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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Childcare & Education Through Expat Parents’ Eyes

With a strong education system, Finland tops the education rankings but has some competitors in the childcare rankings.
  • Switzerland occupies last place for childcare
  • Finland tops all rankings for education
  • Almost a third of expat parents send kids to international schools
  • Homeschooling popular only in Uganda and Costa Rica

In this year’s Expat Insider survey, 21% of all respondents are living abroad with dependent children. These respondents were asked to answer questions about childcare and education in their host country, including the quality, affordability, and availability.

Childcare & Education Options 2016

Childcare & Education Options 2016 — infographic

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Childcare Options

There are some countries that clearly stand out — for better or worse — with regard to the childcare options. Among them are Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, and Saudi Arabia. Sweden has made it into the top three for all three factors: first for costs of childcare and third for both the availability of childcare and childcare options in general. Meanwhile, Finland comes first for childcare options in general and second for the costs of childcare.

On the other end of the scale, Switzerland comes in last for all three factors. In fact, 35% of expat parents there express their dissatisfaction with the childcare options compared to the global average of 18%. Saudi Arabia features among the bottom three for both the availability of childcare and the childcare options in general. When asked if they consider childcare options numerous and easy to get, 41% of expat parents in Saudi Arabia say they tend to disagree compared to the global average of 30%.

Generally speaking, a large proportion of expat parents choose to send their children to a local daycare facility — 26% compared to 17% whose children are looked after by a parent or other family member and the 13% of expat parents whose children are looked after by a nanny or au pair. Perhaps interestingly, international daycare facilities are the second-least popular childcare option among expat parents, with just 12% choosing this option.

There also seems to be quite a bit of support from employers towards childcare — 27% of expat parents who moved for job-related reasons receive financial support for childcare or schooling abroad. Moreover, 29% of expat partners with dependent children, who moved abroad due to their spouse’s career or education, now receive financial support from their partner’s employer for childcare or schooling.


For education, Finland tops all four rankings: availability of education, costs, quality, and education options in general. The latter ranking factor is given a positive rating by 94% of parents, compared to just 66% globally. In addition, 94% of expat parents in this country rate the quality of education positively, with 70% saying it is excellent. Australia is another country performing well in the education rankings. The country is second for both availability of education and education options in general.

Unfortunately for Greece, the country comes in the bottom three for three out of the four education rankings — education options in general, quality, and availability. Indeed, 59% of expat parents in Greece overall disagree that education options are numerous and easy to get. Hong Kong and Brazil do not fare so well either, with Hong Kong in the bottom three for both availability of education and its costs, and Brazil appearing among the last three for quality of education and education options in general.

Making the Right Choice

Naturally, expat parents make different choices for their children’s education, but the most common option is an international school, with 32% of expat parents sending their kids there. This choice is closely followed by local state schools, attended by 31% of expat kids. “National schools”, such as “Deutsche Schule”, are not that popular globally — 7% of expat parents globally choose them — but they are preferred by Germans (23%), the French (22%), and Indians (12%).

The least common choice for children’s education among expat parents is homeschooling. Just 4% globally choose this path. However, in countries such as Uganda and Costa Rica it is much more common, with 23% and 20%, respectively, choosing this option for their children’s education.

Speaking the Local Tongue

Around the world, 36% of expat kids speak the local language very well according to their parents — this is especially common in Israel, where 63% gave this answer, and France (60%). Meanwhile, 15% of expat parents say that their children speak the local language “a little” and for the same percentage of expat kids, the local language is the same as their mother tongue. On the other end of the scale, 10% of expat parents say that their children do not speak the local language at all; this is most common in Bahrain and Qatar with 44% and 42% of expat parents, respectively, saying this.

Further Reading