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Local schools or international?

(31 Posts)
Abrico Wed 31-May-17 18:16:12

We live in the Netherlands (The Hague) and are having a lot of discussions on schooling at the moment.
DC1 (6) is in an international school, because that seemed the best option when we moved here as he did not speak any Dutch. But now we need to make a decision for DC2 (3), as to whether he goes to international or local school.
I would be grateful to hear of your experiences of both options, especially long term.

We are planning on staying here, and I worry that the kids will never feel at home here if they go to international schools. At the same time I worry about them feeling "other" if they go to the local schools.

Also, if you sent your kids to a local school in a country where you the parents did not speak the language, how did that work out?

Sunshinesuperman Wed 31-May-17 20:16:00

We sent our kids to a Spanish speaking school, we spoke very poor Spanish. The kids were fine, I found navigating the school and the homework hard work, some of my friends got a tutor for homework and after a year I joined then and this helped. The kids did feel a bit other as they were the only non local kids at the school but the school and other parents were great. Integration back into uk schools was really hard but if you aren't doing that I would consider it seriously for the kids but understand it will be much more work for you.

Ancienchateau Thu 01-Jun-17 09:29:32

If you are staying permanently then I'd go for local schools as they'll never learn the language properly without total immersion and it will give them the best chance of not feeling like outsiders especially as they are so young.

Having said that we've been here 4 years and whilst all my DC are fluent now (they spoke no french on arrival) they are still considered outsiders, as am I. But that could just be the French! My French was quite poor when we came and it was hard helping with homework, communicating with school etc as my DC totally relied on me for ages. It was OK after about a year. On the upside I read and write fluently now.

lovesmycake Thu 01-Jun-17 09:44:54

I'm in Norway and my kids go to local barnehauge (1-6yrs) and will go onto the local schools as we are staying here permanently. I know it will be harder work to support them but it will help my norwegian get better and if all else fails i will get a tutor to help them with their homework.

We have lots of expat friends who have kids in both the local and international schools and in my experience the kids at the international school are not as well integrated - a couple barely speak any Norwegian at all though this is rare. Where the kids are at local schools the parents definitely have more of a struggle to get their children the language help they are entitled too and get judged for not speaking the language.

The main reasons we are choosing local is integration - my kids are fully integrated here (they were born here) it's just me and my husband who are classed as outsiders and i'm ok with that but the main reason is that I like the norwegian education philosophy better. It better fits what I believe childhood and education should be about. Do you agree with the Netherlands education ethos?

mrsnec Thu 01-Jun-17 09:51:42

Hi, Whilst my children are a lot younger I will have the same dilemma and I am watching with interest. I have been given conflicting information from my friends and two of them with older children are returning to the UK because they feel the children will get a better education there.

Where I am, also Europe International schools are not truly international and lessons taught in the local language with English translation given on request. Apparently there's a lot of segregation too between ex pats and locals. I have another option too of schools on the local UK army bases that civilians can attend if they pay for it my DH is keen on this idea but whilst I've heard standards aren't very high I think the local schools are a better idea to feel more integrated in the local community but both of my friends in my village pulled their children out of the village school.

I'm with you op . its not an easy choice.

allegretto Thu 01-Jun-17 09:53:41

I would say local schools if you are staying long term - if the local schools are good. My children go to local schools because we can't afford international school and it is a lot easier to get integrated into the community as international schools tend to have a higher turnover of students as people move on.

steppemum Thu 01-Jun-17 10:00:45

The Dutch school system is excellent, and at 6 your duaghter will soon pick up Dutch. If you really are staying they really really need to learn proper Dutch language and culture, and the easiest way to do that is through school.

I would move both kids to a Dutch school.
Staying in the International will mean they are permanently 'other' If you go to Dutch school, they will not be other as there will be kids in the class from different places. Once they have beenthere for a while they will be just part of the class.
If they go to the International school they will never be properly integrated into Dutch society, but they are no longer English either.

For my work I advise famlies who are moving overseas and back to the UK, in your situation, I would definitley advise local school.
Do talk to other families and get recomendations of which school, and there are a lot of school affiliated with certain church traditions etc. Don't just assume you local school is a straightforward state school.

One last point, it is quite important that you don't split the kids. There will be resentment towards each other if they have such different experiences.

RedSandYellowSand Thu 01-Jun-17 10:02:08

In your situation, I'd say local, if you think you can cope with the homework.

We are international schooling (fees paid by the company as noone would send their kids to a local school here). The turnover is massive - I'm guessing 15% a year. Less than ideal. We will return to the UK for secondary, as its so dire.

itwasafishisayafish Thu 01-Jun-17 10:32:30

We moved here when children were small, started off in the local school but moved them to an International school. This was a permanent move and I wanted as much integration as possible. Unfortunately we were all considered outsiders. At the International school there are lots of foreign families who are living here permanently and my kids fit in because they aren't local.
I found dealing with the local school/homework etc very frustrating.

mrsnec Thu 01-Jun-17 14:24:28

We could just about afford international school or army school but it will be a huge stretch so I want to make the right choices. I agree about the point on turnover in International schools but my DH thinks its irrelevant as is integration and the quality of the education should be the only consideration.

Steppemum makes some interesting points I hadn't thought of. Our local international school has a great bus service and a study centre in our village for extra lessons so I was surprised it didn't work out for some.

5moreminutes Thu 01-Jun-17 15:09:58

My kids all go to local school. It is the absolute antithesis of othering - sending them to the local school (especially where it is a neighborhood school which literally every single child on the street of the same age goes to) absolutely makes your child, and your family, part of the community - obviously you have to throw yourself into it and invite friends around to play etc. a lot at first, get out of your comfort zone and accept that it is par for the course you do 90% of the running at the very beginning in terms of showing you are approachable/ want your kids' friends around/ want to be part of things.

We are in Germany - my husband is German but I do all parents evenings and contact with other parents. I didn't speak German when we moved here but that was 10 years ago, so I do now obviously. My older kids were a toddler and a foetus grin when we moved, DH only spoke English to the eldest until after her German became established (he felt silly speaking German to her...) and she was an early talker so arrived speaking very well but only in English, but she picked up German fast after we moved. Youngest born several years after moving here.

They have all stayed at home with me in an English speaking household (English as family language not 1P1L) til age 3, then gone to German only Kindergarten. We only spoke English among ourselves when they were small but even when I only spoke a few words of German I took the kids to German speaking baby and toddler groups and spent hundreds of hours in the neighbourhood playground, so even the eldest spoke relatively good German before she started Kindergarten - the youngest speaks better German than English probably, as the older they get the more German creeps into the house because the house is constantly full of their German friends.

I'd do local if you plan to stay - for me roots are incredibly important, and we have deliberately rooted the kids in the community we live in grin International IMO is for kids who are likely to need the flexibility to move between systems or who are older when they move.

5moreminutes Thu 01-Jun-17 15:12:29

I agree with Steppemum 's point about keeping your children together - I'd absolutely move the 6 year old too, but you can't leave doing that much longer!

steppemum Thu 01-Jun-17 16:17:08

Kids can happily adjust to second language education up until about 7/8, after that it is a bit harder, but totally possible, until they are 10, they will become fluent native speakers. After about 13, they should only do it if it is a permanent move, and they will need huge amounts of support. (not recommended)

The country you are in makes a huge difference, but really Dutch education is good, they have plenty of ESL children coming through and the system is well set up to accomodate it.
Added to that, in the Dutch system there is a hugh emphasis on speaking in the early years, and reading and writing don't kick in until later, age 6-7, so it would be easy to still move the older one.
i don't think homework is an issue with Dutch schooling, it is not as high pressured as eg France.

Your 6 year old does not need to know Dutch before you move her, she will learn in the new school, and her teacher will help her with bits of English along the way.

If this really is a permanent move, you need to learn the language too, although many Dutch people speak good English, if you want to become part of your new home, you need to understand it from the inside.

ItsAColdDay Fri 02-Jun-17 10:06:30

Mine are in a local school and it is quite hard with the homework, we don't live in an area with international schools so have no choice.

Steppemum - I would be interested to know from what age the local language stays with them 'forever'.
If they move back to the UK system, it would seem a waste of time if they were to forget everything they have learned.

steppemum Fri 02-Jun-17 16:40:58

That is a really interesting question ItsAColdDay, and the answer isn't simple, there are a lot of factors to consider.
for example, is this country the home country of one of the parents, and therefore the language is the mother tongue of one half of the family? If so, even if the language isn't spoken at home, but the family visit their home country every year, there is a high chance that they will retain it. (obviously if one parent speaks the language then it would be ideal for them to speak to the kids in that language)

If the family continue to have links and contact with the country, and possibly persue contacts with it, then they may retain the language, I know one family who returned to Australia. The kids were fluent in local language and had been to local school and had local friends. Eldest was about 14, he never lost it, twins were about 12, they also kept it, particularly the girl who kept in contact with her best friend.
The youngest was about 10. She really missed speaking it, so her mum found a Russian speaking art school that met on a Saturday, and the youngest loved it, loved speaking Russian there, and so kept it.

Another family, kids aged about 8, 7, 5, returned to home country due to medical emergencey. They had lived in a village, and spoke the national language and the local language both fluently. They all lost it completely. Parents tried to keep it up at home, but the kids weren't having it, they wanted to fit in and didn't want to speak this 'other' language.
But both oldest then learnt the language as their second language at High school/university, and guess what? Although they didn't consciously 'remember' it, they became fluent again, with faultless accents and perfect grammar, pretty much native speaker, which is rare for an adult learner.

My ds and dd were tril-lingual aged 6 and 4. They only speak English now, although they understand quite a lot of one language we still have contact with.

BUT, and it is a big but, being bilingual is great for the brain, it develops all sorts of areas we don't fully understand. Learning another langugae later is much easier if you have learnt one as a child, even if it has been forgotton. My kids are really confident in non English settings, they are totally unphased by being in a situation where they don't speak the language etc. It helps understand other peoples worldview and makes them more citizens of the world. It is a very positive thing.

You can never predict if you will stay permanently in a place, but if the plan is to stay for life then local schools are the only real option, otherwise your kids end up stateless, not belonging to either place. If the plan is long term, eg 10 years, then I would usually recommend that you do at least kindergarten in the local school, probably 3-4 years of primary too, then switch to English, and do Secondary in English.

Even a short placement (2 years) for primary, I would seriously think about doing some of it in local school to get the language, most kids can happily take a year out and do a year in another language.
I personally would do this even if the local system wasn't brilliant, if the local system is not great then I would limit it to 2 years max in local school, and do English lessons alongside to keep their English education up.

The bottom line is, a family will only be happy in a place if they integrate well, and kids with no language don't integrate, except to the ex=pat community

steppemum Fri 02-Jun-17 16:46:14

blimey, sorry for the essay

Sunshinesuperman Fri 02-Jun-17 18:10:16

Our kids had a two year placement ages 4-6 in a Spanish speaking school, they have been back two years now and are less fluent with much less vocabulary but it hasn't all gone. We take them to a Spanish speaking country at least once a year ideally every six months and they have lessons every week. They still have great accents and are far advanced of their peers in the language at school and their general primary school teacher. However I am not sure their spelling in English will ever recover! I don't regret their immersion in both the language and the way of life in the country they were living in but everything has a cost. They ended up missing a year of school on return due to different times for entering education as well as changing languages and approaches to learning. They have ended up with a tutor to help bridge the gaps.

steppemum Fri 02-Jun-17 18:13:00

Just to say, even a fluent adult will get 'rusty' if they don't speak it. My dh isn't English, but he lives in Uk and works in English speaking environment. Whe we go to his home country his mother tongue is less fluent and he finds himself searching for words.

GingerHanna Fri 02-Jun-17 18:17:15

Just to add that as a Brit also living in The Hague I plan to send DC through the Dutch education system.

Currently 16w pregnant and will be sending baby to a bilingual nursery. Then to Dutch school. Much prefer the Dutch education system and am staying here long term also so important for me to have them integrated as much as possible. Does mean I need to get my Dutch sorted!

GingerHanna Fri 02-Jun-17 18:22:39

PS thank you for all the explanation steppemum - helps me confirm my thinking for our kids future also!

Abrico Fri 02-Jun-17 20:40:56

Thanks for all your opinions, it is much appreciated.
I think it mostly confirms my initial thoughts, that local is better long term for the kids. It is seeming likely that I will have to bite the bullet and take some Dutch lessons myself to be able to support my kids.

PicaPau Sat 03-Jun-17 14:38:53

Glad you're going with local. My children are all at a local school (no other options). The older two started at 8 and 10. They are fully integrated, they are still outsiders despite having dual nationality and a native father. But it's not a negative thing. They are 13 and 11 now. It took about 6 months to learn the language, they didn't speak a word when they started as DH never spoke to them in his language at home, still doesn't. My 7 year old has a reading tutor as he struggled a bit when he started oficial school last year, but that's quite normal for bilingual children when they are learning to read.

ItsAColdDay Sat 03-Jun-17 20:57:59

Steppemum Thank you for the reply, that is very helpful.

Zimmerzammerbangbang Mon 05-Jun-17 12:01:12

Just wanted to say someone on the concept of losing the language if you go back home. At 4 both my children were fluent in a second language (to the extent that the teacher thought it was the home language). They then went to English medium school and, despite the fact that we tried to keep it up with tuition classes etc, the lost it. And it is lost entirely. My son's now 7 and we spend a reasonable amount of time in the country for the second language and he just doesn't speak anything over and above 'hello' (and prefers to communicate in sign language with his non-English speaking friends). Obviously all children are different but the idea that the language is secretly hiding in the back of their heads has proven not to be true in out case!

fussychica Tue 06-Jun-17 10:35:20

We went abroad when DS was 10. He went to the local school and became fluent quite quickly. Some other British children who were older when they arrived struggled and some virtually dropped out of education.
DS completed his secondary education abroad but returned to the UK to attend university. He is still fully fluent and is now a teacher of MFL.

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