Moving your family to another country is an exciting adventure, but one that is not without its challenges. One of the most considerable and crucial of these, perhaps even ahead of deciding where to live, is the challenge of choosing the right international school for your child.
At first it may all seem quite overwhelming and understandably so. But, whether you decide to do it with the help of a relocation agent or without, it is both important and helpful to have a clear idea of what your particular requirements are. Although these will vary according to each family’s specific needs and wishes, below are some key considerations which may help you when making your choice of international school.
Do you want your child to follow a national curriculum (e.g. British or U.S.) or an international curriculum (e.g. IB – International Baccalaureate*)? The answer to this question will depend on a number of factors, such as:
– what your child has studied thus far;
– whether you intend to move countries again;
– whether they will sit national exams such as A-levels or APs;
– where your child might go to university in the future.
Another aspect to consider is the delivery of said curriculum; is it a traditional system of direct instruction or an inquiry-based learning approach? Not only will this determine how they are assessed, but also how they develop as learners throughout their formative years.
2. Class size
A good student-teacher ratio is another important element worth thinking about. While large classes may mean a wider social circle, small class sizes mean each individual student benefits from more one-on-one attention from their teacher. Smaller classes also lead to higher levels of engagement and participation, a more cohesive class culture, and, according to research, better academic performance.
3. Activities and facilities
Extra-curricular activities are an essential part of any child’s education; not only for developing social, teamwork, and problem-solving skills, but also for keeping them busy and active, and for having fun! Make sure to check what after-school sports and activities your prospective schools have on offer, as well as what is integrated into the school day as part of the base curriculum.
As well as the activities, it is worth checking how well-equipped the school is, in terms of facilities, technology and also support staff such as teaching assistants, special educational needs teachers, librarians, and healthcare staff.
4. Location and logistics
While it may not be the most important factor for some, a conveniently located school can make all the difference to your day. Finding a school that will slot nicely into your daily commute can mean you have more time to spend on other things instead of traipsing back and forth across town in rush hour traffic before school and after activities. Also, depending on whether the school is located in the city centre, the outskirts or the countryside, its grounds could be anything from cramped and unwelcoming to spacious and lush. Of course, beauty isn’t everything, but for a place your child will spend so much of their life in, a nice environment can make all the difference.
Finally, something critical for both parent and child alike; what kind of community does the school have to offer? Many expat parents find huge support in the connections they make through the international community, which greatly helps with the settling in process. Try to find an international school that values community and facilitates these relationships by taking every opportunity to get parents, teachers and students together to share experiences and form lasting bonds.
With all of these factors in mind, the next step is to create a list of the schools you think might meet your criteria, whittle it down to a shortlist, and book a tour so you and your child can get a feel for the place. At the end of the day it can come down to a gut feeling and whether you think your child will be happy there. If after the visits you have a positive feeling about one school in particular, great. If your child does too, you may be onto a winner.
Amity International School Amsterdam is a candidate school for the PYP pursuing authorisation as an IB World School. IB World Schools share a common philosophy – a commitment to high-quality, challenging, international education. Only schools authorised by the IB Organisation can offer any of its four academic programmes: the Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP), the Diploma Programme (DP), or the Career-related Programme (CP). Candidate status gives no guarantee that authorisation will be granted.
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