The number of international schools available to expats in Asia has exploded over the last decade; according to a recent Independent Schools Council (ISC) report, the number of registered international schools in 2015 in China alone increased to 597 from just 22 thirteen years before.
This meteoric rise in choices for relocating families makes advance research and attention to detail during the selection process even more vital. For parents just beginning their school search, we’d like to recommend these three aspects of high-quality international schools to serve as a baseline when they start their search based on recommendations from education experts.
Internationally Recognized Curricula and Programmes
It should come as no surprise to parents that a rigorous and internationally-recognised academic curriculum is the first facet of any school you should pay attention to, especially at the Secondary School level. Ensure that the schools you favour are accredited by certified international accreditation agencies—the more the better. Also, research what kind of curriculum is offered to Secondary School students. Is it an internationally recognised, world-class curriculum like the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP), British A-Levels, or North American Advanced Placement (AP) courses? If not, the standards of schooling may be significantly lower and your child may encounter difficulties when applying to universities back home or abroad (depending on where you come from).
While not necessarily at the forefront of every parent’s mind, learning the local language can be a great boon to your child’s learning, not just in terms of the obvious benefit of learning a second (or third!) language, but also in being able to fully engage in the local culture. When researching schools, find out how much time is spent per week learning the local language and whether or not language classes are mandatory. Ask the admissions officers from the schools you are considering the number of students graduating with bilingual diplomas or the average performance on the foreign language sections of their exams. Also see how the school encourages students to engage with local culture, whether via school trips or local community service projects. The answers to these questions will let you know not only the school’s commitment to imparting the language and culture in students but also how effectively it does so.
YCIS Beijing Superintendent Nanci Shaw offers insightful words for parents attempting to understand an international or global education. She writes: “The terms international and global are often used interchangeably with crossed meanings and in numerous contexts, but there is a clear distinction. A global education goes beyond awareness and understanding of other cultures, nationalities, religions, and languages, beyond the development of international attitudes and universal values. To put it simply, a truly global education is grounded in making a difference, in purposeful engagement and responsible actions aimed toward care and sustainability of the planet and its peoples, a holistic view of world affairs, and peaceful collaboration between nations.” In our ever-shrinking world, this emphasis on nurturing responsible, caring, and compassionate global citizens should be a part of any international school that parents consider. These values will not only be reflected in a school’s curriculum but also in the volunteering, community service, and international field trip opportunities that students actively participate in.