Overseas schooling: the basics please?

(18 Posts)
Purpledragon Tue 03-Jul-12 13:54:26

Hoping I can get some advice. Myself and husband have lived overseas for 15 years, mainly in Africa, but also Asia, eastern Europe and NYC. We are currently in the Middle East and now have a son who will turn 3 in September.

He is currently at nursery school and will stay there until we leave here in around one year, most likely. We don't know where yet but a capital city most likely in Africa. We are English and French speaking. We are likely to continue moving every three years or so.

These are the questions I'm starting to think about:

I'm looking at schools that would be in one of four school systems (British, American, French and IB) is that correct?

Once in a school system how important is it that they remain in the same system? What are the factors? How does one judge syllabus against implementation? Is the need to remain in a system less relevant for little ones or should consistency be sought from the beginning?

Also if I'm missing the point, please let me know!

With thanks.

OP’s posts: |
jkklpu Tue 03-Jul-12 14:00:45

I'm in the early stages of this, too. For me, it's important that my kids (eldest only 6) are educated in the English language as a constant. Although our situation is a bit different - dh and I are both English native speakers - this matters more than syllabus, I think, esp in the early years with learning to read/spell. Wherever we end up living, I think it's likely there will be either British or American schools as well as French. While I'd love the kids to learn fluent French, I think I'd still want the school to be mostly Anglophone in teaching, whatever the split if nationalities.

But you may have different priorities.

Purpledragon Tue 03-Jul-12 14:23:54

Thanks for your reply. It's true our situation is a bit different, I'm English native speaker but my husband is not (though works a lot in English and he is as comfortable in English as anything). Our son moves between English and French with no problem and his nursery is French speaking. I feel lucky that we had a wider choice of nursery because we didn't mind if it was English or French but I do wonder if sticking to one language would make the question of the education system easier. The question of syllabus and different school systems is a whole new issue for us.

Good luck to you.

OP’s posts: |
DronesClub Tue 03-Jul-12 14:32:04

I can only speak for my experience
The French system abroad is still linked to the state in most countries - in not all but most having a French passport/nationality will get you in (don't try this in London!) so that's a plus on consistency. Most also offer bilingual streams - English and French but acceptance is usually based on ability.
But the French (huge stereotype!) are not great at any one who needs help - not talking SEN even just basic immaturity or minor dyslexia/dyspraxia sort of things so if you have any concerns I'd recommend you quiz the schools about this. But it's a great system and you can pretty much appear in any country and curriculum wise your DC will fit in
Not sure about others but I have heard and my knowledge of 2 countries is there is less 'obligation' to take someone based on passport. So if you plan to keep moving it may be a good option

Clefairy Tue 03-Jul-12 15:11:55

Hi, we moved about for 16 years so DC's (x3) have been in 3 different overseas types of education system, all English (or semi bilingual ) though. We moved to the Uk when DC1 was 16. Our experience was that as long as the kids are generally bright'ish it doesn't matter what school they go to. Sometimes they wre a bit behind in certain areas but they soon caught up and sometimes they were way ahead. Not having been in a Uk English system before coming to the UK didn't seem to phase any of them. The only time I gave them extra tuition was when we thought we were moving to a French speaking country and I didn't think their French was good enough.
So my advice is not too worry about it too much unless your DC has particular problems.
Good luck.

Bonsoir Tue 03-Jul-12 15:18:24

You have got the basics right! There is a cost factor too, in that French schools tend to be quite a bit cheaper than all the others. More and more French overseas schools are moving to becoming French-English bilingual schools. There are obvious advantages to this, even though I suspect that you would need to provide quite a lot of out-of-school support for this to work well.

It is hard to move in and out of the French system (and the schools tend to only want pupils who are following the French NC), less hard to move between British-American-IB schools.

Clefairy Tue 03-Jul-12 17:34:45

Agreeing with Bonsoir grin

Purpledragon Where do you think you will be moving in Africa?


Purpledragon Wed 04-Jul-12 07:58:14

Wow, this is all very useful stuff, thanks a lot. We know a lot of people who use the French system and tend to be fans of, though the idea is a little alien to me. Good to know more about the nationality issue (we have not one French passport among us!). Without the passport then it's a negative in terms of consistency, would that not be the case DronesClub ? Would hate to commit to a system that is not committed to us then battling for places. Bonsoir yes, I had an idea this was the case, thanks for confirming that it's harder to move in and out of the French. It could compound the problem, no?

I have heard also that the French system offers consistency in terms of curriculum from people that use the system. But I wonder if that consistency is anymore than any other. It's a plus point that's raised a lot but only using one system it seems like it would be difficult to know that for sure. I like the idea of him following one system if that is possible as I've been told by (now grown) kids who grew up overseas that this decreases stresses of moving. I feel this may be compounded for an only child. Thanks DroneClub about special needs, I hadn't heard that (but it does make sense). He has no problems that we know of yet, but he is still very small.

Thanks for the 'don't worry too much' comment Clefairy good to hear from someone that's been there. In answer to your question, we don't know yet and it may not even be Africa. I'm very happy being in East Africa, but trying not to get my hopes up.

OP’s posts: |
Bonsoir Wed 04-Jul-12 08:09:22

The French system does offer a lot of consistency - there are hollow jokes about all DCs in a given year of birth learning how to conjugate être au présent on the same day of the same week of the same month right across France (and, indeed, across the globe, in French overseas schools). This is almost true shock. The upside, of course, is that it makes changing schools much easier for DCs so it is good for people who move around (much less good for DCs who do not move and who learn either more quickly or more slowly than average). If you don't have a French passport, you won't be top priority for French schools although once you have your foot in the door, so to speak, you are generally a priority case. You could look at the admissions policies of some French overseas schools at random (take some countries you are likely to end up in) in order to measure the risks of this.

Bonsoir Wed 04-Jul-12 08:11:54

The French have a very strong and well-regarded distance learning programme, the CNED, that follows the French NC. This can be a useful option for families who are going somewhere where there is no suitable school. I know DCs who have used it and they have had no problems at all re-integrating the French school system after a year or two (or more).

Purpledragon Wed 04-Jul-12 08:24:27

Thanks again for this Bonsoir I figured I would start to get my head over this now rather than freak out at the last minute. I already feel better informed, it's appreciated.

OP’s posts: |
Bonsoir Wed 04-Jul-12 08:30:19

If you only have one DC, the cost factor might not be as important to you as to people with larger families, but a word of warning nonetheless: my sister, whose DCs have been in international (IB) schools, paid for by her DH's employer, saw many families get into difficulty when the breadwinner with the expat package lost his job and the school fees (20-30K euros per year per child) were suddenly not funded. Moving DC from an English speaking IB school to a local school is not fun.

Purpledragon Wed 04-Jul-12 08:37:49

Indeed, I'm sure it is not. Our location and employment is completely tied, so I can't see this occurring in our case. Though its clearly something to keep in mind and check the conditions of contract vis a vis education.

OP’s posts: |
Donteventhinkaboutit Wed 04-Jul-12 11:07:20

Clafairywith a name change grin
Consistency is also hard to achieve in English schools, even those following an IB system ( and don't let them tell you differently) As I am sure you know Academic years usually start in January in the Southern hemisphere and September in the Northern hemisphere with international schools often doing their own thing. However the age cut off date does not always follow the academic year. With some countries or provinces the child must have reached a particular age by the beginning of the academic year and with others the cut off date is in the middle of the academic year. Some countries are flexible and some are not. My DC's have gone from the very oldest to the very youngest and vice versa and have repeated years and missed years out altogether. confused It's was quite confusing at times but all worked out well in the end.
It's not a problem when the kids are young but can be when they are teenages. It's a good idea to really research the countries you are looking at and see if they have any awkward local requirements, eg learning local languages or the requirement that they must pass certain courses to be able to graduate etc
If you will probably move a lot I would recommend an IB international school with a Northern hemisphere academic year as your best bet, if you are considering ending up in europe or the US.

Bonsoir Wed 04-Jul-12 11:21:05

The intake and year end thing is a pain. In the French system, DCs are grouped according to the calendar year of birth ie all DCs born in 2009 will start the first year of maternelle in September 2012. So 1/3 of the French year group (the DCs born between 1 September and 31 December) is a "year ahead" in comparison to English DCs, who are grouped from 1 September to 31 August.

bedubabe Thu 05-Jul-12 09:46:50

Thank you Bonsoir - I've been trying to find the answer to the school year question for ages!

Except this would appear to mean I have (unknowlingly) missed maternelle for DS. Damn smile

Bonsoir Thu 05-Jul-12 10:10:31

If your DS has just missed petite section, don't worry! It is very unimportant! MS and, in particular, GS are preparatory stages for CP (first year of primary) so a lot more important.

MistyB Thu 05-Jul-12 21:20:42

You might also want to consider which education culture best fits with your own parenting, your educational aspirations for your child and which best suits you and your child. This is very difficult if you have no recent experience of either but simply asking yourselves that question, may well steer you in the right direction.

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