Moving to another country with children can be a hard and stressful experience. It involves great amount of research, decision making and planning. One of the first steps families make when moving abroad is looking for a new school for their children which can be by itself an overwhelming task. Doing some thorough “homework”, however, will reduce the level of anxiety and prepare the road for a smooth and successful transition.
First of all, you need to think about the type of experience you want for yourselves and for your children during your time abroad. Do you want total language and cultural immersion? Do you prefer your children to continue with their current school program? Do you want an engaged school community? Or do you prefer not to get too much involved? Do you want to travel a lot or would you rather have a quieter and relaxed experience? Having a clear picture of the type of experience you want for your family makes it easier when looking for a school that will best fit your needs.
Make a list of your priorities
We encourage parents to make a list of what is important for them and their children when it comes to choosing a school. You can even give a value to each one of the elements listed. This is a good way to avoid making decisions based on impressive school features that are not on your list. We also suggest that parents gather as much information as possible about school systems and schools in the city and country of destination. School directories, educational sections on expat websites or local schools rankings are good sources of information and should help parents narrow down their decision to 4 or 5 schools. The next step is making an appointment to visit them or visit the school during their Open House sessions.
Prepare your visit
Before meeting with the admissions department, we recommend that parents prepare their visits and make sure they bring their check list with them. It may seem an obvious thing to do but most visiting families do not prepare for meetings, they ask few questions and/or let the school admissions officers lead the interview.
Parents know more than anyone else their needs and their children’s. The answers to their questions will address whether a school meets their needs. They can request to visit a classroom or specific facilities of interest, ask what student success looks like for the school and see if they share similar points of view, inquire about the school mission and how it is lived and achieved; what they feel proud of and what are areas of improvement. Parents shouldn’t be afraid to ask those questions. They are fair questions and will help them make one of the most important decisions about their international move.
Ask all those questions you may have
We would also recommend that parents formulate questions about the school’s integration and welcome program for new families: what do they do to successfully integrate new students and parents in the school community? How active is their PTA? How much involvement is expected? etc.
Parents, on the other hand, should also be prepared to answer admissions officers’ questions: Tell us about your child, what sort of learning environment fits best your child’s needs? What are his/her favorite activities? What are his/her favorite subjects?, What are your child’s strengths? Where and when does your child struggle? What are your expectations regarding your experience abroad? And regarding the school? How does your child feel about the move?
Children’s education should be an active partnership between home and school, it is important that both, families and education centers, work together towards the same goals. Trust, transparency and effective communication are vital to a student’s success. Don’t hesitate to ask all the questions that you may have no matter how basic or unimportant you may think they are. There are no irrelevant questions when it comes to making decisions about your child’s education.
BFIS Admissions Department