Challenges Expats Face When Choosing and Using a National School

By Delana S

  1. Making an Educated Choice–Knowing the right questions to ask before choosing to use the national school.
  2. Making the Initial Adjustment–Helping your children with the initial adjustment when the whole family is adjusting to a new culture and location.
  3. Making a Choice that is different from your colleagues–Pressure from colleagues to use (or not use) the national school.

1. Making an Educated Choice:

There are many areas parents must consider when choosing whether or not to use a national school (and which school, if there is a choice). Parents should investigate and consider school policies, facilities, academic, special needs, classroom management, and future goals before making the commitment to use a national school. Consider the following questions other parents have sought answers to in making this decision for their families—

School Policies—

ü      Does the school allow the children of nonlocal residents attend? What about those on tourist visas? Do they charge a fee for foreigners?

ü      How will the attendance policy affect my or my spouse’s work, conference, vacation, or home leave schedules?

ü      What is the school’s policy on parent involvement? Do they have parent/teacher conferences? Do they provide translation of school documents/news/letters home or do I need to have these translated?

ü      Are there required trips? Who pays (the school or the family)? Is this part of the school fees (if a fee is charged)?

Facilities and Supplies—

ü      What is the condition of the building and grounds? What is the water supply like? What immunizations are required (and do they mass inoculate at the school…with or without parent permission)? Is transportation provided? What supplies, materials, etc. are provided (or required to be provided by the parents)?


ü            Is the education adequate for transferring into a US public school? Will I need to supplement math and science (in addition to English, history, government, etc.)?

ü            Is religion a core subject? Is it required of all students? If so, what religion is being taught? If it is not required, what are the available options for that time slot?

ü            What are the qualifications for the teachers?

ü            How are students assessed?

ü            Do they require developmentally appropriate tasks of the students?

ü            What is the learning environment like? Class size? Modes of Instruction? Length of day?

ü            Are fine arts and physical education taught? What emphasis do they place on these? Is playing a sport required?

Special Needs—

ü            Does the school offer assistance to foreign language students?

ü            Is there time in the student’s day for studying additional subjects (English, history, etc.)?

ü            What assistance does the school provide to children with learning challenges or disabilities? Do they have specialists on staff?

ü            Does the school encourage understanding other cultures, world views, values?

Classroom Management—

ü            What kind of discipline is practiced in the classroom? By the school?

ü            How do teachers and administrators deal with behavior problems?

ü            What involvement is expected/allowed by parents?

ü            Do teachers shout frequently? Can they maintain control in the classroom? Do they shame students?

ü            Does the administration allow parents to observe?

Future Goals—

ü            Does the school adequately prepare the student to enter a U.S. state university, work force, or military? If not, what preparations will the parents need to make during the high school years and summers?

ü            Does the school encourage life long learning and motivate children in the area of academics?

ü            Is this particular school right for my child’s personality and learning style?

2. Making the Initial Adjustment

Be patient with yourselves, your students, and the school you choose. Give it some time. If you are still adjusting to language and culture yourselves, your view and understanding of things at the school will be affected. Try to only speak positively about the school and teachers in front of your children. When things that are negative (or seem negative) happen, use that as an opportunity to pray with your children for them, for their classmates, and for their teachers. If you stay positive and view the experience as a wonderful adventure (and at times as a faith challenge) then your children will likely view it that way.  If you complain and fuss in front of your children (or to or with your children) about the way the school or teacher does things, then your children are likely to carry that frustration with them. Every school situation has its challenges and frustrations. Be as involved as the school will allow, and if language is a barrier at first, try to find someone who can visit the school with you who speaks the language well.

3. Making a choice that is different from your colleagues:

It can be challenging to move to a new area where all of your co-workers’ children go to the national school and you prefer to home school or use an international school. It can be equally challenging to move to a new area where none of your co-workers’ children attend the national school and you want your kids to attend. Be encouraged that your decision needs to be a decision you make as parents or a family under God’s guidance. Do not be afraid to do something different than those around you. Do listen to advice and suggestions for dealing with the new culture and adjusting to your new surroundings, but do not let others decisions not to use the national school keep you from carefully considering it. Go and talk to the school and teachers (use an interpreter if needed). Sit in a classroom if allowed and get a feel for the environment. Talk to or write someone who could put you in contact with those having successful experiences in national schools. If you have moved to an area where all of your colleagues’ children are attending national school, don’t be afraid to give it a try. In some countries you may not have other choices, but even if you do have other choices, be willing to try the national school for a year.

See Also:

Supplementing…A Reversal

Reasons for Considering National Schools

Learning to Read in Your Native Language First

Strategies for Supplementing National School

2 thoughts on “Challenges Expats Face When Choosing and Using a National School

  1. Pingback: Should My Child Attend a National School? « The Education Cafe

  2. Pingback: Strategies for Supplementing National Schools « The Education Cafe

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