Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The International Family's Never-Ending Dilemma : Is my child in the right school?

The number one question of the international family: Where should we send our children to school?

The number two question of the international family: Have we put our children in the right school?

Basically, the question is always on our minds.

Here in Tananarive, Madagascar, the choices of schools is VERY limited.  You can send your child to the French school or you can send your child to the American school.

Pros of the American School, from our perspective:
- Great way to consolidate my children's English.
- It's close to home.
- It has small classes.
- It is more open to creativity and different learning styles than the French system.
- Thinking with an open and critical mind is just as important as coming up with the right answer.
- It has a great community feel to it.
- If offers lots of extra-curricular activities.

The American School has its disadvantages, too, though.  It's very expensive.  Their pre-K and kindergarten facilities are not great (in fact, they're downright shabby and small), some of the teachers are not native English speakers, and for an natural-mama type like me, their vaccine requirements are a little over the top. 

Pros of the French school:
- Teaching the Bambina to read and write in French is something that I can't do and that the Frenchman won't do.  This is close to being a deal-breaker point. 
- It has an excellent kindergarten programme.
- Truly excellent teachers in kindergarten, first and second grade.

But the French school is a 30 minute drive away in the morning.  And in the long run, French education may be rigourous but it also has the reputation for being narrow, closed-minded and not great for building confidence in children.

We chose the French school because at the time, the Bambina was only five years old when we arrive in Tana and the kindergarten at the French school was visibly better than the one at the American school.  Now that she's in first grade, I'm sure that the American school is just as good, if not better.  Neither school is perfect.  Either one would leave us questioning our choice.

For our next expatriation, my prayer is that not only will we not be in a francophone country, but that we will be in a country where there is no lycée français, at that we will have no choice but to put the Bambina in a reputable international school that offers French for native speakers.  Alternatively, sending her to a local school, should we be living in a developed, anglophone country (Australia, Scotland, the United States  or Canada, for example) would also be interesting.

A Montessori school for the Bambino would be a cherry on the cake.


Sarah said...

Sounds like an agonizing decision...but I'm sure she'll learn a lot wherever she ends up, and what she doesn't learn at school, you'll work on with her at home!

Our son is still 2.5 years away from starting kindergarten, and we're not satisfied with the school he's districted for and not sure if we want to try to get him in the local charter school or bilingual (Spanish-English) public school. And we don't want to pay for private school! I'm glad we don't have to decide yet. (But I wish we had a French option for him.)