6 Challenges Expat Parents Face in Education

List of struggles that expat parents face abroad when it comes to education.

Starting a new school, a new city, a new life! Anna felt both overwhelmed and excited. It had been such an adventure for her, her husband, and her three children since they decided to take the post abroad: there were lots of pros and cons to consider, but they were ready to take the plunge.

Anna didn’t expect the first struggle to be choosing a school for her children. It was so hard to decide on ‘the one’! On the internet, all of the international schools looked welcoming, professional, and caring. This was also apparent during the application process!

How could they forget to tell them that her youngest boy wouldn’t be going to the same school as his siblings? Well, it was the same school, but a different campus. For her, it didn’t matter. Her children couldn’t even share the school bus. It was so disappointing and frustrating!

Does this sound familiar to you? Did you experience or hear similar stories? Expat life might sound fancy and cool, but the reality is not always as easy as it looks, especially when you move with children. Here is a list of 6 challenges that expat parents face when it comes to education abroad.


1Overlooking Critical Details

The situation Anna faced is not unusual. When looking for information about international schools there are many important aspects to consider. It could be that Anna missed or overlooked some critical details within the many documents, guidelines, and forms she had to go through. International schools do not provide a universal website structure that allows parents to quickly compare the key features, so it is relatively easy to slip some important details.

Additionally, like Anna, some parents cannot organise a pre-visit to the schools, especially within the current travel restrictions, and have to trust the school’s websites. The same applies to the facilities and equipment’s expectations, which are not always as modern and well maintained as the photos or videos show on the internet.

Overlooking-Critical-Details-Expat-Parents2Choosing the Right Curriculum

This is probably the most difficult choice for parents. On one side, there are some specific family restrictions:

Which curriculum best suits each child? Some students feel comfortable with a more traditional, structured curriculum, while other students might prefer a more holistic approach.

Which curricula are available now and which ones will be available in the future? As parents, we need to become ‘fortune-tellers’ and consider our children’s future plans regarding other posts, countries, and even potential university paths.

It is quite common that parents are not familiar with the specifics of each curriculum, especially when they are moving abroad for the first time, like Anne.

Finally, searching on the internet for the curriculum of each school and finding how students can adapt when changing curricula is a nightmare! There are multiple options even within the same school, and sometimes depending on the grades.


ThreeCultural Diversity

When parents take their children to a different country, they are immersed in different cultures and environments. It provides them with a fantastic opportunity to learn and enrich their imaginations. Usually, international schools proudly display the school’s number of different nationalities as proof of their multiculturality.

However, students might get a very different experience if the majority of the other students belong to the same nationality or culture, maybe feeling out of place or left out. This valuable information, the number of students per nationality, is not available on the school’s websites. Parents can only rely on other parent’s feedback if they get access to it.

FourExpensive School Fees

International schools are not cheap, but the range of fees is quite broad. Only in Singapore tuition fees can vary from S$ 20,500 to S$ 42,400 per year in High School. Additionally, there are other types of fees (entrance, facility, technology, etc.) that each school applies differently, therefore making the comparison even more complicated.

Over the last decade, expat packages have changed and they are not as generous as they used to be. Therefore parents might have some budgetary restrictions when looking for the right school and need to focus on the most affordable international schools that provide a world-class education at a moderated price.


FiveLanguages Offered

The great prize! Parents love to visualise their future after living abroad – often imagining their children as bilingual. Generally, international schools’ language of instruction is English or the language of the curriculum they follow, whether it is French, Japanese, German…. The foreign language to be taught is the language of the country the school is located in, which works as a real immersion in that language for the students.

However, languages vary enormously from one country to another and from one school to another and if the family moves to a different country it might be that students cannot maintain that foreign language.

Upfront, it can be challenging for parents to get an exact idea of which languages are offered at each school, at which grades, how many hours per week, and if it is offered within school hours or as an after-school activity.

Another challenge parents face is maintaining their children’s mother tongue, despite the general agreement of the importance of doing so. Obviously, international schools can not offer every single mother tongue language and programs have to be run after school or via private tutors.


SixApplying or Changing Schools

Children of expat parents will go through the experience of changing schools (separating from old friends, having to find new friends, adapting to new teachers and environments) several times during their school life. Consequently, expat parents try to avoid additional changes in their children’s lives and stay with their initial school choice, even if they are not fully satisfied with their decision.

Another challenge parents face is the uncertainty of how long the family will remain in the same location and if it’s worth changing school and paying for additional application fees.

Finally, regarding the hassle of the application process, every school has its own process, requirements, tests, and due dates and it becomes extremely time and money consuming.

Applying-or-Changing-Schools-Expat-ParentsHence, expat parents need to check, check, and double-check that the school they choose is the right one for their family by gathering as much information as possible from as many different sources.

SCHOOL IN is one source of information and provides reviews of international schools given by the parents.

Help other parents who are facing these challenges by signing up and reviewing on SCHOOL IN.





  • Tags:


I accept the privacy policy


The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.