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The Differences Between British And International Schooling

Travelling the world there are a hundred and one tasks to cross off the to-do list. From visas and local currencies to languages and finding a place to live, an important aspect is the education of any children coming along for the ride.

Stephen Spriggs of William Clarence Education is here to look at international schooling for expat families and the differences in the classrooms. How you can ensure your children get the best education possible from the transition?There are a raft of differences between various systems of education around the world, not only making it difficult for parents to decide what’s best for their children but also challenging for students to settle in to new surroundings, subjects, and social circles. For this reason, international schools are popular choices for outward bound families but whilst the familiarity is a positive, each local system will have their own allures.

Students in the UK start semi-formal education at a younger age than most in Europe. Whilst this isn’t structured learning they are expected to manage a school day from 9am until 3.30pm. It’s the norm in the UK to attend primary school until the age of 11, and then to go on to secondary school. At the age of 16, British students are now required to remain in some form of education, whether this is college, an apprenticeship, or part-time whilst working. Children who attend school in England are taught in classes with 30 pupils or fewer.

Almost everything you need for school, like textbooks and exercise books, is provided for you for free. Students are expected to buy their own bags, uniform (as well as sports kit), and stationery, but that’s all.

International schools are amongst the most highly regarded education providers in the world. The majority deliver courses in English regardless of the country they’re in. These institutions provide a curriculum that is not that of the country they are located in but, most commonly, the National Curriculum of England, adapted to make it more relevant to an international student population and appropriate for the host country with learning references to the country’s history and culture. These schools are typically independent, charging school fees which help to maintain smaller class sizes.

Whilst international schools were established for the children of expatriates, they are increasingly being joined by pupils from the local population. Parents of local children are eager for them to learn a new language, broaden their higher education options, and benefit from a more international education. In fact, international schools teaching a British curriculum offer students continuity of education on the outbound relocation but also ease of repatriation back into the UK education system, particularly when it comes to exam time.

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Around the world in 70 classrooms

Some parents may not like the idea of staying within the British curriculum. While it provides many benefits for the student and their future, engraining within the local community (and its schools) offers an entirely different experience. Here’s a look at a few of the world’s most popular expat destinations and their educational offerings.

An immediate difference across the world is the timings and length of a school day. For children accustomed to a traditional UK timetable, starting the day at 7am in Brazil or 7:30 in China can come as a shock. The majority of school days around the world start between 8.30 to 9am and finish around 3 to 3.30pm. It is common amongst all schools however that extracurricular activities and sports are scheduled after school hours.

In the US, children usually start in kindergarten or grade one at the age of five or six and remain in school until the age of 17. The typical school year runs from early September until May or June (nine months). While the standard of state education is high in the US, schools offer an entirely different learning curriculum from the UK, even differing from state to state within the country. They don’t offer an end-of-school assessment comparable to the British GCSEs and A Levels but instead award a high school diploma that is studied for over the course of four years.

Canadian full-time education is compulsory in all provinces and includes the children of foreign nationals permanently or temporarily resident in Canada. Schooling usually commences at the age of five, six, or seven and continues until between the ages of 16 and 18. School years in Canada for the most part run from the first week of September until June. Admission to a public school for foreign children is dependent on the type and duration of the visa granted to their parents, and free schooling may not be available.

Schooling in Australia starts at around age five to six, varying from state to state, and is followed by 12 years of primary and secondary school. The school year is usually split into three or four terms between January and December. In the final year of secondary education, pupils can study for a government-endorsed certificate, which is recognised by all Australian universities and many international higher-education institutions. Globally mobile families will find there are a lack of international schools in Australia, as there is little need for additional institutions offering an English national curriculum.

French schooling is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16, and state schools are entirely free from nursery school through to university. The state-funded school system is supported by a comprehensive network of private schools, including many distinguished international schools.

State schools in the country are supplemented by a network of independent schools with many world renowned international schools. French schools place a great emphasis on the French language (particularly grammar), arithmetic and the sciences, and it isn’t unusual to find classes of 50 or more pupils. The end result is that children moving between countries can continue on a comparable syllabus without much interruption.

Education is one of the UK’s biggest exports and the education system there is one of the most revered and widely replicated learning structures across the globe. Figures from ISC Research show that over 45 per cent of all international schools teaching in the English language offer a British-based curriculum. Many international schools offer the prestigious International Baccalaureate (IB) program which can lead to an IB diploma. The IB program is seen as the gold standard around the world, including in the United States, which boasts more IB schools than anywhere in the world.

In many European countries, as well as the USA and Australia, state education systems are highly regarded, and families may be more open to the prospect of a local state-funded school. Taking the option of local schools helps with social integration and saving money on school fees.

International schools share one common thread: the desire to create global citizens who understand other countries, cultures and histories beyond their own national perspective or system.

About William Clarence Education

William Clarence Education is the leading education advisory and consultancy service in the UK. With an unrivalled reach into the UK Schooling and University Network, William Clarence helps and advises families from around the world to reach their maximum potential and gain access to the very best of UK education. With close links to former Heads of Schools and senior figures within the education industry, William Clarence is proud to offer expert advice that puts your child at the centre of the process. Their business works with families at every stage of their academic journey including school placement, university placement, Oxbridge applications, US college admissions and homeschooling.