photo credit: Arlene Amitirigala

In a previous blog post I listed getting schooling right as a top priority. Most parents I know are obsessed about getting their child into the best school but it’s not easy and requires a lot of close attention, especially when you are moving countries. Budget time for lots of research into schooling options, comparing curricula, scouring websites, looking at private vs public, understanding testing methods and cycles. In my life I’ve also had the experience of being the student and that wasn’t a walk in the park either.

As a teen leaving Jamaica which operated under the British system, when I landed in Santiago, Chile in July, it was the middle of the school year and they were on winter break, so I started school half-way through. Fortunately, I attended Nido de Aguilas, a private international school with a blend of cultures and nationalities, and they were accustomed to seeing new faces at any given moment in the year. However, it still meant that I was walking into classes where people had already gone ahead with the curriculum and I was playing catch up in the International Baccalaureate (I.B.) program.

We left Chile for Geneva, Switzerland a year later. I arrived late and missed the first couple weeks of school – an important bonding phase. Not only that, but they also had a completely different curriculum, so I had to shift grades after a month and restart the IB program which set me back a year. I felt as if I was constantly changing and catching up and it was tough to see my daughter experience something similar as she switched schools after only a year in the UK. Fortunately, she adapted well and didn’t experience a setback.

Only you can decide whether to go public or private for your child’s schooling. If you are relocating with your employer on an international transfer or work with an international organization and you can access an educational allowance, then you could explore the private option. Look at international schools closely too as in my experience, they offer these added benefits:

  • Multicultural environment – American International schools and British International school both have student bodies with a blend of nationalities which helps to reduce culture shock for your child and provide a rich experience.
  • Varied programs – such as the International Baccalaureate which are recognized globally, and the academic offering is often enhanced.
  • Rapid integration – students are accustomed to seeing others join at any time in the year and they generally assimilate much faster and easier.

If your company isn’t paying for it but you are able to afford it then, by all means, do the research well in advance and select a school that will give you the value you are seeking. Figure out what’s important to you and your child and contact the admissions departments early. Research online, look for reviews, do the virtual tours, find out about financial aid, and submit applications early.

There’s also something else you should be aware of – bias. Assumptions about abilities are easily made based on ethnicity. This is a watch out depending on your ethnicity and new location. On my first day walking into Economics class, which turned out to be one of my favorite courses in the I.B., a fellow student said to me, “This is a really tough class. Are you sure you are meant to be here?”  They thought they were being helpful, but the comment was based on some measure of bias. So, stay positive while being a ready advocate to catch any discrepancies that could affect your child at the outset.

If you are going the state route, then for countries where I’ve lived such as the UK, USA and Canada, I’ve found that the number one rule is to pick the school first. Then you can decide where you will live to ensure that you are smack dab within the boundary. My experience has always been that fantastic state schools with great facilities and programs are available – just do the research in advance of moving!

Sometimes however, it does get tricky as I’m sure you might have experienced. I’ll share more on that in an upcoming post in the series Navigating Change. What’s been your experience on finding schools during your move? Share your views and comment. I’d love to hear from you.

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© Arlene Amitirigala 2020. All Rights Reserved.

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