to develop programs that assist in entry as well as re-entry.
- Recommend that families bring along books, course outlines and any other aids to maintaining academic skills required at home so that kids can keep abreast of knowledge required for repatriation.
- Find out the exit requirements for schools in the home country before leaving. These, in particular, will determine curriculum to continue studying while abroad. Can these be satisfied on assignment, and if so, what kind of policy do you need to support these additional costs?
- Decide what kinds of supplemental or alternative education your company will allow to reduce hardship for children whose families are sent on assignment, particularly at key grade levels. These may include tutoring, on-line courses, summer school, home schooling or boarding schools.
- If schooling is totally incompatible, is it possible for the employee or the family to repatriate either a year earlier or later, as appropriate to facilitate the transition?
- Provide opportunity for students to become proficient in reading and writing as well as speaking of the new language well before the move; in fact, as soon as the move is announced is best.
- Engage a professional who understands discrepancies in curriculum as well as culture to recommend individualized support so that students can be prepared before returning home.
- Repatriation is always difficult for children, since even international schools teach different curriculum, have different course sequences, and offer different languages and promote different viewpoints when teaching history. Children who have attended local schools in remote areas may be more significantly unprepared to attend school back home or enroll in university in their home country. Be sure to pay careful attention to home country requirements before assignments begin.
School choices for expatriate children are always challenging, and even more so in locations where the traditional choices are limited or non-existent. Families who have overcome these obstacles and successfully educated their children in local schools find the rewards to be significant. Children truly learn new languages, cultures and curricular subjects and enjoy an unprecedented window into the customs of a different country. As schools are a microcosm of the cultures they inhabit, children raised in local schools abroad can be our true ambassadors in the global world of the next generation.
Providing support in the form of tutoring, on-line learning and language instruction is a key consideration companies should consider when developing policies to support your employees in remote locations. Inviting parents to reframe their definition of education as learning rather than schooling is the key to promoting the right attitude for a successful assignment.
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