Any decision regardless of its size has both merits and demerits. Attending an international school is no exception. I attended an international school my whole life and even though I did not make this decision myself, I am truly thankful that I was able to attend and spent my 12 years of schooling in this environment.
When making a major decision, I always make a pros and cons list to help me weigh out the different hardships I might face. Hopefully this will help parents and students make a great decision during their educational career.
Become a top student in the world-scale
Assuming that English is not your first language and that the international school isn’t in an English-speaking country, attending an international school will lead you to be bilingual, or even trilingual. Being bilingual is a pro on its own, but by learning in English, you get to stand alongside top students all over the world. As English is the most commonly accepted language worldwide, you are open to a wider range of opportunities. You get the chance to study with top students all over the world, at top institutions with rigorous curriculum and teachers. Furthermore, many offer language classes at school, which can introduce you to a third language. I believe that just being bilingual wouldn’t be so special in the near future, and being proficient in a third language is the way to go.
More Opportunities after graduation
Although it depends on each year, a lot of students go abroad to study after graduating from an international school – whether that’s in the United States, UK, Singapore, Canada, etc. Most of these institutions conduct their studies in English, meaning you are open to not only universities in the location of your school but the whole world.
Classmates from all over the world
Many students at international schools are those with dual-citizenship, or with parents who had to move due to their jobs. This means there are students from different countries with varying cultural and religious backgrounds. Not to say that this is a life changing experience but also you will become someone that can embrace these differences. This is a very unique experience that not everyone can have. Also, many students move around or decide to reside where they attended university. That means you get to have friends all over the world.
Many students that go to international schools face major identity crises at certain points in their lifetime. We are told that we are “good at English” and at the same time “good at Japanese” (in my case for example). I don’t feel like I fit into many communities sometimes, even if it is supposed to be my community (i.e. Japanese-American). However, this can be on a very case by case basis.
Language barrier – reading and talking
You will most likely be bilingual. However, this may impact your proficiency in other languages in reading, talking, writing, etc. For example, students might be more comfortable talking in Japanese but writing or reading in English. Furthermore, for international school students in Japan, we tend to use ‘Janglish’ when talking, which is a hybrid of Japanese and English. We tend to compensate for the Japanese vocab we don’t know with English, and vice versa. That means it is very difficult to improve both English and Japanese vocabulary.
Let’s face it: international schools are usually expensive. Usually money isn’t an issue for most students, which means that students are privileged. Some understand that they are privileged, but others don’t. Privilege is not always a bad thing, but students may feel out of place, and will compare themselves to others.
Every student and parent is different. I hope this friendly guide can help you, whether you are a parent or a student, deciding if attending an international school is the right choice for you. I believe that in any path you choose, if you make the most out of it, you will be able to be your better self.