Changing schools is a challenge for kids even when they’re just moving across town and changing school districts. When it comes to moving across the world, the challenges they face are increased dramatically.
There can be academic, social, language, and emotional repercussions, but a great, supportive school environment can mitigate those and help children adapt faster and better. Here are a few examples of the best in the world.
Finland is one of the first countries that come to mind when you consider the excellence of schools. Their national education system emphasizes having highly educated teachers who are trusted to have children’s best interests in mind, and the high levels of reported child health and happiness, as well as enviable academic achievement, showcases the effectiveness of the system. Innovative elements of Finnish schools include a child-oriented learning strategy with a large proportion of time being spent out of doors in recreational activities, a reduced emphasis on testing, and holistic health measures like integrated meal programs and having pet animals in the classroom to care for. An American child moving to Finland would struggle with the language, a different curriculum, and a different approach to the day-to-day learning experience but might adjust more quickly than in many other schools because of their improved teacher involvement and focus on the individual.
Many schools in East Asia are known for academic excellence. If you’re doing business in Asia, schools in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong tend to produce students that rank very highly on test scores—but the long hours, rigid structure, and language barrier could make it a hard transition. The emphasis on fitting in may alienate foreign students from day one. A better alternative, if your family is relocating to Asia, is an international school that offers English-language instruction, internationally transferrable curriculum, and a more diverse student body. The American school in Singapore offers a less jarring transition for students moving overseas and helps them connect socially with a diverse group of well-traveled peers.
Australia is a popular choice for many. With an education system that performs well on the world stage and English-language instruction, this might be the easiest public foreign education system for American children to adapt to. Many added-value programs are offered for students who are gifted, pursuing academic qualifications, or in need of additional support, and the facilities are generally high quality with appropriate technology being available. Children will still experience some level of culture shock and have to adjust to different dialects and lifestyles but moving to Australia for career reasons may be one of the lowest-impact options available for American families.
In general, talking about the move well in advance, brainstorming strategies for making friends, and communicating well and frequently with teachers can smooth the transition. If you know about your move far enough ahead of time, studying the local language and culture can help—look for kids’ TV online. Try to make at-home time less demanding during the transition and make sure kids get lots of sleep and eat well to keep their stress levels down. Consider bringing some snacks or small treats from home to help them share their culture with new friends. While the move to a new life can be challenging, it’s also an incredible opportunity for your child to grow as a person and to build an international network of friends.