Choosing a school for your child is an important decision and can be a challenging task with so many schools out there to choose from, especially if you live abroad and don’t know the city and/or the education system of your country of destination.
It is important that you take your time to do your research and that you go as deep as you can about it, in order to make an informed decision about such an important matter: your child’s education.
Start by doing a little bit of research about the education system in the country you are going to live in and the different school options that you have available. Write down what are the important aspects you are looking for in a school for your child.
Is it the teaching approach and methodology, the general values and philosophy of the school, location, size, student body composition, local or international curriculum, and language of instruction? Writing down what is important for you will reduce the list of schools you need to explore more thoroughly.
If you decide that you want an international school for your child, which is the most selected choice for expats and foreign families, the list may even get reduced a little bit more. When you have selected the schools you are interested in for your child, start the digging process.
Check the schools’ websites. International schools’ websites tend to have a lot of information about their services. You may be able to gather this previous information:
- Grade levels
- Language of instruction
- School and class size
- Lunch services
- Learning support services
- After-school activities
Visit the school and attend Open House days
Our recommendation is always to visit the schools that you think may be a good fit for your child. If you live abroad and can’t visit them, arrange a virtual conference and a virtual tour with the school’s admissions department.
Many schools have Open House days throughout the school year, but in Spain, the season when most of the Open Houses are taking place is from January to March.
We recommend you attend these events, not only because it is a great opportunity to meet school staff and leadership teams and ask them questions, but also because you can meet other families in the same situation as you are, get their feedback, and exchange important information about school options. During your visits, bring a list of questions/topics you want to discuss with the Admissions team. It is important that you prepare for your visit, so you don’t forget anything important to you. Here below there is a list of questions we recommend you to ask, but you can add others that are not listed and are important to your family.
During your visit
- Core values and mission. How are the school values embedded in the school? How does the school live the school’s mission?
- Languages of instruction . Is there more than one language? What is the percentage of teaching in that language?
- Curriculum. Ask for more detailed information about the curriculum offered.
- What are the teaching approach and Teaching methods?
- Teachers’ professional development. How are teachers trained to be updated about the best worldwide educational practices?
- Learning support services. What are the learning support services offered by your school? Does every student have access to support services? How are they offered
- Assessment– How are students assessed in their progress?
- How does the school ensure every student’s success?
- Student body: Nationalities, languages
- Teachers’ body: nationality, language, average years of experience
- Student/Teacher ratio in class
- Student schedule
- Diversity and inclusion policies. How does the school attend to the diversity and inclusion of the students and teachers?
- Parent involvement. How does the school communicate and collaborate with families? What does the school expect regarding parent involvement? Does the school have a Parent and Teacher association?
- Child safeguarding. How does the school ensure child safeguarding and safety? How does the school handle bullying? How does the school handle student misbehavior?
- Homework. What is the school’s approach to homework?
- International mindedness. What makes your international school really international?
- Student wellbeing. How do you ensure the physical and mental wellbeing of students?
- Counseling services including college counseling services. Are they included in the services offered by the school? Are they included in the school’s fees?
- Health Does the school have nurse services? How are they offered? What are the policies regarding allergies or medical needs?
- Technology. What is the technology used in the classroom? Does the school provide 1:1 technology devices for students? Is there a mobile policy?
- Standardized tests. What are the results of standardized tests (MAP, SAT, IB, Spanish Selectividad)?
- University acceptances. List of university acceptances. What is the percentage of students accepted into their first college choice?
- Ask them to share with you the school’s graduate profile. The graduate profile typically outlines the knowledge, skills, and attributes that students are expected to have acquired by the time they graduate from school.
- Before and After-School Activities. Get a complete list of these activities with their prices. What are the most popular after-school activities?
- Sustainability. Check the ecological and sustainable practices of the school.
- Transportation: Check with the school transport options. Is the school well connected to the city? What are the public transport methods you can use to get to the school? Does the school have a bus service? Is the cost for it included in the fees? What are the school bus routes?
- Admissions. What is the admissions process? What are the admissions criteria to accept students? What assessments are required? How do the waitlists work and what is the priority policy?
During your tour
When you tour the school’s facilities you can get a sense of whether the school creates a safe, comfortable, and inspiring learning environment. Check these aspects:
- Look around. Check the location. Is it easy to access? Is it close to public transportation?
- Check their safety measures. Are children ever left unattended? Is it easy to leave school without an adult? Is it easy for non-staff individuals to access the school?
- Students act respectfully and seem happy
- Student’s language. What language do you hear on the patio or use among students? and among teachers?
- The learning environment: cleanliness, functionality, classroom space and equipment, and natural light. Check the libraries, science labs, Maker space and design labs, music and art rooms, auditorium, etc.
- Cafeteria space. Check if the school has its own kitchen. Get a copy of the monthly menu.
- Sports facilities and equipment
Visiting a school can provide you with valuable information about the school and its culture and you can get a general feeling about whether the school is a good fit for your child’s needs.
In conclusion, visiting an international school can be a great way to get a glimpse of what studying abroad may be like. Careful planning and research is the key to making sure the visit is as informative and enjoyable as possible.
By creating a detailed checklist, potential students can ensure they cover all the necessary items before embarking on this exciting journey. Whether weighing school options for the first time or revisiting old favorites, visiting international schools can provide invaluable insight into student life abroad.