BRITISH EXPATS IN THE MIDDLE EAST – WHY INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS ARE BECOMING AN INCREASINGLY POPULAR CHOICE.
Until recently, it was common for Middle Eastern firms employing expats to cover the full cost of schooling for their employees’ children, or at least make a significant contribution to it. This is becoming increasingly rare across the region, with many firms making a much-reduced contribution, or paying nothing towards schooling at all.
If you’re attracted by the low-tax regime of many Middle East countries, the high fees that international schools charge – up to £20k a year – will make quite a dent on the disposable income you’ve been anticipating.
International schools certainly aren’t the only option open to expats:
some countries allow foreign children into their local schools, you could choose to send them to boarding school in your home country, or you could home school. But despite the high fees, international schools are becoming increasingly popular. In 2000, there were 2500 international schools across the world, teaching nearly 1 million students; today there are more than double that number, and by 2020, the International School Consultancy Group predicts that number will have quadrupled.
So what’s the reason for the growing popularity of international schools over the other alternatives? Why do so many expat families still think it’s worth making the move?
While the costs of international schools are high, many argue that the benefits are even higher. Probably of greatest importance is the standard of teaching. Most international schools join voluntary schemes, such as the Council of International Schools, which set rigorous teaching standards that schools must meet to become accredited. If you choose a British international school, it will usually be part of a voluntary scheme run by the UK Government’s Department for Education, under which each school is inspected every three years.
Most expat families will move at some point during their child’s education – whether that be back to their home country or onto another country altogether. One of the benefits of an international school is that it will likely follow a globally-recognised curriculum, such as the International Baccalaureate, or follow the British national curriculum offering international GCSEs and A-Levels. This means that should your child move to another school, they’ll be able to resume their studies without too much disruption, and their qualifications will be recognised internationally.
Further, most British international schools have a significant number of UK-trained teachers, so the method of teaching and level of pastoral support is likely to be one that they’re used to. And because of the transitory nature of the expat community, international schools are used to a constantly changing student body and are completely geared up to welcome new children. Being new isn’t unusual.
As important as academia is, there are other benefits to international schools too. International schools are renowned for their excellent facilities. Many international schools place a stronger emphasis on extracurricular activities than mainstream schools, so the facilities you find are similar to those you’d expect in a top British public school. Most will have impressive sports pitches, swimming pools, music centres, etc.
A high standard of education and impressive facilities can be found at most UK boarding schools, but what you won’t find anywhere but in an international school is the opportunity for your child to experience another culture in a way that isn’t possible in their home country. With pupils from tens of different countries, they’ll learn to get on with people from all different backgrounds, and become more diverse in their thinking – becoming truly global citizens, increasingly important in today’s world.
And, of course, one of the huge benefits of international schools over UK boarding schools is that you get to see your child experience everything – no lengthy separations, or costly flights back and forth to your home country.
Yes, international schools are expensive, but for many expat families they’re worth every penny.
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