The global mobility manager's ultimate guide to education solutions for children moving abroad
by Edufax, on Jul 27, 2020 3:47:01 PM
Once an international relocation is initiated, families have a lot of questions. As a global mobility manager, you're often their first point of contact. Parents will ask you specific questions about education solutions to make sure the children will be okay. Because that's their first and foremost concern.
But providing them with the right answers is no easy feat. Educational mobility is a field of expertise in its own right. You need to possess in-depth knowledge on a wealth of topics, including the international education system, local laws and curriculums, pedagogical matters, the definition of quality education, cultural differences, special needs children, and, of course, education solutions. You should also be able to analyze a family's unique situation and needs, taking long-term consequences and objectives into account. On top of that, you need to keep up with the latest developments in education at a global level.
Like we said: it's not easy. And, truth be told, it's not a one-person job. Education solutions aren't the only topic you need to know a thing or two about. Global mobility encompasses much more than education, which is why you simply don't have time to unearth all the details an individual international hire requires. So, you turn to co-workers, handbooks, and the intranet to find the answers you're looking for. But you can't always combine the bits and pieces into a coherent whole. Meanwhile, you need to deal with concerned (and, sometimes, emotional) parents that aren't always open to hearing what you have to say. And you have to balance their needs with the company policy.
What you require is a solid foundation to ensure the smoothest possible relocation across borders for your international hires. Lots of issues can be prevented if they're nipped in the bud – preparation is half the battle. How to go about it? Use the practical tips in this ultimate guide to education solutions for children moving abroad!
1. Review your global mobility policy
A global mobility policy should contain all matters related to the international hire's relocation – from taxes to spousal support. But in reality, these policies are not always sufficiently clear on education solutions, which can lead to issues later on. Managing expectations is key, especially if you want the international assignment to be a success. Trend reports in the field of global mobility show that for expats with families, education-related concerns can result in stress, implying breakdown risks throughout the assignment. A clear educational policy facilitates a smooth transition when families move abroad.
Be sure to include the following five education-related topics in your global mobility policy:
- Pre-departure educational support
Do children require training before they arrive in the host country, so they'll be better prepared for the new curriculum and educational system?
- Host country schooling options
Which schools can parents choose from in the host country, considering the best educational options for their children as well as finances?
- Educational compensation during the assignment
Will the company reimburse the costs of standard registration and tuition fees, additional educational support fees (including language support and specialized learning support), text books required by the curriculum, devices required for the child's education (such as iPads and laptops), and transportation fees?
- Mother tongue language maintenance
Will the company compensate families for training that focuses on maintaining the child's native language at an academic level? (See tip 5 below for more information.)
- Educational compensation after the assignment
Will the company reimburse any costs associated with a child's return to the local system? And what happens if the family temporarily returns to the home country, meaning the child will continue their curriculum at an international school?
2. Get involved in the process early on
Many issues stem from putting the cart before the horse. If HR and mobility work better together, everyone will benefit. The sooner a global mobility manager is involved in the process, the better. If you get on board early on, you can take more time to find education solutions and battle problems before they arise. There are a lot of issues you can avoid, including:
- Sending an employee on an assignment while their children really shouldn't be moving at their age from an educational point of view (for example, because they're in the last two years of IB or the literacy phase).
- Waiting lists – families can subscribe to a school early, or, if schools in a certain location have incredibly long waiting lists, you may want to opt for an international hire who doesn't have kids.
- Unexpected additional costs for your company to close curricular gaps that may occur when children relocate to the host country.
- Sending an employee with children to a location where education solutions are extremely expensive. For example, international schools in Dubai come with steep price tags. If possible, consider the possibility of public international schools instead.
- Lack of clarity regarding costs that will and won't be reimbursed (as you have plenty of time to lay out and discuss the conditions).
- Opting for an international school because it's the most obvious – yet not the best – choice. Involving an educational mobility consultant at an early stage in the process can help a family to make strong decisions on what schooling options are the most appropriate for their child.
3. Take children and education solutions seriously from the get-go
The first question most parents ask is, "What will happen to our children, and how do we make sure an international relocation won't put them at a disadvantage?" Education solutions are usually their number one priority. Salary, housing, and cars tend to be of secondary importance.
According to the 2018 Relocating Partner Survey Report created by EY, 40% of failed assignments are due to child-related issues. And a failed assignment is costly. With this in mind, it's wise to take children and education solutions seriously from the get-go.
One solution could be to research education consultancy companies and work with an expert in the field. The educational mobility consultants at Edufax, for example, support global mobility teams by providing families with top-notch advice and guidance on education solutions for their children. As a result, the success rate is significantly higher: at least 95% of families who went on assignment with Edufax fulfilled it.
4. Don't assume international schools are always the best solution
Many companies and families believe international schools are the best education solutions. Whether this is true, though, depends on the country as well as personal factors, such as the child's age and specific needs. In some countries, such as the United States, local schools may be an equally great and sometimes an even better option for the child in question. If that's the case, it's often a win-win situation, as the company will spend a considerably lower amount on the best possible education for the child. After all, international schools are usually very expensive.
So, keep in mind that education solutions come in different shapes, and the most obvious choice isn't always the best one. Put time and effort into researching the options.
5. Don't underestimate the importance of maintaining the mother tongue
When moving abroad, families want to keep in touch with family and friends in the home country. Doing so will benefit the socio-emotional wellbeing of the child. This is one reason to maintain the mother tongue. Another is that children should be able to return to the local educational system once the assignment is completed. If their command of the language isn't up to par, they'll need to attend an international school upon returning, which can be very costly. If you haven't discussed the topic beforehand, it might be unclear who is responsible for these additional expenses.
So, companies should manage expectations right from the start. You can, for example, include mother tongue maintenance in your global mobility policy and discuss its importance with the family in question. After all, it is (or should be) part of comprehensive education solutions for children moving abroad.
To set you in the right direction, here are a few tips for families who want their children to maintain the mother tongue while living abroad:
- Enroll the child in a (face-to-face or online) language program that is recognized by official authorities in the home country. Officially recognized programs are specifically aimed at nationals who live abroad but will return to schools in the home country (in the foreseeable future).
- Make sure the child's mother tongue development is consistently monitored and evaluated – for example, in the form of homework assignments and periodic tests.
- Encourage the child to speak their mother tongue at home. You'll kill two birds with one stone: the child can practice and maintain their mother tongue, and a solid foundation can accelerate their acquisition of other languages.
- Have the child maintain contact with family and friends at home. This will foster the child's sense of belonging and identity.
6. Consider the child's current development stage
When looking for the best education solutions for children, you need to be aware of socio-emotional matters. There are moments in a child's school life when moving to another country (and, therefore, changing schools) isn't an option. If, for example, a child is in their last two years of an IB school, switching to a different school means they have to redo one or perhaps even both years. The same goes for children in the literacy phase. When a child is still in the process of learning to read and write in the mother tongue, moving across borders isn't a good idea. The language of instruction will be different from the mother tongue, which may be confusing to the child. This can result in reading and writing problems in both languages later on. Therefore, it's better to wait until the child has a good command of one language.
If it's absolutely paramount that the child moves during the literacy phase, parents need to keep close communication with the child's teachers: the previous school should share exactly where the child is at in the development process, so the new school can prevent potential problems. In this case, you'll probably be looking at tailor-made education solutions: the child may temporarily need to stop learning to read and write in the mother tongue, so they can solely focus on the new language. It's best to have an educational mobility consultant monitor the situation closely, so they can immediately alert the family if the child's development is at risk.
7. Be aware of local systems
When looking for education solutions, you need to consider the system in the host country. In any case, take the following elements into account:
- Compulsory full-time education
Every schooling system has a defined timespan during which it's mandatory for children to attend school and receive full-time education. It typically covers six years of primary education and three years of lower secondary education, covering ages 6 to 16.
- Evaluation of educational outcomes
Every schooling system should monitor and evaluate a student's academic progress. It's important to know how this works, as students' performance scores are often used to determine whether a school meets quality standards set by the government. On top of that, student assessments usually form a guideline to determine if an educational system and curriculum meet international standards of education.
- Basic education curriculum
Each schooling system needs to offer an appropriate curriculum that contributes to the development of key competencies, which represent the system of knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes, and values that are crucial to a child's personal development and their role in society. Key competencies include learning competencies, problem solving, communication, social and personal competencies, civil competencies, and working competencies.
- Quality assurance
Typically, schooling systems have an education inspectorate responsible for the inspection of education and quality assurance. Inspections provide a stamp of approval indicating that a particular school (or school board) meets the educational standards set by a country's government and allow for intervening when a school doesn't meet the standards.
- Early childhood education
Every schooling system offers at least one year of tuition-free early childhood education, which is the foundation for early cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development. Typically, it's offered one year before a child starts primary education.
8. Adhere to your duty of care and create a WOW experience
Taking care of your people is paramount. Many companies like to adhere to their duty of care, especially when it comes to catering for the needs of international hires and their families. Creating a WOW experience also helps you build connections with employees. This is particularly important when talent is scarce. A WOW experience helps you attract and maintain skilled employees.
Keep in mind it's not necessarily about (financially) pampering the international hire and their family. What they want is to be heard and taken seriously. Let's take a topical example. Suppose they need to return home unexpectedly due to the outbreak of the corona virus. In this case, educational support is not provided according to the global mobility policy, meaning families are responsible for finding new education solutions for their children. But to help them out, the company decides to make it part of its repatriation service so as to facilitate the forced relocation. Families will label it as a WOW experience, as the company has put a positive spin on a negative event.
Generally speaking, here are a few elements that make for a WOW experience:
- A personal touch
- Checking in on a regular basis before during the assignment, and after the assignment (or throughout the assignment?)
- Expat spousal or child support
- Pet support (the ability to bring a pet)
- Providing more services than expected
9. Make sure you can respond to unforeseen circumstances
Life doesn't always go the way you planned. What if an internal reorganization means expats need to return home sooner than expected? And what if a pandemic radically changes society as we know it? In these cases, it's important to get in touch with families to find out what they need. Parents will want their child's educational trajectory to be uninterrupted and may therefore require new, inventive education solutions.
In times of crisis, they will probably struggle with other issues as well. During COVID-19, for example, many families have had to look for new ways to balance parenting, homeschooling, and remote working. And children's educational needs tend to change when they're homeschooled. They may require additional academic support, such as tutoring in specific subjects or guidance on exam preparations.
In extraordinary times, children may need out-of-the-box, tailor-made education solutions more than ever. It's paramount that you check in with families as soon as possible. If required, you can partner up with relevant stakeholders, such as educational consultancy companies, to meet their needs.
Getting help: which international educational consultancy business is the right fit?
Familiarizing yourself with all the ins and outs of education solutions worldwide is more than a day job. It requires thorough expertise and experience. As a global mobility manager, you've got a million other tasks you need to complete.
If you outsource education solutions to a destination service provider, you might not cover all of your families’ needs. Although destination service providers have a lot of local knowledge, they're usually not familiar with the nuts and bolts of the international school system. Often, they're also unable to assess a child's unique situation and needs. The gap is difficult to bridge: when translating local information into education solutions for children, they tend to fail. For example, they enroll a child in the most expensive school while it's not the best option for this particular child in the long term.
Usually, it's better to join forces with an international educational consultancy business. When looking for the right fit, here are some questions you can ask:
- Does the company put the child's best interest first while also considering the needs of the company and the family?
- Does the company provide holistic advice that consists of different aspects, such as the child's academic performance as well as the socio-emotional implications of an international relocation?
- When creating education solutions, does the company take the child's long-term future plan into account?
- Does the company offer the best fitting education solutions for children at any moment in the educational trajectory?
- Will the family be monitored during an assignment?
- Does the company consider your global mobility policy when creating education solutions for children?
- If unforeseen circumstances occur, will the company act as a safeguard and be prepared to escalate?
- Is the company well informed on educational systems across the globe?
- Does the company have longstanding relationships with trusted partners and clients, and is it certified?
If you want to know more about finding the best fit, read our blog post about picking education consultancy companies for international hires.
Want to discuss education solutions with educational mobility specialists?
At Edufax, we put the child's needs first. Using our extensive experience and a great dose of creativity, we provide tailored advice and create innovative education solutions. Approaching the world of education from every angle, we consider the impact of educational history and current situational factors. We provide A-to-Z educational support on international relocations to make sure children receive the best education before, during, and after leaving their home country.
Families, employers, and schools have relied on our advice since 1992. Are you a global mobility manager who doesn't want to go the distance alone? Be sure to contact us so we can discuss the opportunities.