The following is the third and final excerpt from an article in Fitted Pieces by SHARE. The panel focuses on national schools as an educational option. 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 do you think it takes from both parents and children to have a successful national school experience?
Matt: I think it goes without saying that first and foremost parents need to decide whether or not this is really the right educational option for their child. Having said that I think that one of the factors parents should consider is why they are sending their child to a national school. Is it how they really want to educate their child? Or is it that they simply want them to learn the language and the culture and have friends?
There is a big difference in the type of expectations a parent should have for their child, depending on why they are sending their child to public school. Parents need to consider their child’s self-esteem. How will they do in a shame-based education system? How will they do in a school setting where it is likely that they will be taunted or made fun of regularly?
That doesn’t mean that every child will face it. My brother and sister had no problems. But down through the years many TCKs whose parents were in overseas ministry, like myself, have had to face the ridicule of being different or a foreigner.
I think one other factor to consider is how the parent will keep children abreast of the language and the culture of their passport culture. Who will teach them the history? Who will help them with the language? Teach them the grammar? Teach them to read?
Janet: I think, as both of you are saying, in order for the child to be successful in the national school requires that parents be actively involved in the process. It’s not just a matter of sending their children to school each day and assuming that everything is going well. Parents must be proactive and ask questions. They need to do this even though their children may go to great lengths to protect them if things are not going well. Many parents, however, aren’t asking these questions, and so it makes it harder for them to share with their parents that they are being bullied by the teacher or peers.
I think parents can look for ways to monitor the situation more closely. They may volunteer to help in the school for an hour or two each week teaching English, being a room mother, helping with sports or computers in some other area. This may help them develop relationships with their child’s teacher or with other teachers in the school.
Obviously, as Matt said, it is hard to do this if parents are struggling with the language themselves. They may need to find a national Christian who can be a bridge person for them with the school, especially if there are questions and concerns.
Cynthia: Everyone needs to be committed to the success of the project – including the national school staff, if you can get them “on board” (certainly an objective worth trying for). The parents must be willing to obtain the extra help when it is needed, the child needs to be willing to do English reading and writing in addition to other school lessons. Obviously, parents hope the child’s teacher will be willing to help them and child succeed in this process, and will be excited about having a foreigner in the class. However, this is not always the case.
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