The word “expat” comes from the Latin words “ex” (meaning out) and patria (meaning fatherland). It generally means an employee who is temporarily living and working outside their home country. While the concept of global travel seems as easy as going to an airline website to book a ticket, becoming an expat is a big move.
It entails the relocation of family and the uprooting of personal lives to a wholly different environment, which can be tough on children. As such, chief among expat parents’ concerns is searching for a suitable education option that will not only make the most out of their cross-border experience but also subscribes to the highest academic standards and allows their children to re-enter their home education system if and when their expatriate assignment ends.
Like any parent, they want the best for their children’s education. Almost universal are the requirements they have when choosing a school for their children: engaged teachers, high academic standards and a safe environment.
For the globally mobile parents, there are added factors they should prioritise. For one, the ethnic and cultural mix of the students can have a big impact on their child’s international outlook. Surveys have shown that exposure to and interaction with students of different cultures are what defines a truly international education, trumping curriculum and other informal school activities.
But curriculum matters. The expat parent should be wary of the intricacies of the different types offered in international schools these days. For example, the curriculum could follow the British, be British-based or is a hybrid of the former with the host country’s local curriculum – each comes with their own strengths and weaknesses, but the ultimate choice should be one that suits every student’s individual needs.
Another key consideration should be on the less formal activities that take part in each school. Extra-curricular activities ensure that students receive a holistic education beyond exam results, and bring personal benefits like social skills, improved well-being, and self-confidence.
These are benefits that will endure into the future – a Universities Canada survey found 82 percent of hiring managers at small and medium businesses believed that employees who have “inter-cultural knowledge” make a company more competitive. These advantages are equally as important in an international school and arguably more effective given the diverse mix of backgrounds students come from.
For a deeper look into the international schools approved by expat communities worldwide, check out these four institutions below:
With 400 years of British excellence and tradition from its links with Dulwich College, Dulwich College Beijing knows what it takes to educate expat children to be leaders in an unpredictable future.
For one, learning at Dulwich is effective. It starts with a clear purpose, is adaptable, personalised and relational. This applies to all levels of instruction here, from age one to 18.
In Early Years, children follow the Foundation Stage in a dual language approach where students are taught in both English and Mandarin. This is then followed by Years 1 to 9 where students follow an enhanced version of the National Curriculum of England and Wales, to provide challenge to all and to meet the needs of an international student body.
At Year 10, students start the two-year IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) course, before taking on the two-year International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) beginning in Year 12.
With superb teaching and pastoral care, Dulwich students consistently achieve remarkable academic success. Class of 2018 obtained a phenomenal 37.7-point average out of 45 (the world average was 30 points). Thirty percent of students scored 40 and above, and three received perfect score of 45.
Beyond academics, equal emphasis is given to co-curricular activities, with 50 sports teams, over 40 music and drama performances a year, as well as a myriad of opportunities for service to others. This holistic education is designed to challenge students’ intellectual, social, physical and personal development, broaden their experience and promote a sense of social responsibility.
Established in 1912, Seoul Foreign School (SFS) is the leading international school in this Asian metropolis. With over 100 years of legacy, SFS has had a headstart of what it takes to provide educational excellence, international diversity and commitment to the education of future global leaders.
As a K-12 International Baccalaureate World School and Foundation to Year 9 British School, SFS provides the two most comprehensive international curriculums for students of all ages. Both its English National Curriculum and IB programme provide students with the rigours and global perspective suitable for expat children.
And it’s not all about hitting the books – non-academic experiences are just as important at SFS.
“Seoul Foreign School embraces the arts. It recognizes that studying and creating music, theatre, and art is a vital part of educating a young person and teaches them skills that can be part of their lifelong journey,” said John Striffler, Director of Performing Arts at SFS.
For athletics, a wide variety of sports clubs and teams are offered at competitive and non-competitive levels.
SFS is a Christian school for everyone, welcoming students of all and no faith backgrounds. Service, kindness and tolerance are at the core of our mission.
Its truly multicultural learning community of students, parents and staff means everyone receives an enriched view of both local and international cultures.
Located in the west of Shanghai, the aim of the Western International School of Shanghai (WISS) is to shape each student into brave, compassionate, internationally-minded global citizens.
As the only full continuum IB World School in mainland China, WISS offers the four programmes of the International Baccalaureate (IB): the Primary Years Programme (IBPYP), the Middle Years Programme (IBMYP), the Diploma Programme (IBDP) and the Career-related Programme (IBCP). Students thus receive the entire and unbroken IB curriculum model leading to the most sought-after qualification for university entry in the world.
Unique programmes and initiatives also set WISS apart from the many international schools in the Chinese megacity.
For example, there are enrichment programs like Explore China, where secondary students go on trips around China for over a one week period each year. Its diverse language learning options allow its community of close to 50 nationalities learn both the lingua francas of the world and their mother tongues. There are regular activities with cultural groups to offer as many mother tongue programmes as possible.
With a student body this diverse, activities like International Day provide great opportunities for students to learn loads about the foods, drinks, clothes and culture from all over the world.
Choosing Bangkok Patana School means choosing to go to the oldest British international school in Thailand and one of the most respected educational establishments in Southeast Asia.
Here, students follow the British national curriculum up to Year 11 and the International Baccalaureate in Years 12 and 13, offering extensive opportunities for tertiary education through their University and Careers Support department. This means students receive a diverse and engaging education, using a holistic approach to emphasise the importance of the world outside the classroom and encourage extensive extracurricular activities.
It’s a curriculum with proven success. In 2017, IB Diploma students here achieved a 100 percent pass rate, against a world average of 80 percent, with the average points score of 35 (world average = 30 points).
Co-curricular activities ensure students get the best intellectual, physical and social preparation for their futures. By making music, drama and art, individually and in ensemble, students at Bangkok Patana not only develop skills but faith in their own ideas and capacity for imagination. In total, over 400 extra-curricular activities are offered every week in creative fields, sports, languages, ICT, leadership and community service.
An extensive campus completes the picture. Facilities, which include two swimming pools, numerous courts and playing fields, an indoor climbing wall, dance studio and state of the art Science Centre, ensure students have the greatest number of options and opportunities in all areas of their academic and personal development.
*Some of the institutions featured on this article are commercial partners of Study International