The guide to moving abroad: Education

The guide to moving abroad: Education

Moving abroad with a family presents a few additional things to consider. One of the big ones is how to educate your children in your destination country. The usual options are to either enrol them in a local school or an international school. With this chapter of the guide to moving abroad, we’ll help you think about the pros and cons of each.

1. Curriculum

How does the curriculum of a local school match up to that of an international school?

Local school

Every country has its own learning curriculum. Some may be similar to your home country and some may be very different. Either way, there’s a good chance that the curriculum won’t perfectly match the one you’re coming from. This means that your child may be ahead of his / her peers, or behind them, or learning something completely different.

International school

Most big cities are home to international schools, often catering to specific nationalities. If your city has one targeting students from your home country then the curriculum should be close to that of your child’s prior school. Amsterdam, for example, has more than two dozen international schools targeting students from the United States, UK, France, Japan, and other countries.

2. Language 

What are the pros and cons when it comes to the language spoken at the school of your choice?

Local school

If the local population speaks a different language to that of your child, this can present quite a challenge. Additionally, some schools require students to speak the local language if they want to enrol. For example, in Dutch schools, all students must be able to speak Dutch. On the other hand, however, these schools offer an opportunity for your child to quickly become fluent in the new language.

International school

If attending an international school, your child will be able to take courses in his or her native language. This obviously makes learning easier, but your child will have to learn the local language in another manner.

3. Location

If you have kids, it's handy to keep in mind the following pros and cons when picking a neighbourhood to live in:

Local school

No matter what neighbourhood you live in, there are likely to be local schools within walking distance. This means you can pick a neighbourhood based on other criteria, like proximity to work, amenities, public transit, etc.

International school

Given that, typically, there aren’t many international schools around, you’ll either need to limit your neighbourhood search to ones that are near a school or expect to spend a lot of time commuting to and from the school (or, if your child is old enough, trust him or her to use public transport).

4. Quality

Not all schools offer the same quality:

Local school

Some countries are known for stellar educational systems, whilst others leave a lot to be desired. Fortunately, the Netherlands is one of the top-ranked countries.

International school

Most international schools are known for good academics, though you should, of course, do your research.

5. Cost

Not everyone has the same budget, so make sure you take the following into consideration:

Local school

Many local schools are free, though some charge a fee for expatriate students.

International school

International schools come with a range of prices, but are typically expensive. Some can cost tens of thousands of euros a year.

6. Space for new students

Finding a school that has a spot open may prove to be more difficult than expected in some cases, so be aware of the following:

Local school

Whilst some schools do get full, in general, you will be able to find a spot for your child at a local school. In fact, some cities guarantee residents a spot in schools within a certain distance of your home.

International school

Due to the limited number of international schools in major cities, classes are often full. As soon as you know you’ll be relocating, you should contact the school you have in mind about a space for your child.

7. Culture

Making sure your child feels at home in your new country is very important, so take the following into consideration:

Local school

Your child will be immersed in the local culture, which will help them feel at home quickly.

International school

Your child will, for the most part, be engaging with students from a similar background, so unless you have your child engage with local children via another forum, assimilation could take longer.

Did you come to the Netherlands with your child(ren)? What school did you pick? A local school or an international school? Let us know in the comments!



Adam Vagley

Adam Vagley is co-founder of GoodMigrations (, which makes it easy to move anywhere in the world with free city guides and other resources for relocating abroad. He’s lived and...

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