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Education For Expat Children: Your Questions Answered
Questions From Expats Living In The UK
My biggest question is: are kids in the US really behind academically? I have been told that my kids would have a harder time in a primarily British school because their expectations are higher in England. If my boys take a test to get into a school I am fearful they won’t do well.
I wouldn’t say this is necessarily true - it is very much school dependent.
It is true that the UK at the younger age is slightly ahead of the US education system, however at primary level the gap can be filled quickly. The difference in learning and impact becomes more of an issue at older ages. We always say if you are definitely moving, do it sooner rather than later for that reason and to ensure there’s a smooth transition between learning and minimise the long-term impact in development.
The priorities are different across the two countries, though with the vast size of the US there are also big changes from East to West and North to South in terms of academic achievements and the key subjects being delivered. Students sat in a classroom in Louisiana, for example, will likely be looking at different content to those who are learning in New Jersey. Whereas in the UK the educational curriculum is more consistent and reliable in line with the nationally approved curriculum within public schools. Some independent institutions may deviate slightly from this but will for the most part remain along the same lines.
In contrast to the US, education in the UK not only provides the opportunity for children to reach their maximum potential and gain access to the very best of UK education through a range of quality schools, public or private institutions, but also allows students to immerse themselves into the UK lifestyle and culture, which is a diverse and multi-cultural environment that undoubtedly also helps in learning development.
As English is the language of instruction in both the UK and the US education systems, this also helps students to quickly familiarise with the type of learning. The main difference in the education system that they will see is that the UK puts more emphasis on examinations, with a greater early focus on academics. This ultimately leads students towards increased specialisation.
I would like to know more about access to UK universities for kids who studied in the American system. Are they accepted and what do they need to do?
They are accepted and go through a very similar process to UK students: UCAS. However, there are extra considerations like matching international qualifications to the UK equivalents, and arranging visas.
The recommended date for submitting an application is January 15th, or October 15th the previous year for Oxford and Cambridge, or for medicine, veterinary, and dentistry courses. You can choose up to five universities, to increase your chance of getting a place.
The application process can be complex and confusing, as some universities and programmes have different systems in place; however UCAS provides a standard application procedure.
The system may be unfamiliar to those outside the country, but any exams taken prior to moving will be converted into an equivalent UK grade to help with the process. Assuming the student is from an English-speaking background there will be no need for any language proficiency tests. These are required for those entering with English as a second language.
What about students from the US who want to study in Europe?
For universities on mainland Europe you may want to pay particular attention to what language the course will be delivered in to ensure you don’t end up wasting your money and time with a placement unsuited for the student's language comprehension level.
Much has also been said about the cost of tuition in America compared to Europe. While education in Europe is often less expensive, that does not mean quality is compromised. Many European universities are among the Top 100 in World Higher Education Rankings.
While in America a small classroom with 30 students is a common thing to see, in Europe people are used to sitting in large halls with potentially hundreds of fellow students and professors who deliver their lectures across this environment with less time spent on personal one-to-one learning. That said, typically speaking the quality of personal tutors under specific topics is very high, with lecturers being highly qualified and supportive.
There will also be various visa requirements and possible health and travel necessities to arrange prior to a place being guaranteed.
Questions From Expats Living In Australia
We are hoping to move to Australia before the new school year starts. We are looking at private schooling for our daughter, who is dyslexic. Do they have the facilities for this, or any extra learning support at school?
There certainly are schools with specialist provisions, though this will depend on your child's exact needs and the location you are moving to. The best option is to visit as many schools as possible. There is a website available called The Private Schools Directory, which lists some of the most popular expat schools.
In a country that still wants to think of itself as egalitarian, evidence of the growing disparity between Australia’s richest and poorest schools has politicised it too, and as such, depending on the level of education and support your child needs, independent private schools may be an option you could look at, but this is costly.
Independent school undoubtedly offers a much more bespoke education. Their learning can be accelerated, they can get extra help, it’s not done on norms, and it’s done on each individual child basis. An area that many of the private schools are versed in are needs such as dyslexia.
In terms of choosing the right school, we would always recommend holding Skype calls to gather as much information as possible in advance, due to distance.
Make sure you are really clear on the expectations and outcomes needed before committing to any further discussions, and ensure you drive them to answering the questions you need to make the most informed decision to shortlist.
Are the public schools in Australia as good as/better than those in the UK?
They aren’t really comparable. The curriculum is delivered at different times and speeds; therefore it’s difficult to answer this clearly. As a rule from experience I would say the UK system is ahead of the Australian system. Like anywhere, different areas of the country receive separate levels of funding and their results demonstrate this. The internationally known areas of Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth all tend to perform well academically and are stereotypically the more likely areas for expats to move to.
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.