Why parents choose international schools
Perspectives from the field of school placement
Travel broadens the mind – it may be a truism, but it is borne out absolutely by the wishes and desire of parents who send their children to school overseas because they become well rounded, internationally-minded youngsters who are at ease with different people and cultures.
Most British classrooms have a smattering of foreign students but by studying abroad with a mix of pupils from different countries, a child is exposed to new languages, new foods, different traditions, sports and lifestyles from a young age. Increasingly, parents are realising this, but it still feels like a risk for many; what does it take to tip a parent over into choosing an international school experience for their child?
Education does not end in the classroom and, as most international schools are boarding, parents want a holistic experience: to know their child will be looked after and kept interested during evenings and weekends with a range of activities. They want them to explore their environment and learn relevant skills so pupils at school in the Swiss Alps ski and horse ride while those in Hong Kong learn martial arts.
They believe studying abroad offers lifelong benefits. A child studying overseas discovers an extensive global network of friendships and potential work colleagues. Offering exciting work experience placements, such as a week in a Genevan bank or ten days in an Italian fashion house can attract parents who feel their child will gain practical international experience not to mention vital contacts.
Affordable air travel, the internet and the rise in remote, flexible working means the world is becoming smaller. Today’s pupils will compete with peers worldwide for jobs and the applicant who is comfortable travelling, is willing to relocate abroad, can speak more than one language, has real life experience of different cultures and is familiar with other nationalities, will stand a better chance than someone who has barely set foot outside the M25.
Families who favour international schooling tend to travel a lot for work or move around with the military. British schools are strict in relation to holidays outside of term, parents with transient lifestyles appreciate more flexibility: being able to visit their child midterm or knowing it’s possible to uproot quickly and move from one country to another as their work demands.
As they may not always be able to travel to their child at short notice, they rely on the school to provide a secure, nurturing environment. They hope that living away from home in another country will aid confidence, independence and maturity. They don’t want a school that never opens its front gates and allows pupils to integrate with society. By managing different currencies or travelling on a foreign underground system, youngster become self-sufficient and this makes them better prepared for the future, be it applying for university in Britain or abroad.
The British can be closed. We aren’t good at learning languages (why bother when everyone speaks English?), we can be impressed by schools that are steeped in tradition with glittering alumni (which include our fathers) and often believe that London attracts the best jobs. This blinkered thinking extends to the classroom too. History lessons focus on our efforts in the world wars while English classes are full of Shakespeare and Dickens.
While maintaining the same standards as British schools, well-chosen international classrooms provide a variety of curricula. Parents who look abroad are not sold on the English lawns and old school tie. They want a modern take on education – one that prepares their children to be citizens of the world. American parents with an entrepreneurial mindset don't care about brand names and whether royals and prime ministers have passed through their doors. They’re more interested in a progressive education system, which opens doors for future job prospects.
All parents want the best education for their child but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the nearest. Many need a school that fits in with their lifestyle and offers something over and above what they can find at home, and that’s why they look overseas.
William Clarence Education offers unbiased advice on UK School and University Placement, Oxbridge Admissions, US College Applications, UCAS application and extensive support for parents and students in all aspects of preparing for entry to the UK.