Top tips for relocating parents

Joanne O’Connor, Community Liaison Officer at 3e International School, Beijing offers some practical tips and advice for parents relocating with school-age children to help them choose the right school.

3e International School

3e International School, China

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Do Your Research – language acquisition decisions for your child

If families are in a country that does not speak their native language, then realistic second language acquisition goals for your children should be a topic for discussion. Making the decision as to whether they will attain beginner, intermediate or native level should be strongly aligned to your correct choice of school.
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When children learn the language of their host country, it has immense benefits, way above academic achievements. It increases their confidence in daily life with their own interactions and helps them forge stronger connections and understanding with their new country and subsequent inclusive association as their new home.Language acquisition can also vary greatly, depending on the age and personality of the child. Young children in particular are typically quite adaptable and with faster new language acquisition skills compared to older children or adults. The general consensus remains that it takes at least five years to be fluent in a new language. If children only study a new language, like Chinese for example, for two years or less, particularly if they are in an International School environment with only 45 minutes or less per day of non-native language exposure, whilst they will form a solid base and general understanding, it is unrealistic to expect them to be fluently bilingual within this timeframe.School search and education advice - connect with our in-country expertsOpportunities outside of school should also be considered to broaden their language and cultural understanding, including home tutors; domestic home help; playdates with classmates; books, games and movies; daily life excursions such as the market; and cultural excursions both within the new city and day trips. There are usually a broad range of services directed at children and families which can also help provide fun, creative and interactive experiences for the whole family, to solidify language learning and understanding.

Ensure they are supported socially and emotionally

The ‘right’ school choice shouldn’t just focus on academic success, but also on developing and supporting children socially and emotionally, to help support the transition to their new school (and potentially new country) to be as smooth and positive as possible. Changing schools is always a big transition for any child, so the school should have processes in place to help both the child and family with the adjustment.At 3e International School we understand that learning both English and Chinese can be a daunting task, and that children can exhibit different social reactions in each separated learning environment. For example a native, English speaking child may be confident and open in English class, but shy and reserved in Chinese class. We help support families through many open communication channels and support systems including email, face-to-face, social skills checklist reports, daily and weekly updates via the parent app ChildFolio, and a reassuring Learning Support professional on staff should the family need additional care.Whilst many Western countries start formal schooling from five years old, schools in Asia and many more countries can begin formal schooling from two years old (Nursery grade). At 3e International School’s Early Years campus in Beijing (for two years old Nursery to six years old Kindergarten children) whilst the academic focus is on preparing them for Elementary school, the age group of the children makes it imperative to focus on the social and emotional wellbeing during these formative years. Placing a high importance on children’s self-regulation and social skills before the age of five, has been a well-researched factor in adult success later in life, so parents of young children need to ensure their school choice prioritises this vital focus for their child.

Try to understand and experience the school culture through different channels

In deciding upon a school for your children, it is recommended to have more than one visit, to experience different aspects of school life. Whilst a parent’s typical first impression is gleaned through a school tour, experiencing the school from difference perspectives, such as visiting during a public community event, helps parents gauge a greater feel for the community, and consistency of the school philosophy in action. Usually the energy, culture and values of a school are difficult to experience solely via a school tour.For those parents who many not have the opportunity to visit the school before making the decision (such as moving countries), different perspectives could include phone or email discussions with key admissions, academic, community and management staff, following them on Facebook or WeChat (in China), and viewing their event videos on their website.

Trust your instincts

It is usually unlikely that a school will tick ten out of ten boxes, so learn to prioritise what is important for both your family and also your child’s interests and wellbeing.At the end of the day, whilst we want our children to be successful, we also want above all else for them to be balanced and happy. A school that cultivates and fosters children to explore, experiment and express themselves, through curiosity and collaboration, may be a stronger choice, resulting in a confident successful adult, rather than one with purely academic motivators.
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