Living abroad is an enriching experience for children and adults. To minimize the transition for your child, it is vital that the merits of prospective international schools be fully evaluated. Simultaneously, it is necessary to review the anticipated U.S. objectives for the grade(s) that will be missed. Please keep in mind that U.S. education standards may or may not be the same as the country you will be visiting. It would be a pity if the phenomenal experience of living abroad had a detrimental effect on your child’s overall education.
The key is to find out as much as you can online and from others before you tour the school. Don’t be shy. Ask as many questions as you can and observe everything possible before you decide to enroll your child in a foreign school. Whenever possible, please try to include your child in the decision making process. Use the following 10 points as a guide.
TEN POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN EVALUATING A SCHOOL ABROAD
- Is the school accredited? If so, what is the accreditation?
- What do you know about the accrediting agency?
- How often is the school reevaluated?
- Does the curriculum adhere to the country’s requirements or is it International Baccalaureate (IB) program?
- What is the language of instruction? If it is not English, will your child be provided second language acquisition assistance?
- Does a student have any choices or are the classes mandatory?
- How many hours are spent in the core subjects- English, math, science and social studies?
- How much time is allocated for special classes (art, music, PE, computer lab, foreign language, etc)?
- Is the ratio between core classes and special classes the same as your current school?
- How does the curriculum compare to a standards based U.S. public or private school curriculum?
- Have students from your city or state attended the school? If so, can you be given contact information?
- What textbooks are used?
- What are the reading requirements?
- Are students tracked according to their ability?
Teachers and Administrators
- What is the background of the teachers and administrators? (background knowledge of the topic and teacher training)
- Does the school/country require a license for teachers and/or administrators?
- Do the teachers have any training in diverse cultures or languages?
- Do any of the teachers or administrators have US teacher training?
- Is the school run and/or owned by educators or businessmen?
- What is the primary language of the teachers? If English is not their primary language, your child may have difficulty understanding the teacher(s).
School Year and Daily Schedule
- Does the school follow a U.S. school year that usually has a break for the summer or does the school follow the country’s school year? Some countries follow a totally different school calendar with vacation periods that do not jive with American schools.
- What are the school hours?
- How many days per week?
- How many total days per year?
- Does the total number of classroom hours compare to your current school?
- What does the school look like?
- Are the grounds, the structures, play areas, and the restrooms well maintained and clean?
- Are the classrooms ample sized and fully equipped with modern furniture?
- What is the student-teacher ratio? Are there any aids or para professionals?
- Does the computer lab and/or classroom have a sufficient number of up-to-date computers?
- Are there books and materials in the classrooms and is the library well stocked?
- Are the science labs well equipped?
- Does the school have air conditioning and/or fans?
- Are wild animals permitted on campus?
- How are students disciplined?
- Are there safety precautions (fire drills, tornado drills, lock downs, etc.)?
- Is there a doctor or nurse on the grounds?
- Can you tour all of the buildings?
Testing and Grades
- Are there admission tests and/or interviews or can anyone enroll? What are the test results used for?
- What types of assessments are given throughout the school year?
- Are the standardized tests and year end exams graded by the faculty or an outside entity?
- How are students’ accomplishments monitored?
- Can you see a sample report card?
Transportation to and from School
- Does the school provide bus service?
- Are the buses typical school buses or motor coaches?
- How close is the bus stop to your home?
- How long is the ride?
- Are there chaperons on the bus?
- Does anyone assist smaller children on and off the bus?
- Are there any activities that your child is interested in doing?
- Are there competitions between local schools?
- Does the competition take place during school hours or after school?
- Is transportation provided to and from the event?
- Is it necessary to pick up your child or is transportation provided home?
- Does the school offer any enrichment classes or extracurricular activities during the summer break or school holidays?
- Does the school have a cafeteria?
- Does the menu offer multiple options?
- Can students bring their own food?
- Are morning and/or afternoon snacks offered?
- Can you tour the kitchen and the cafeteria?
- Does the school offer any program that eases the transition for a foreign student?
- Are there any other Americans attending or teaching at the school? If so, will your child have any contact with these people?
- Can your child observe a class or meet with students before enrolling in the school?
Please let me know if I can assist you in any way. Feel free to contact me at- firstname.lastname@example.org
The memoir documents Sandra’s experiences as an American teacher teaching at a notable international school in Bangalore, India.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, and the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards.