International School Search Services

As an expat, finding the right school for your child is difficult. You need to know about the education system of your new country, decide between a local or international school, and weigh this all against the needs of your child. Where should you begin?

Several factors go into choosing a school, such as the location, type of teacher training, and curriculum. Plus, if you are deciding between a private or international institution, you will need to consider cost. You also need to keep in mind the most important factor: the needs of your child. Do they require small class sizes or are big ones okay? What extracurricular activities are available, and how easily can they join a social group?

Do I need School Search Services?

As an expat with children, searching for an international school can feel like one of the more intimidating aspects of a relocation. Luckily, our school search service is here to help guide you through the process. We offer advice on the questions you should ask when searching for a school abroad and help you to learn about the best schooling options for you and your family.

International vs. Local Schools

One of the first things to consider when looking at overseas schools is whether you will enroll your child in a local or international institution. There are benefits to both. The decision comes down to the individual needs of your child, how long you plan to stay in a country, and what is the education system like in regard to curriculum and enrollment standards.


The Benefits of Choosing a Local School

If you plan to live in a new country for more than two years, sending your child to a local school may be a good option. By attending a local school, kids can immerse themselves in the language and culture of their new home, helping them to adapt faster and feel part of the community more immediately. This is especially true with younger children. Depending on the country that you move to, attendance at a local school may be free or low cost.


The Downside of Choosing a Local School

The downside to choosing a local school is that you run the risk of your child feeling like an outsider. This is because they may be one of the few foreign students, or possibly the only one. This could make them feel like an outcast and prevent them from experiencing a full social life. Older children may be especially sensitive to this, and even more so if a language barrier is involved.


The Benefits of Choosing an International School

Choosing an international school education allows children to continue with the curriculum of their home country, so that they can more easily adapt to their native land when they return. It may also be possible to find international schools that teach in your child’s native language. The most common languages of international schools are English, French, German, and Japanese.


Even if you cannot find an international school with a curriculum from your home country, these institutions are still ideal for expat children. International institutions allow them to socialize with other kids who are going through a similar experience.


International schools are also good for students whose families relocate frequently. For example, a family who moves every few years may want to consider a British or American international school as these are available the world. In this way, your child would be able to transfer schools easily from country to country.


The Downside of Choosing an International School

The downside of an international education is that your child may not be exposed to their new country’s culture or language. This could prevent your child from having a fully immersive, cultural experience. They may feel like a local in their school hallways, but still a foreigner among their community.


International schools are also generally the most expensive option in any country, sometimes even more expensive than university tuition. Parents with multiple children will need to ensure they have the budget to meet these costs.

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What to Consider When Looking for a School Abroad

When looking at overseas schools, there are several factors to consider. Because choosing a school is such a personal decision, based on both the wants and needs of your child(ren) and your family, the considerations listed below are not in order of priority. They depend on each individual family’s situation.


Research the School System of the Country

Before you make any decisions, you need to research the local school system. Are the public schools known for high quality education? Do they allow foreigners to attend? What are the language requirements? Will your child be able to enroll in the appropriate school year for their age, or will they be forced to start a year behind?


Our extensive country guides are great resources to help you answer some of these questions. They include details of what a country’s school system is like, from pre-school to primary and secondary education, and even higher education should your child want to attend university in their new country.


What is Your Child’s Age?

Younger children tend to be more adaptable and can absorb new languages easily. Older children have a greater sense of the friends and life they have left behind and may find it harder to adjust to a new community. For this reason, it may be easier to enroll younger students in a local school while older students will benefit from an international institution.


How Long Will You Stay in the Country?

If you plan to stay in a country for just a year, enrolling your child in an international school is probably the best choice. International schools allow children to continue studying a familiar curriculum in their own language. Children who move around frequently will also benefit from an international school education because it acts as a grounding feature as they move from culture to culture.


Location and School Hours

The location and hours of a school may seem like a less important consideration, but that depends on where you are relocating. For example, schools in Switzerland typically close for a few hours at lunch, forcing parents to pick-up their children or find an extracurricular activity. Expats relocating to major metropolises like Los Angeles, Bangkok, or Jakarta should think about commute time. In cities such as these, it is possible to spend over an hour commuting to and from a school. These are hours that students could spend studying, socializing, or relaxing.


What do You Want for Your Child’s Future?

Do you want your child to eventually finish their schooling in their home country? Or do you want them to attend university abroad? What are the requirements to achieve these aims? These are questions you should consider as your child moves through primary school and into secondary education. You should also think about whether the credits your child is earning will easily transfer to international universities, or if they will be forced to defer enrollment in order to fulfil a requirement or take an entrance exam.

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Requirements to Enroll an Expat Child in an Overseas School

Requirements to attend a local or international school vary from country to country. For example, school systems in Japan and the UAE only allow foreign children to enter the local school system if they can prove proficiency in the country’s native language.


In general, you should be prepared to present the following documents to either a local or international school:


  • your child’s passport and/or residency card;
  • your passport and/or residency card;
  • transcripts from your child’s previous school(s);
  • vaccination and health records.

If you choose an international school, you may also be required to pay a one-time enrollment fee. It may be possible to get a discount on this fee, particularly if you are enrolling more than one child.


Things to Think About

Your wants and needs while searching for an overseas school are specific to you, your family, and your child(ren). Think about the following questions to help narrow your search and find the best option for all involved.


  • When are you moving? The time of year in which you move will affect whether your student needs to be pulled from school mid-term, or can they finish the school year at their current institution. If they have to leave mid-term, will they be forced to repeat a grade?
  • Can you compensate any missing credits with home-schooling? Is this schooling option even allowed in your new country? (e.g. Home-schooling is illegal in many countries such as South Korea, Germany, and Sweden.)
  • What kind of entrance exams does your child need to take in order to attend their new school?
  • Are extracurricular activities that your child is involved in, such as sport or theatre, available in their new school? What are the requirements to get involved?
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What Can I Expect from a School Search Service?

School search services get you started by assessing the specific needs of your family and your child. Does your child require tutoring in a particular language? Is it possible for them to travel to school via public transportation or a school bus, or do they need their own personal vehicle? Are there any entrance exams they are required to pass?


A school search service will also advise you through the other necessary steps such as gathering required transcripts and vaccination records, as well as setting up any school viewings or interviews. If possible, it is advisable to visit a school in person before enrolling your child. A school search service can also help coordinate classroom visits whenever allowed by the chosen school, so prospective students can sit in on a class before deciding if the school is for them.


How Much does it Cost?

There is no set cost when searching for the perfect school for your child. Local schools typically do not require a tuition fee, and parents will only be required to purchase school supplies and books. Depending on the country you are moving to, your greatest expense with public education may come from required school uniforms. Some countries, such as the UAE, may also require a fee for foreigners to enroll in a public, government school. There may also be a cost for extracurricular activities such as sports teams, club, or Parent-Teacher Associations.


International schools are generally expensive no matter the country. In addition to an annual tuition, they will also require parents to pay an enrollment fee, course materials, school uniforms, and fees for any extracurricular activities. International schools will usually also require an application fee, which is not covered by an international school search service.

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Additional Services You Might Be Interested In

InterNations GO! has a range of services that can be tailored to suit your individual needs. Whether you are moving abroad alone or as a family, we assess your situation and provide expert guidance to help you make your international relocation as smooth as possible.


We Help You GO!

We offer guidance on visa applications and help you find a home overseas, even before you arrive in your new country.


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From school searches to pet relocation, we help you and your loved ones stay strong together.