Any expat mum or dad will not want their mobile lifestyle to impede the growth of their child. Comparing the options and selecting a school is always a stressful affair. After all, in a foreign land, what would you know about the education system and the school offerings?

Well, before you go further, you have to decide between a local and international school. It is true that in some Asian countries, the standard of education is far better – as proven by international rankings. If you are residing in those countries, you may be considering a local school. If you are planning to stay in a country permanently, a local school can help integrate your child into the local social circle and culture seamlessly as well.

However, that aside, there are many reasons why an international school will do your child good. The most obvious being, of course, being able to interact with peers from different nationalities. This will build their social skills, knowledge of other cultures and adaptability towards differences. They may even pick up a new language! These soft skills and characteristics will prove to be valuable later in their life, be it whether they are working locally or internationally. As an expat parent, you can also communicate with the school representative without a hitch, in English and sometimes, a language of your choice. In terms of standards, you can also be sure that the education and facilities will not fall below average.

girl reading a notebook

Local or not, when it comes to evaluating a school, the considerations are about the same. Here are some aspects you should be looking at.


Be practical. People say a school is like a second home. Your child is going to frequent there for the next few years. It is going to have an impact on both of your lives. It is definitely not worth it if it is going to be physically and emotionally draining.

If the school is very far from your house, think about the time needed for travelling and whether it is challenging for your child to meet the reporting time. Also, if your child is very young and you are working, check if there is after school care or a school bus service you can opt for.

Lastly, make sure that your child meets the entry requirements, the school fees are within your financial means, and the application process is manageable.


The first step you have to do is to ensure that the school is legit, with the necessary accreditation. It should have the basics, such as a conducive learning environment. The school needs to be regularly maintained, with decent paint, greenery, ventilation and lighting. Safety is also important – there should be a security guard to screen the visitors, fire contingencies put in place and so on.

Does the school come with excellent facilities too? Take a tour and ask if there are library, science labs, IT equipment, running track etc. The cafeteria should serve food that is able to provide your child with nutrition.


A good curriculum should be a holistic one that not only grows your child to be book-smart but street-smart as well. It should help you child build hobbies, positive energy and good character. There should also be welfare and educational support so your child is taken care of when he needs a hand. Overall, it should be a balance of discipline and fun, with room for your child to unleash his potential, voice her opinions, be active and become an all-rounded individual.

Look into the following:
Subject matter – enrichment, supplementary, electives, course selection, outdoor excursions
Value-add – transition help, remedial for weaker students, special needs programme, language classes, health checks
Grading – frequency of tests and examinations
Practice – how is the cohort split (class size), what are the values the school inculcate
Co-curricular activities – regular events and competitions organised by the school, available clubs to join


Needless to say, teachers have to be qualified in their own fields and be trained to handle different students. The school’s passing/graduation rate each year is a good gauge. You also want your child to have a consistent mentor so look out for high turnover rate of the staff.

Good influence is crucial so you may want to find out about the reputation of the students. Are they notorious? Are they happy? The age range and nationality mix should not be too extreme. Decide between a same-sex or co-ed, religious or non-religious school.

If you are interested, ask about the school’s policy regarding volunteering, parent-teacher meetings and other parent involvement opportunities.

For more information, you may browse ExpatFinder’s international school directory here and school advisory service partners here.

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