Families who need to relocate due to work demands are often faced with a dilemma when it comes to educating their children; how can you ease the transition to a new culture, a new language, a new school, without damaging their education and future prospects?
There are several options available and deciding which is best for your family is influenced by several factors, such as the countries you are leaving and travelling to, the duration of your trip and also any plans for further education.
There are countless education systems in place around the world, but here we will concentrate on the three major systems: the US and UK education systems and the IB (International Baccalaureate).
Education options for children below the age of 16
In the UK, exams taken before the age of 16 have no long-term impact on your child’s education. In the US education system, apart from exams sat at the age of 17 or 18, a child’s accumulated GPA (Grade Point Average), which starts in Grade 9 or 10 (aged 14), carries forward on the child’s transcript to their new school. So while families with younger children have more flexibility in terms of following a particular curriculum and not having to worry about preparation for set exams, those in the US educational system should take particular care to keep up school performance throughout the transition.
Placing your children in a local school (depending of course on the length of your stay) can be a good option, and will provide them with a rich cultural experience of being immersed in the native language and making friends with children from the country being visited. However, local schools may not have specialist facilities for disabled children or those with special educational needs. In this instance it may be better to recruit a full-time private tutor to manage your child’s education.
A tutor – whether short-term, after-school, or full-time can also be a good option if your child is particularly shy and needs some help adjusting or you want to explore the opportunities that a new culture and new curricula can offer, while maintaining links with your home country in case you decide to return.
Education options for children 16 years old and up
Relocating families with older children are more restricted by the demands of exams and obtaining grades necessary for admittance into a chosen university. Where your family is relocating to is arguably even more relevant, as it may be possible for you to find schools that teach the International Baccalaureate; the best curriculum option as it permits seamless transfer between schools.
It is important to note that the IB cannot be homeschooled, so if you are relocating to an area without a local IBO-certified school, you will need to consider switching to a different curriculum, and hiring a short-term or after-school tutor to ease the transition, or boarding schools.
The best full-time private tutors can provide superlative education in line with either the UK or US curriculum and preparation for exams required to gain entrance into any university your child chooses.
Again, if your child has learning difficulties or needs additional support, a tutor can be an effective bridge between school curricula and a new culture and language, acting as a mentor and friend in a strange environment. It can sometimes be a good idea to recruit the tutor in the home country for a few months before moving to the new location, where the tutor can provide stability and support.