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The Quandary of International Schools for Expats and Locals Alike


The Presumed Cultural Similarity ParadoxInternational schools are an attractive option for both foreign residents and wealthy locals. The schools boast about giving children a multi-cultural experience that will prepare their children to compete on a global scale.  The end goal for many local parents is to have their children attend world-class universities and attract multinational companies afterward. For expatriates with families, international schools are one option among many to educate their children during their time abroad. Seeking an English based education has created a unique set of circumstances and considerations for both foreign and local parents.

The curriculum at International Schools


International schools are a system of education that traces its roots back to the 1920s and enabled then mostly diplomats to educate their children according to “western” standards. Like other organizations, international schools have morphed to now encompass corporate assignees and expatriates of every kind. Although schools mostly adhere to British or American curricula, they may also follow European, Australian, or Canadian syllabi. International schools have experienced phenomenal growth in the past two decades. The demand for international schools is expected to only increase in the next ten years.

International Baccalaureate is one of the more commonly used curriculum systems among international schools. This curriculum features courses in English and prepares students for continued education in western countries. International Baccalaureate is often a desirable choice for expatriates who plan to return to their countries of origin or for children planning to attend western universities.

Nonetheless, if you would like your children to be able to fluently speak, read, and write in the local, non-English language, this seems to be where some international schools fall short. Even local residents,  often finish school being able to speak their local language but struggle to read and write it fluently. This lack of proficiency seems to occur because English language speaking, reading, and writing skills are given a hiring preference in the schools. If your child plans to continue their education at a local university where these language skills are a necessity, this could prove to be a problem.

Costs of International Schools

The cost of tuition at an international school can range from a few thousand dollars a year to upwards of $50,000 depending on the location, reputation, and caliber of the school. Moreover, some international schools charge debentures in addition to tuition. A debenture is a loan agreement where the borrower is an institutional borrower. Schools view debentures as a method of long-term funding and consider it part of their requirements to enroll. Ignoring the tuition costs for a moment, debentures alone can cost upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Traditionally, some companies have purchased the debentures for their employees assigned overseas. However, as fewer and fewer companies are offering to buy them, parents are considering these costs when deciding to relocate and enroll their child in schools abroad.

Transitioning Education Abroad and Back Home

In addition to the costs and the quality of education provided by international schools, expatriate parents must also consider the length of their assignment abroad when choosing a school. While living abroad comes with a number of unique opportunities for their children, like learning the local language, customs, traditions, and taboos, it can also make it harder for their children to adapt once they return home. This newly acquired knowledge of another culture can often cause a reverse culture shock when returning home, making the customs and interpersonal skills of a home country suddenly seem foreign and nonsensical. Depending on the length of your stay, the school you choose can also affect the child’s transition back home later.

Choosing the Best Education Abroad for Your Child

These decisions undoubtedly have wide-ranging and lasting consequences and ones that parents should holistically consider. Navigating through these waters can be compounded in concert with finding a home, packing, or simply deciding to move. Luckily, you do not have to make these decisions alone. Delivering services in 400 locations across the globe, Cultural Awareness International has the local experience and knowledge to provide you with all the information you need to make quick selections. Our Destination Services department can help you navigate all the particulars and explore the options you have for educating your child abroad. We can also help setup other functional needs such as opening a bank account, getting a driver’s license, finding a doctor, and more. Contact us to learn more about the customized service we can provide to your family.


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