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Should our kids go native too?

28th August 2011, Comments5 comments

Should our kids go native too?
International school advocates say they help ease the transition, while others claim real integration only happens at a local school.

When the wanderlust has worn off, many expats start to feel settled in their host country, but remain uncertain as to whether they should send their children to local or international schools.

Although international schools that use a fixed model, such as the international British school model and international American schools, provide a constant structure for country-hopping expat children, some argue that international schools may isolate these children from natives their own age.

The case for expat schools

"We go to great lengths to make sure that our expats feel integrated. Our newsletter appears monthly, and we have all sorts of events organised by the Parent and Teachers Association, such as coffee mornings along with counselling events for those who need particular support," says Christine Burrett, the director of the British-style international school in the Netherlands.

"However, I definitely feel that an international school like ourselves is definitely the best education possible for expat children. This means that it is possible for children with parents moving throughout Europe to take them to any British school and smoothly be able to integrate. It's really the only way to get a really broad outlook on life." 

International school
Burrett also thinks children benefit from the international exposure: "The insight into other cultures is essential for a child, and I believe that from attending schools such as these, the pupils really end up as ideal ambassadors of the world for the future."

But hardly everyone shares these views. Finding true cultural integration Claire Antosweski is of dual British and American citizenship, and because of her parents' career moves has lived and worked in a number of countries, including the US, Africa, Poland, France, Africa and Austria, where she used to work as editor of the international newspaper, Austria Today.

Antosweski always opted to attend local schools as opposed to international schools. She strongly disagrees that international schools are the best choice for expat children.

"The important issue is to try and blend into the country," she explains. "If you are in an international school, then all you really do is try and kid yourself you are living in some sort of artificial British world, which can't function by the fact that you are not in Britain -- you are in the US or wherever it happens to be."

Attempting to assimilate, believes Antosweski, prevents children from being "cut off" from the society they live in. "In America, I was at an American boarding school in Massachusetts, and am grateful for having been able to be treated like an American and get to know American kids," she says.

"The only exception to this is when I was in Paris at the American University doing art history. Although the environment was artificial, it was good because without attending here, I would have stood no chance of being ableto study in France as my French was not good enough." 

Aiden Cambell, originally from Northern Ireland, is director of the International School in Rotterdam. He previously worked at an international school in Singapore, but says this school operates within the framework of the Dutch education system - the children are more integrated with locals than they otherwise would be.

"Our school is a bit of a red herring," Cambell says. "It was set up originally to cope with Dutch people who had spent time studying abroad and then who returned to find they did not fit completely into the Dutch education system and needed a more international style of teaching. However, there is no 'ghetto mentality' here," he emphasizes.

"We are a small school and work very much alongside the Dutch education system, as it actually funds the school. We really make sure that there is no attempt made to break away from Dutch people and Dutch culture, and we end up being considerably cheaper than other international schools operating on the model of a certain country like the US."

Rob Hyde / Expatica 

5 comments on this article Add a comment

  • 31st August 2011, 11:57:28 Dave posted:
    No thanks. The Dutch are masters at putting you on a hoop jumping roller coaster while they strip you bare. If "integrating" means that thing 2nd and 3rd generation Dutch of Moroccan and Surinam descent are going through, I'll pass - but thanks for the generous offer. My experience is that the Dutch do not trust or respect anyone that wants to be Dutch. It's just a scam to justify the underlying mistrust and treatment of foreigners as second class citizens.
  • 5th September 2011, 20:07:04 olly70 posted:
    I have had benefit of both educational systems and just last week I gave up on trying to integrate my son and sent him back to the international school. I almost got a migraine from trying to understand the Cito toets how it worked because my son was about to take it. I had nightmares the boy had his share from the rigorous study I put him on. All i can say is truely the dutch system doesnt make it easy education wise to integrate (not speaking for other areas lol)
  • 6th September 2011, 08:18:23 alissa posted:
    I relocated from the United States and was about to move my family here. However, I simply cannot enroll my 9 year old child to the Dutch school of my choice. All foreign-born newcoming students in a small town where I work have to go to just one school to learn Dutch. Not surprisingly the school is in the poorest part of the town. International schools are not an option for us as those are far away from my place of employment. We opted not to relocate after all.
  • 20th September 2011, 13:17:36 bringas24 posted:
    Relocating with school age children is not as easy as people think, As with change, different country, language, customs, etc; for children this is a major transition, not only is it daunting to meet new class mates on normal circumstances but add a new language, different country and customs, to this equation it is becomes very stressful for children to manage this transition. When we relocated to Belgium, I continued to home school my child based via Calvert Home School Curriculum, which you tutor you child but a teacher will grade and advise you on the progress of you child, this way making sure my child was learning according to age and education level. We did this until 3rd Grade when we decided to stay here long term and made the decision that it would be best for our child to integrate and attend the local school. This was not easy to say the least, the school and local authorities suggested the aid of a tutor or "logopedist" outside the school hours for additional language study, but this transition was extremely difficult, her teachers were very helpful and some of the children embraced my child and were friendly, others and their parents simply opted to look up and down and alienated themselves as we were from another "planet", even though we have lived in France, Holland, Mexico, so for us, appreciating and respecting other cultures have been part of our upbringing and cultural differences and have made us into the people we are today. Nevertheless, our child is able to communicate, write and read Dutch, she is able to integrate and relate to other classmates and friends, and is much happier now that she is attending Junior High and as well learning French. It is proven that children are adaptable and are able to learn a language easier than adults, and for that fact I would advise in letting children try a local school first, if planning to stay on long term, even as difficult as it may be, the solution of an International School may be "plan B" if available.
  • 9th January 2013, 17:21:38 Jennifer posted:
    [Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]

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