Many families working overseas look into the option of international schools, boarding schools, and home school programs. They have heard negative accounts of using national schools, so they do not give it any consideration. All school options have pros and cons, so before skipping over an option that may be well-suited to one or more of your children, consider all of the factors in making a wise school choice. Many reasons exist for selecting a national school. Consider these: A.C.C.E.S.S.
Academic—Though the academic strengths and weaknesses vary from country to country and school to school, students grow up bilingual and may even study three or four languages in school from the early grades. According to Karen A. Wrobbel (Are National Schools a Viable Option?–January 2008) US students “who studied in a national school” performed academically well in college achieving “levels comparable to other TCKs without national school experience”…with achievement “well above the US population as a whole as well as above the levels of American students with higher parental education.”
Cultural—Students attending national schools often become quickly fluent in the language through total immersion, as well as developing a sense of belonging to the host culture. Students attending national schools learn the history and culture of the country, often more rapidly and deeply than students in international or home school environments. Some parents express joy in being able to walk their children to the local school just like their neighbors. Parents also are able to adapt more readily to their host country because of the adults they meet through the school experience that they otherwise might never meet.
Cost—In many countries, public education is provided at no cost. Some charge a fee for foreigners to attend but often these costs are less than the cost of private national and international schools. Even private national school costs tend to be less than private international schools.
Experiential—In some settings, families have discovered the following benefits arising from national school attendance: field trips, discounts on public transportation, and discounts on local events, such as operas, ballets, museums.
Social—According to Dr. Dellanna O’Brien, “attendance in the national school places the TCK in a position to make friends and interact with a larger segment of his new culture.” Often, students studying by means of a home school or internet program lack time and language skills for developing relationships in their neighborhood. Dr. O’Brien also believes that placing students into the local school shows those in the host country our belief in their educational system.
Spiritual—Students have the opportunity to be salt and light in their daily encounters with students and teachers. Doors are also often opened to parents to reach out to teachers, staff, and other parents because they are seen as more acceptable and less odd. Parents are also given numerous opportunities to strengthen their children’s faith by walking with them through the challenges of schooling in another culture, another language. If a local language church exists in the area where you live, your students who attend local language school will be more comfortable attending (and inviting friends) because of their language abilities and daily interactions from attending a national school.