Beginner Expat Series - Choosing an International School
Mar 2, 2011 Study Abroad 1979 Views
How do you choose which international school is best for your children? What should you look for when choosing an international school for your children?
Accreditation - Look for schools that have been accredited by an international body. Simply put, this means the school has had to prove some level of competency in a wide range of criteria. Organizations like IBO, CIS and NCCT regularly check on schools to make sure they are meeting the set standards of operation. A school with these seals of approval has jumped through a number of hoops in order to gain and maintain the accreditation.
Curriculum -The International Baccalaureate (IB) seems to be the chosen curriculum for most international schools. It comes in three levels PYP (Primary Years Program), MYP (Middle Years Program) and DP (Diploma Program). Not all schools are accredited to offer all three programs. Check what programs are run at the school. Some international schools offer national curriculum's. These can be ideal if you are intending to return to your home nation after a few years and want your child to have a seamless transition. However, check the school is fully authorized to offer an official program of study.
Teacher - student ratio. It is pretty obvious that a lower ratio is best. A teacher with a class of 15 students is better placed to offer more individual learning plans than one teacher in front of 30+ students. Do not be fooled by the current academic writings that ratio does not matter. It does, especially if students are international with varying levels of English language ability. Ideal ratios are one teacher for 15-20 students.
Mother tongue: The language of your home is important. Ensure the school has a strong commitment to maintaining and improving this language. If your child's native or mother tongue is English, it is important that the English classes are not diluted into ESL (English as second language) classes due to large numbers of non-native speakers. If your child's mother tongue is not the language of instruction at the school, look for a school offering specialized classes tailored to your child's native language.
Local language: It is important to learn the language of the country you are living in. Find a school with a strong commitment to teaching the local language.
Facilities: Not all schools have state of the art gymnasiums or theatres. But a good international school will have a commitment to ensuring a percentage of the school fees go towards school facilities. Look at the library. Is it well stocked with up-to-date books? Is the canteen clean and offering healthy food options? What is the state of information technology in the school? Do most classrooms have access to a class computer, data projector and or interactive white board? Is the school wireless capable? Do students have easy access to modern computers and programs?
Accessibility: How easy is it to get to the school? Are there school buses? Are they well-maintained and safe? Who supervises the students on these?
Security: Is the school a secure campus? Do visitors require to be signed in? Are students able to leave or be removed without parent permission? A good international school should be able to ensure the safety and security of your child while on school grounds. No child should be able to leave without parent permission. What happens at bus stops? Do staff members ensure a parent is there to meet a child before leaving them?
Cultural make-up of student-body and teachers: What is the cultural make-up of the school? Is one cultural group over represented in the student body and staff? Ensure the school's cultural make-up is international, or meets your needs for a cultural group.
While it is nice to know what school your child will go to before you arrive, no amount of glossy school brochures can replace a visit to the school. If possible take your child along and get their opinion on the school too. Spend the day and really get a feel for the place. This is an important decision and it is worth taking the time to make the right decision for your child.