Schooling for expatriate children

The expatriation of parents to a foreign country inevitably raises the question of schooling for their children. So which school should you choose for your children when you live in a foreign country? Should you prefer the French school system or adapt to the school system in your host country? Are there any other options?


Choosing a school to send your child abroad

Enrolling expatriate children in a local school, choosing a French educational institution, opting for an international school or homeschooling – these are the dilemmas facing parents. In any case, there are several options open to you, and the choice is yours. Whichever solution you choose, don’t forget to choose the right expatriate insurance for your family before you leave! International health insurance is essential to ensure that you’re covered whatever happens to you, and above all to avoid the high cost of healthcare abroad.

Scolariser son enfant dans une école française

This first option is favored by many non-residents, who wish to allow their children to continue their education within the French system. French schools are available from primary to secondary level (collège and lycée). They enable expatriate children to continue their schooling “normally”, especially when the local education system is too different from the French one. The AEFE network manages the majority of French schools abroad. It has over 485 sites worldwide. Registrations are managed by the schools themselves or by the Cooperation and Cultural Action Departments (SCAC) of embassies.

To find out about the conditions and formalities for enrolling in a French school, please contact the school you have chosen or the French Embassy in your host country. By enrolling your child in a French school, he or she will have fewer difficulties integrating into the French language and culture. It also means ensuring that once the expatriation period is over, the child can return to the French curriculum in France. French schools are aimed at children who already know how to read and write (primary school) and who don’t speak the local language. The standard of French schools abroad is high, so the child must have a good level of schooling from the outset. This system is recommended for short-term expatriations with a planned return date. The disadvantage is that expatriates are divided into sectors, making immersion in the host country difficult. What’s more, the financial cost of attending a French school abroad is considerable, and varies from country to country. French schools are particularly expensive in the United States and Asia. In return, scholarships may be awarded depending on family income.

Scolariser son enfant dans une école locale

It is also possible to send your child to a local school. This solution enables children to integrate more quickly into their host country. We recommend local schools if you intend to spend a long time in the same country, and for children who can’t yet read or write. In local schools, as everywhere else, lessons are given in the local language and according to the current curriculum. The younger your child is, the easier it is to learn this new language. Before the age of 6, children find it easier to learn a new language and make it their own. He quickly becomes bilingual and completely immersed in the culture of his new country, which also makes it easier for him to bond with his classmates and other children his age.

On the other hand, learning French will slow down considerably, as it will no longer be taught at school, and reintegration in France may subsequently be more difficult. To overcome this problem, you can continue learning French yourself, or choose an online tutoring platform. Depending on the country, there are usually many local schools, often close to the family home. Your children will have their neighbors as classmates, or meet up with them on the playground. This additional factor could make it easier for you and your child to integrate into the neighborhood! It’s important to bear in mind that pedagogy can change: different countries and regions of the world have different ways of teaching. The same applies to school curricula, which are not always at the same level as those in France. These differences can disturb the child, or on the contrary, bring new perspectives. Enrolment in local schools is done directly in the country of expatriation and in the school according to the child’s age.

Les écoles internationales à l’étranger

You can also enroll your child in an international school. Teaching is generally in English. There are, however, international schools that are not 100% English-speaking, and even bilingual French-speaking schools like those in Spain. Here, it can be used to take both the French Baccalauréat and the Spanish diploma. You can find this type of school wherever you live. Children of all nationalities are enrolled. It is possible to study French, which is an optional language among others. This option is recommended to avoid losing your mother tongue. Alternatively, you can enroll your child on a distance learning platform for private French lessons with French-speaking teachers. Some international schools are available from kindergarten through to high school. If you plan to return to France at some point in the future, the student should ideally join a French international school so as not to interrupt his or her studies.

You can also choose to reintegrate your child into a French state school, although he or she may have to repeat a class to catch up with the French curriculum. Indeed, the curriculum at an international school is different from that at a French public school. It is, as its name suggests, international, to accommodate all nationalities. Thus, the Baccalauréat prepared in international schools is different from the French Baccalauréat. The approach in these schools is less academic and more focused on human contact and personal development. Tolerance is one of the key values for promoting social cohesion and developing the self-confidence of each student. We advise you to choose an international school if you are a long-term expatriate or if you often move from country to country. In this situation, the child doesn’t necessarily have the time to learn the national language of the host country, whereas English is the first international language. What’s more, we recommend this type of school if you want to offer your children an English-speaking education that will easily open doors to higher education in many countries. International schools are difficult to get into, however, as they require an excellent academic level, and most require an entrance exam. What’s more, the cost of schooling in this type of establishment is often very high. Registration is made directly with the school. In any case, think carefully before choosing an international school. Several factors can help you make the right choice: the length of your expatriation, your child’s ability to adapt, the language of instruction, your child’s academic level, the importance of human skills in the school, the school’s reputation and, last but not least, tuition fees.

L’enseignement à distance quand on est expatrié

Another alternative for expatriate children is distance learning. The CNED (Centre National d’Education à Distance) offers a solution to help expatriate children maintain a link with the French system: SCI (Scolarité Complémentaire Internationale). It’s a simple, streamlined French course based on the official French Education Nationale programs. Courses are organized around 3 core subjects (which vary according to the level of study). The lessons are accessible from an online platform and can be printed out. Exercise books are sent to your home as well as homework to be sent back for correction. In particular, you can choose between two versions: an exclusively digital version with online courses, or a digital and paper version combining online courses and textbooks.

We recommend this solution in addition to enrolment in a local school, to ensure a complete education. However, you can also choose to enroll your child solely with the CNED. If so, contact them to explain your situation. Finally, we recommend this solution if you intend to return to France at a definite date. Indeed, the aim is for your child to be able to return to a French school to complete his or her education at least up to the Baccalauréat. In this case, your child will have no trouble readjusting, as he or she will be on the same level and able to continue his or her education without gaps or lags compared to his or her classmates. In this way, your child maintains real continuity in his or her schooling, from the moment he or she goes abroad until he or she returns to France. Courses are available at affordable rates, from kindergarten to senior high school. Beware, however: this form of teaching requires moral support from those around you, as well as great autonomy and rigor on the part of the child. A private tutor can be a great help. If you choose this solution as an expatriate, you should know that registration dates in the northern hemisphere of the world are from early June to late December, and in the southern hemisphere from early January to late March. In addition to CNED, other organizations offer distance learning courses: Cours Legendre, Hattemer School and Cours Pi, for example. You should also be aware that correspondence courses are not free.

L’Instruction En Famille

The final option is IEF (Instruction En Famille). IEF is simply “home schooling” provided by a parent or relative. For expatriates, this is usually a back-up solution, in case the host country doesn’t have a school system, or if the first school is too far from home. In France, this mode of learning is authorized for children aged 3 to 16 for itinerant families (families in France no longer have the right to benefit from this derogation from school education). Homeschooling has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is above all the preservation of the mother tongue, which can easily be less mastered or even forgotten in a local school. The fact that it’s a close friend or relative who does the schooling gives the child confidence, and learning can be easier for him or her. However, this method also has its drawbacks. Indeed, the local school plays a major role in the child’s socialization, which is not necessarily the case with home schooling. The mother tongue is preserved, but the child will have less opportunity to learn the language of the host country and open up culturally. Finally, as a parent, if you work on site, you may not have the time to teach your children. It’s up to you to weigh up the pros and cons and decide which solution is best suited to your situation. Home schooling may be advisable for the children of expatriates who do not intend to stay long in the host country. In this case, there’s no point in destabilizing the child by plunging him into a new school system and a world very different from his own, if only for a short time. On the other hand, if you decide to stay in your host country for a long time, it’s advisable to enroll your child in a local school once he or she has mastered the national language, or in a French or international school.

Whatever your final choice, take the time to think carefully about the system that’s right for you and your child. Take into account the duration of your expatriation, the country(ies) you’re going to, the age of your child at the time of departure, your ability to maintain the mother tongue outside school and, last but not least, your budget.

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