Expat parents: international or local schools?

A recent Expat Insider survey showed that 32% of expats choose to send their kids to an international school, while 31% choose a local public school and 21% a local private school. With expat parents’ opinions evidently divided, how do you choose where to send your children?

Research the local schools

Choosing an international school is easy. You know what to expect more than you do from the local schools, but jumping straight in could mean you miss out on a great opportunity for your kids’ education and experience. Opting for a public school in Finland, for example, could mean giving your children a better education than they would have received back home, and there’s a lot to be said for the cultural immersion aspect that comes with learning with locals.

Of course, not all education systems are created equal, and international schools offer a relieving alternative to public schools in some parts of the world. You can check out the OECD global education rankings to see how your host country stacks up, and read our in-depth education guides on Just Landed.

Disrupting their education

Are you and your family in it for the long haul, or will you be moving on or back home in the foreseeable future? The answer has a big impact on which school to choose.

Very mobile families are better suited to international schools, as most offer a uniform curriculum where students work towards the International Baccalaureate (IB) exams. This minimises the disruption to your kids’ education, and the IB is recognised by universities worldwide.

If you are staying put for the majority of their education, a change of curriculum is unlikely to cause any harm, assuming the country you’re moving to has a good education system. The difficulties in adjusting are vastly outweighed by the benefit of a full cultural and linguistic immersion.

One major consideration, regardless of your length of stay, is whether your children were on the verge of taking national exams back home. If you’ve just moved from the UK and they were prepared to take the GCSEs or A-levels next year, for example, finding a British school that offers these exams is crucial.


Of course, a factor to always keep in mind is cost. International schools are invariably more expensive than local ones, with costs steadily rising in recent years and showing no signs of stopping.

Researching the local education system and figuring out whether your children are in a crucial moment of their education will help you decide whether the cost is worth it.

Image: Roman Mager

Laura Gagliardi

Laura is a recent graduate from Italy who currently lives in Madrid, after four years spent studying in the United Kingdom. She loves to travel and spends her free time reading and writing.

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