Few choices exercise parents more than picking a child’s school. For those living abroad, the breadth of choice and unfamiliar systems can make the task even more daunting.
So where to start with educating the next generation of global citizens?
The first job is to pick a curriculum. Harriet Plyler, editor of the Good Schools Guide International, says there are five worth considering, all “accepted by most good universities”.
The International Baccalaureate system culminates in a two-year diploma, considered broad based and rigorous. Students can switch IB schools, provided the new school is willing.
The British system concludes with the more specialised A-level examinations, though these can often be combined with the IB.
Both mainstream US high-school programmes — the so-called college prep curriculum as well as college-level Advanced Placement courses — are taught at American international schools. The latter are more comparable to A-levels and baccalaureate qualifications.
Overseas French students can follow the national curriculum, ending up at a lycée, where 15- to 18-year-olds study for the rated “French Bac”, another broad-based qualification.
With the curriculum decided, parents should subject potential schools to three main checks, starting with their exam results. Check these with another source, such the official examination board.
Next, inspect the inspectors. Accreditation and inspections should be by a legitimate, arm’s-length agency, such as British Schools Overseas, and never the company that owns the school.
Last, ask where students go next. “A few students getting into name-brand schools such as Oxbridge, Harvard or Eton probably means they can support very bright students; getting students into a wide range means they probably do a good job of assessing students according to their abilities,” says Ms Plyler.
Photograph: Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images
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