Global mobility, social mobility: why sending your child to boarding school will make a difference to their future.
In my role as an International Education Advisor, I have conversations all the time with parents around the world, and there is one message which they invariably communicate: they want the very, very best for their children’s education. This isn’t simply a whim or a superficial desire to go ‘one up’ on their neighbours; it is a deep-rooted, almost primal need to find a way to support their children into an independent adulthood where they can be safe, secure, happy and fulfilled.
Whether or not they articulate it as such, I have come to recognise that for parents, at quite a profound level, the choices they make for their children are ultimately about their survival and wellbeing. In a global world, where societies and cultures are connected more closely than ever before through transport and digital media, it is only a small step to take for parents to realise the value to their children of being able to have choices to live and work across the world, and this drives many to want to help them prepare for this future, as international students in a boarding school.
Boarding schools are, on the whole, pretty amazing places – or at least they are if boarding is at their heart. This is where the great boarding schools of the UK, the US and (although there are fewer of them) of Europe really shine: they have a long and well-developed history of boarding embedded into schools, so that it is integral to the life of the school. Boarding in its greatest sense does not translate into add-on lodging to an academically-focused curriculum which runs from 8-4; boarding should be fundamental to the education on offer at school. Boarding is about additional opportunities, beyond the classroom, and it is about developing relationships. What, then, should parents be looking for in boarding schools?
For parents, nothing beats visiting a school to see and understand it for themselves. When they do, primarily, parents should be looking for happy, fulfilled, busy children. The students in a school are its product; they reflect in their faces and their demeanours how the school is helping them to develop and grow. A school tour which reveals to visiting parents a variety of different, unique, reasonably well-balanced young people who resemble the best of their own child should bring enormous reassurance to these parents that they are making a sensible choice.
Second, parents should survey the range of opportunities on offer – the breadth of extra-curricular clubs, the field trips, the service learning programmes, the chances for students to take on leadership roles, and everything else that the school has to offer. Academic results are important to open doors to university … but nothing beats a well-rounded person, both in the job market and in life generally. Success is far, far more than grades – the best schools know this instinctively and articulate it well, and their wisdom is worth listening to.
Finally, parents should look for a strong sense of community and friendship. At boarding school, children learn to work alongside and live with other people – a skill which will be invaluable to them in the highly collaborative, team-focused workplace of the mid-twenty-first century. Add to the mix the opportunity to learn to live with people from different cultures, different life experiences and different backgrounds, and it is easy to see how boarding schools provide a beautifully crafted crucible in which young people can learn to become knowledgeable, accomplished, mature citizens of the world, with global opportunities stretching out beneath their feet.