What Are The Key Things to Consider When Choosing an International School?

When you become an expat, or perhaps even before when you are just evaluating your options, one of your biggest concerns will be your child’s education. Of course, education and a school environment embrace far more than just the curriculum, it also includes being a safe environment and somewhere where your child will be able to make friends along with feeling happy and secure.

When you are looking for the best international schools in Bangkok, you will undoubtedly have many questions running through your mind as well as lots of things to consider. You want their learning to stand them in good stead for the future, maybe you want them to learn a new language, excel at sports, art or encourage their interest in science. These are all personal to you and your child, but they will play a role in your final decision.

Whatever school you choose, whether it is at home or abroad, it will play a significant role in shaping your child’s future. If you have chosen to become an expat, it can be unsettling for a child, especially those who are slightly older and have already developed their own circle of friends. You will want to be 100% certain that you have chosen the right school and one of the things that you must do is visit each school and meet the people working there and see the facilities.

Here are some of the various things that you need to consider when making the final choice.

1. From your child’s point of view

First and foremost, your child is the most important factor in any decision that you make. There are several questions that you should ask, such as wanting to know the average class sizes and what measures or procedures does the school have in place for making it easy for a child to settle in? You should also make some observations of your own, try to establish if children are happy there and do the school give you regular updates regarding your child’s progress?

Some children may have special needs, so can these needs be met by the school, do they have the proper provisions in place? Also, depending on your child’s age, do they provide the correct support in terms of finding the “right” university or other choices regarding their education?

2. The curriculum

Obviously, you want your child to be taught in their native tongue, in most cases, English. Furthermore, you will almost certainly want them to continue with the same curriculum that they have been studying, so is this offered by the school? Remember, children of all nationalities attended international schools, so does the curriculum on offer suit your needs?

  • Some other points that you should consider include:

  • Are the lessons challenging enough for your child?

  • Are lessons focused on the pupils or is there too much focus on textbook learning?

  • Are the subjects that your child is interested in or presently studying available?

  • What extracurricular activities are available?

  • How do students perform in regular tests such as SATS, GCSEs or A-Levels?

  • What is the school’s record with university admissions?

3. The teachers

Unfortunately, the standard of teaching in some international schools falls below that which you may experience in your home country. The top international schools in Bangkok employ only the best teachers, but this is not the case across the board. Again, you should make observations regarding the teachers to try to establish if they are friendly and approachable.

Some questions that you could ask, should you have concerns, include:

  • What is the minimal level of qualification that teachers have?

  • Do the teachers have the skills and knowledge to meet the expectations of children with special needs or, conversely, exceptional skills or ability?

  • Are the teachers up to date with current “best practices” and do they receive regular ongoing training?

4. The school itself

Although in many ways, some of the other factors will play a more significant role in your final decision, the school itself should be considered. Logistically, is it practical for where you live? Remember, Bangkok is a heavily congested city so travelling short distances can be time-consuming and do you want young children to be relying on the overcrowded BTS and MTR?

It is worth establishing how long the school has been open, does the building look dated and old. Also, are the facilities such as libraries and sports equipment well maintained? In addition:

  • Are the IT facilities in keeping with modern standards?

  • What is the security like at the school?

  • Is transport provided by the school for pupils?

5. Parent involvement

To a certain extent, schools that cater to expats have a stronger community spirit and parent involvement is not only encouraged; in many cases, it is expected. Most families embrace this role, but it should be stressed that some international schools do not promote involvement, and indeed, it is somewhat against their culture. If it is important to you, you should be prepared to ask some of the following questions:

  • How much of a role are you expected to play in your child’s education?

  • If you have a particular skill or expertise, can this be utilised by the school and are there the opportunities available for you to do this?

  • Can parents participate in extracurricular activities?

  • How often do teachers meet parents and are there any forms of parent-teacher associations?

What can you take away from these meetings, the answers you receive and your observations?

Of course, what you take away from your meetings will play a critical role in your final decision. However, where possible we would recommend that you talk with other parents to get a feel for their experiences with the school. Also, remember schools have “personalities” and although first impressions are not the “be-all and end-all”, they will give you a good indication.

At least having some knowledge of the school, its teachers and curriculum will help you to make an informed choice about which school best addresses your child’s needs. If you are still uncertain, ask more questions and try to get as much information as possible. It is a critical decision and one that shouldn’t be made lightly.