Getting a grasp on education in the United States: a guide for international hires
by Edufax, on Sep 21, 2020 1:22:52 PM
International hires often find that education in the United States is quite different from what they're used to. What are the nuts and bolts of the educational system, and how can families best navigate it? As a global mobility manager, you can use this guide to steer them in the right direction!
What does the educational system in the U.S. look like?
Here’s why it is difficult to make sense of education in the United States: there isn't one curriculum throughout the country. In terms of structure, states have their individual rules and regulations. This means there's no standard way of assessing a school's quality. It also has practical implications — often, public schools in the U.S. require a family to live in the district (or even the street) the school is in.
On top of that, the educational system tends to be much more holistic than its foreign counterparts. Whereas most educational systems have an academic focus, schools in the U.S. place a lot of emphasis on a child's personal development, encouraging them to pursue their interests. There is usually a wide range of options for kids — from extracurricular drama classes to sports activities. If children are used to a different educational system, this will have a socio-emotional impact.
They may also need to be prepared for a greater amount of homework. Children from Scandinavia, for example, often find that it's a lot more than in their home country — especially when they're older.
What's important to know about education in the United States is that schools are required to provide English language learning support to non-native speakers. This means families relocating overseas with children should definitely consider a public school. In the U.S., it's often a better option than an international school.
Finding suitable education for the kids: step-by-step plan
- Understand what educational challenges to expect early on. What's the budget? Are there any suitable schools in the district? Are additional educational solutions required? You need to know these things as soon as possible. So the global mobility process will go smoothly from A to Z.
- Help the family dive into the resources available in the new location, so they can investigate the quality of the schools. School (district) websites are often a good start, as is GreatSchools, a public school search tool that can help navigate education in the United States.
- Determine what the child in question needs. If they're a non-native speaker, the school should offer a strong English as a second language program. If they're a special needs child, it's important to know what kind of support the school can provide. Parents can reach out directly to schools to discuss this, but an external educational mobility consultant can also help. The latter has experience assessing a school's quality and suitability, which means they can find educational solutions tailored to an individual child's needs.
- Once a family has selected a school, they should look at housing in the school's vicinity. Given the way in which education in the United States is structured, this is particularly important if they want to enroll the child in a public school. In that case, it's crucial to find housing first: during the enrollment process, many schools require utility bills or rental agreements that prove the child lives in the school zone.
- Create a plan B. When it comes to the children's education, it's never wise to put all your eggs in one basket. If the preferred school is unable to provide a spot, or the original plan should be adjusted due to logistical reasons (for example, if there is no housing available in the school zone), it's good to have another option. So, try to look for at least two good schools in the same district and/or suitable schools in two different districts.
Need help navigating education in the United States?
Since every state has its own rules and regulations, admission processes and curricula may differ strongly per location. This makes it very difficult to research the options. Considering all the other aspects a global mobility manager should pay attention to, it can simply be too time-consuming. Would you like to get help navigating education in the United States? Education consultancy companies with experience and expertise provide a solution.
Edufax has provided families, employers, and schools with independent guidance on all educational matters since 1992. We create educational solutions that are tailored to an individual child's needs. Want to know how we will go the extra mile for your international hires? Contact us to find out!