The following is a second excerpt from an article in Fitted Pieces by SHARE. The panel focuses on national schools as an educational option for expatriate families. It includes Cynthia Storrs (a teacher and parent whose children attended national schools and who holds a master’s degree in TESL from Sheffield University in England), Matt Neigh (who grew up in Austria and attended national schools) and Janet Blomberg (who provides educational help to families preparing for work overseas or already serving overseas).
What factors do you think parents should consider in deciding whether or not to use national schools to educate their children?
Cynthia: Parents must realize they will never be able to duplicate education at home for their child overseas. On the other hand, with some flexibility on the part of all involved, they may be able to offer something different and in some ways better: a multicultural view on the world, opening up windows into cultures and peoples which would be missed in the home country. Whatever option is chosen, it should be reevaluated regularly: Is it working for the child? Is it working for the family? Remember that what worked well for one child may not work for the next one.
Matt: As I said at the beginning of this conversation, I’m thrilled and thankful that my parents put me in the public school in Austria. Do I wish my parents had access to the information and the resources that are available today? Yes. Has my new attitude negated the pain and the hurt that I felt over those nine years? No. Does that mean that things couldn’t have been handled differently? No. But the most fundamental question for me is, do I believe my life has been enriched because of the opportunity I had to attend the public schools of Austria. And that is something that I wouldn’t trade, even for all the pain and hurt!
Cynthia: There are many things parents need to be thinking about all along the way. In considering whether or not to use national schools, parents must think through their goals both immediate and long-term. What are their educational goals for the child? Have you thought through the next couple of years? Will this national school help you fulfill your goals?
They also must consider their future plans in terms of time and transitions, such as furlough. Will the school prepare the students in all areas (except English) so the child will be “on grade level” for reentry, and can the parents work with the child in English so he or she will be academically ready in the language arts? Parents, however, must also think about long-range questions. What other educational options exist for the future, should the child wish to change schools? Will the current training prepare him or her adequately for these options?
As the child begins in a national school, parents need to ask questions. (1) “How do the teacher and the director feel about having a bilingual child in the school?” Everyone involved needs to think this is a workable idea, or it will not work. (2) “Is there someone available to be a ‘bridge’ person during initial transition?” This should be someone, preferably bilingual, who can explain things like lunch money, bringing flowers at the end of the year, what are the expectations for birthday parties, and all the many other things that make up the school year, which are different from North American experiences. (3) “Is tutoring help available for the child?” Parents should not assume that the teacher will do this. If tutoring is not at school, who else could help in this process? Sometimes a high school or college student can help meet this need.
Used with permission from SHARE Education Services.
What other factors should parents consider when considering national schools for their children?
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