Education Planning for Expats
If you have decided to work abroad and become an expat, you are probably looking forward to the many adventures ahead. But one thing you might have to consider with all seriousness is your children’s education. While children will undoubtedly benefit from the experience of being entrenched in a new culture, it can be a difficult decision-making process when it comes to their formal education.
There are many variables to consider when planning your children’s education as an expat, and the opportunities available will depend on what your priorities are and how well you plan ahead.
DECIDE ON WHAT’S IMPORTANT
Different families have different priorities, which will be reflected in the choices made in regards to a child’s education.
Expats in China have several options. For one, they can choose to send their kids to a local school. If this is the front-running option, it might be because an expat feels that children should become fully immersed in the surrounding culture. While this can be daunting for some children, others thrive in this “sink or swim” scenario. Usually, a child’s age makes a difference, and the younger they are, the easier it will be for them to adapt.
Another option is to send children to an English-speaking, international school if the city offers one. There are some unique benefits to international schools, and the main one is that children will be introduced to students from all around the world while being taught in their native tongue, which can ease some of the anxiety that might come with a new school in a new country. In addition, these schools often attract bright teachers and offer unique programming.
Expats can also consider sending children to a boarding school abroad, either back to their home country or elsewhere. If children are sent back to the country from whence they came, they will not need to go through as much of an adjustment period.
Finally, homeschooling is another option. As long as proper resources are available, some children thrive in the extraordinary opportunities of home schooling.
PLAN YOUR FINANCES
Education Fee planning is one of the reasons why it can be difficult to decide what to do about children’s education. The financial responsibilities associated with the different options can be daunting. But if you plan ahead, you can ensure that the costs will be covered.
There are often higher fees attached to international students with any option that you choose (except home schooling, of course), but fees also tend to vary greatly. For example, an international, English-speaking school in your new home country might have much higher tuition fees than a boarding school in your previous country, but boarding school comes with the costs of travel and housing. And just because the cost of living might be lower in your new country of residence, like China or somewhere in the Middle East, choosing an international school might prove to be rather costly as tuition fees can run high.
Local schools and homeschooling are generally the most affordable option but should be weighed against how your children will fare in those environments and the quality of education they will receive.
It’s important to take the time to research and plan ahead financially so that you are not caught off guard once you settle into your new home.
If the costs of sending your children to school at a top international school or boarding school are proving difficult to manage, there are ways to lessen the burden. You might consider sending your child to a school with high fees for only a few years, like the last three years of high school, for example. Or some parents find that the first few years of adolescence are an important time for the best quality of learning and might consider sending a child to an international or boarding school from the ages of 13 to 17.
Another thing to consider is that there are often scholarships and bursaries available for international students who excel in a particular sport or a subject. If your child has a passion or natural talent, it might be worth investing in lessons early on.
PREPARE YOUR CHILDREN
A new school is tough for a child of any age, especially in a new country, so it’s a good idea to help ease their nerves before the first day. For example, you can see if there is a meet-and-greet day so your children can become familiar with the school, other students and teachers. If there isn’t, you might consider arranging one yourself.
You can also discuss the potential ups and downs of the school year with your children to prepare them for the difficult times but to also get them excited. Or you can have a celebration before the first day to emphasize the exciting opportunities ahead.
It can also be important for children to feel involved in the decisions about their lives, so you might consider allowing them to help shop for supplies or letting them make a choice about which extracurricular activities or clubs they’d like to join.
All in all, the benefits of an expat life, especially for children, will pay off in the long run, even if there are a few bumps along the road. There is no replacement for the lessons learned while traveling and being exposed to new cultures and adventures. While there are some tough decisions to make regarding your children’s education, with the proper research and preparation, you can rest assured that you will be setting your children on an incredible path in life.