What you should know
Moving your family from one installation to another in the U.S. can be challenging enough; but moving your family overseas presents an even more complex situation. One of the most important challenges can be summed up by this question, "Where are my children going to go to school?"
This article will provide resources to help guide military families through the many questions and decisions regarding local schools abroad.
Where do I start?
Start with the information on your new installation. All of the overseas installations have dedicated a portion of the Education article to discussing the education options available in the local community as well as the DoD schools located on the installation, if available. Most installations overseas that allow accompanied family travel have one or more DoD schools.
DoD vs. international/ national schools
DoDEAis the Department of Defense Education Activity. DoDEA operates DoD schools in 12 foreign countries, Guam and Puerto Rico. All DoDEA schools are fully accredited by U.S. accreditation agencies and maintain high academic standards with well rounded educational programs. Visit the DoDEA School Report Card website to find a detailed discussion of each DoD School.
DoDEA has launched an Online Student Pre-Registration System for School Year 2013-2014, with the aim of reducing the time parents will have to wait at the school registration site. The new program will also allow school officials to better predict school enrollment for the upcoming year, make more informed decisions regarding teacher and staff requirements, and prepare in advance for special services, supplies, and other classroom needs. Parents can pre-register their children by visiting the registration website.
In addition to DoDEA, the U.S. Department of State's Office of Overseas Schools mission is to promote quality educational opportunities for dependents of American citizens overseas at the elementary and secondary level. If a DoD school is not available on your installation there may be a school in the local community that is an American-Sponsored Elementary and Secondary School.
International schools are English-language schools whereas National schools are schools where courses are taught in the native language. The curriculum and grading system of an International school tends to be similar to the traditional American education system. This is a consideration if your family will be returning to the U.S. prior to your child or children graduating high school. Remember, when choosing a school it is best to try to match the school with your child's needs and expectations.
Locating international schools
The Internet can be an excellent resource for finding International Schools overseas. You can find a complete directory of overseas schools on the International Schools Services' website. In addition, the World Wide Schools website is an excellent resource. From the homepage you can select the country. Once you have done this, a list of schools will appear and you can then choose which one you are interested in researching. All of the information appearing on this website is provided by the schools directly. Some of the information you may find on a school includes: a background summary about the school, the school's address, phone number, website, and even the email address of the director of the school. This information should be explored so that you can make comparisons with other International schools in the area to determine the best place for your child/children.
Deciding what's best
This process is much the same as it would be in the U.S. You may not have as many choices but it is important to make a list of possible schools and then begin to ask around. This is a daunting task since it is likely that there will be a language barrier. However, talk to the Relocation Personnel in the Family Center and your sponsor at your new installation who may be able to put you in touch other families with children around the same age as your child/children. Always contact the school directly and ask for references.
Once you have narrowed down your options, interview the school or schools directly. This is best done in person, if possible. Ask about: attendance, atmosphere, curriculum; grading system, tuition, accreditations, the staff and administration; as well as other practical details such as, does the school provide meals, what types of extra curricular programs are available, is there transportation, holidays and schedule, sports programs, before and after school care programs, and how is the facility maintained.
Facilitating a successful transition
A successful transition should be a priority during planning the move and once the move has been completed. The more knowledge you provide your child with, the more confident he/she will feel once he/she arrives at the new school. Allow your child to be a part of the decision making process, if he/she is old enough, and take his/her opinions into account.
MilitaryStudent provides several valuable tools to facilitate the transition process. Although many of these tools are not geared specifically to an international move the resources provided do apply to any military student transitioning to a new school in the U.S. or overseas.
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