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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Education for Expat Kids around the World

Finland and Austria are particularly popular among expat parents when it comes to education. In both countries expats prefer local state schools over other education options.

Although the number of expat parents among survey respondents is low - only 21% have dependent children living abroad with them - this topic is an important one. Their children's education is not only a major item on expat parents' list of things to be thoroughly researched and organized, but also a "detail" to be accounted for in their budget.

InterNations asked survey participants with kids to rate education in their country based on availability, costs, quality, and general options. Moreover, they were asked which education options they prefer.

Education Options 2015

Education choices among expat parents - infographic
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Education Options and Availability around the World

Austria, Finland, Sweden, and Australia are among the top five for availability of and overall satisfaction with education options for expat kids. Austria comes out on top in both rankings, with 76% and 90% positive responses, respectively. Thus, it ranks far above the global average of 51% and 70%. Moreover, New Zealand makes it to fifth place for the availability of education and Luxembourg is number four in the ranking for satisfaction with education options in general.

Hong Kong is a rather popular expat destination and 83% of parents are satisfied with the quality of education there. Still, it finds itself at the bottom of the list when it comes to the availability of education with only 17% positive ratings, none of which are completely positive though, closely followed by Qatar (22%) and Saudi Arabia (27%). It is no secret that the situation is dire for expat parents in Hong Kong. In 2014, reports of shortages of places at international schools made the rounds. In terms of overall satisfaction with a country's education options, survey respondents are least satisfied with these in Saudi Arabia, followed by Turkey and Mozambique.

Quality and Costs of Education across the Globe

In the Expat Insider 2015 survey, Finland has turned out to be the most popular destination among expat parents for its quality and cost of education. This is not surprising as Finland's public school system is famous for its fantastic PISA results (Program for International Student Assessment) for reading, science, and math. (Finland was not included in the Expat Insider 2014 survey, as our sample size of expat parents in that country was too small.)

After Finland with 92% satisfied expat parents, Austria (92%), Singapore (83%), Switzerland (82%), and Germany (79%) are also valued for their quality of education. Interestingly, none of these countries rank in the top five for availability, costs, and general satisfaction with education options, except for Finland and Austria.

When it comes to the cost of education, survey respondents in Hong Kong and Qatar are again least satisfied with the situation, with 83% and 73% negative responses, respectively. The same is true for expat parents in Brazil (72%). Brazil, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia fared the worst as far as the quality of education is concerned.

Popular Education Options for Expat Families

When asked about their preferred education options, 34% of respondents chose international schools, closely followed by local state schools (30%) and local private schools (20%). It might be possible that international schools are particularly popular in countries where the language barrier or the quality of education in the public school system is a serious hurdle for expat children.

Such countries include Hong Kong (78% of expat parents send their kids to international schools), Uganda (66%), Kenya (65%), Saudi Arabia (65%), and China (64%). On the other hand, less than 10% of respondents choose international schools in English-speaking countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, or the USA.

Local state schools are particularly popular among survey participants in New Zealand (65%), Finland (65%), Norway (64%), Switzerland (62%), and Canada (59%). Finland in particular yields very good results in the education ranking, attesting to the quality of its public schools. Local state schools are a lot less popular in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Kenya and India, where less than 3% of survey respondents favor this option.

In Mexico (56%), Brazil (50%), and Costa Rica (50%) local private schools are a popular option. However, they are rarely the first choice in Bahrain (8%), Singapore (7%), and the Netherlands (7%).

Some expat parents also choose a national school abroad (e.g. a "Deutsche Schule" or "Lycée Français") for their child. This applies particularly to expat parents from France (29%), Germany (14%), Belgium (13%), and India (12%). These numbers are far above the global average of only 7%.

Homeschooling, however, is a very rare option, which is only popular among 4% of all expat parents surveyed worldwide. This might also be due to the fact that homeschooling is illegal in some countries and heavily restricted in others, including Greece, Germany, and Sweden. Still, the popularity of homeschooling is way above average in some countries, such as Costa Rica (17%), Mexico (14%), and India (13%). In these countries, homeschooling is legal as an alternative to the mandatory public school system or for parents who have registered their child and applied for an exemption. In Costa Rica, the situation is not quite as clear: some sources state that homeschooling is illegal, while others point out that it is simply not addressed in the country's education law.

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