Before You Apply

What to Ask About When Visiting an International School

Published by SchoolAdvisor on Apr 12, 2018, 09:43 AM

You’ve done your research. You’ve narrowed down your options. Now, it’s time to bring out the big guns—by arming yourself with the hard-hitting questions. While all government schools are similar to some extent in terms of curriculum, facilities and setting, each international school is different, so you’ll want to know for sure what you’re gearing your child up for.

Arranging a school visit can sometimes be difficult due to time constraints, so make your visit count. Be sure to have your burning questions ready and plan them accordingly. To help you out, we’ve listed down ten things for you to consider asking about on your visit to an international school!

1. Student life and environment

You’ve only seen the school and its facilities in the photo gallery on their website, shiny and gorgeous and pristine. How true to form is it? During your visit, you may or may not have the time to make a tour of the whole school, so you perhaps you won’t be able to get a clear picture of where everything is, how big the campus is and what your child will be up to outside of the classroom. Knowing the kind of environment that your child is surrounded with is extremely important, especially since they will spend at least six hours in said environment.

2. Facilities

Following up to that, you’ll want to know what facilities are available in the school that can be convenient and beneficial for your child. Facilities such as air-conditioned classrooms and libraries are some of the basics when it comes to international school, but what if your child is interested in theatre or dancing, both of which would require a separate studio space? It’s good to know beforehand whether the school provides the facilities necessary to nurture your child’s passions.

3. Curriculum

What exactly will your child be studying at this new school? That’s the puzzling question on many parents’ minds, especially when they’re new to the international school scene. There are a number of different curricula offered in a number of different schools, and within each curriculum there are a variety of subjects covered. Whether you’ve decided that the English national curriculum is the most suitable for your child or the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme is best, it’s still important to understand what the curriculum encompasses. An international school typically encourages parents to be a part of the curriculum in certain cases, so being aware of your child’s routine is key.

4. Academic results

Another question that goes hand in hand with the enquiry about curriculum is how the academic results are. How did the students perform in their examinations? Will your child receive the same quality of education as the best students in the school? Typically, international school students do tend to perform well in their examinations due to factors such as a highly qualified faculty and a small student-teacher ratio that gives each student ample personal attention in the classroom.

However, it is crucial to note that the distinctive quality of international schools is the well-rounded education. Their focus in building excellent students is not strictly in terms of academics, but also in various other non-academic subjects such as music, art, drama and dance. This helps your child develop their confidence and achieve a good balance between the traditional academic subjects and the arts.

5. Course progression

It’s never too early to think ahead. Whether you have plans to register your child in an international school in their early years or high school, a change in budget or future family planning may require you to make unexpected changes to your child’s education. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the type of education your child receives in the international school is transferable to another institution. If a situation arises where you need to transfer your child to a different international school or an opportunity comes in which your child should move abroad, a ‘portable’ education is important in ensuring that your child does not need to repeat their school years from square one.

6. Fees and funding

Now, here comes the bittersweet subject… the fees. The most concerning aspect of the ‘battle’ between government and international schools is the high cost that comes with the alleged higher quality of education in the latter. The yearly tuition fees of international schools can be very high depending on the school itself, and that’s not taking into account the registration fees, application fees, prices of uniforms and books, as well as school trips and extracurricular activities. Don’t sweat it just yet! Ask about what exactly needs to be covered before your child begins. How many books are required for their first year? What kind of uniform do you need to buy? There are also many international schools that offer a range of scholarships that may be suitable for your child. Further, if you are considering enrolling more than one of your children in an international school, there are several schools that offer sibling scholarships. Are there any other kinds of scholarships offered by the school? Find out all the options of funding so that you can plan ahead.

Click here to read more about the things to consider before sending your child off to school.

7. Extracurricular and co-curricular activities

The great benefits that many parents tend to rave about when it comes to international schools are the extracurricular activities. In order to aim for excellence in methods beyond the classroom and academics, international schools give a big emphasis on their extracurricular activities. Art, music, drama and dance—these subjects are usually compulsory for international school students. They help to build their confidence and be unafraid to take centre stage, both in school and in the real world once they graduate. Besides that, various types of sports such as swimming, gymnastics and football are also emphasised. Students who excel in sports typically go on to represent the state or the nation in competitions. Asking about the types of extracurricular activities, the student participation as well as the annual dates of certain shows and performances can be a good start in learning more about the school’s initiative regarding their activities.

8. Multiculturalism

What is the racial composition of the school? This is another common question that parents like to ask when visiting an international school. One of the things that sets international schools apart from public schools is their multicultural nature. While public schools consist of 100% Malaysian students, international schools more often than not are comprised of both local students and those from abroad. If the school has a considerable number of non-Malaysian students, your child has the opportunity to learn about new cultures and beliefs while forming new relationships with the foreign students and understanding them regardless of background, race or religion.

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