Why it’s important to plan for your child’s overseas education

Family finances
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Planning ahead can ease your child's schooling abroad – here’s what you need to know.

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There’s a lot to think about when exploring whether to send your child to study abroad, from figuring out the location to ensuring your child is prepared for the big move – emotionally and mentally. Having a comprehensive plan in place will help support their education journey.

Why parents may send their children to international schools

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Education at a Glance 2022 report, students from Asia form the largest group of international students enrolled in tertiary education programs at all levels, accounting for more than half of the 4.39 million internationally mobile students across OECD member and partner countries.

Michelle Qiu, director of business development at RBC Hong Kong Branch, says one of the main reasons parents send their children to study abroad is so they can maintain a good school-life balance.

“Parents also want to broaden their child’s horizons with international experience,” she notes.

In addition, attending a school overseas may provide your child the opportunity to learn to be independent, which Ida Lew, head of strategic initiatives at RBC Wealth Management in Asia, says is invaluable.

“Children may find it difficult to learn how to look after themselves and live independently when they are at home – it is not uncommon for families in Asia to hire foreign domestic helpers to [help] take care of their children,” Lew says.

Besides acquiring academic knowledge in school, there are less-quantifiable, soft skills your child may develop while living overseas, such as interpersonal capabilities and creative problem solving.

Immigration may be another reason why parents send their child overseas, says Qiu. “They may want their child to settle in the country permanently after graduation,” she explains.

Start the planning early

Many families send their children overseas for school before they even reach the college or university level – for example, for high school or middle school. In addition to providing a chance to acclimate to a new country, going to school abroad earlier can be particularly beneficial if the student does not yet have a good grasp of the English language.

“The earlier the planning starts around improving the child’s English, the better it may be,” says Iggy Chong, head of enterprise private clients at RBC Wealth Management in Asia. He adds that some children may struggle because of limited language proficiency so teaching them early may go a long way.

Qiu adds that parents sometimes engage education consultants to help them assess when would be the best time for their child to study abroad, and to support them through the admissions process.

Early planning can help you set goals for the process as well. Deciding where you want your child to study will enable you to determine how to get there.

Factors to keep in mind when choosing a location

One of the key decisions in planning your child’s education roadmap is determining which country they should study in. According to Chong, most families base their decision on which school or education system (for example, public or private school, curriculum options) they prefer, or whether the student plans to continue living in the country after graduation.

Research the country you (and your child) are considering, including its local laws and customs, safety tips, cost of living, and travel advice or travel warnings, etc.

When it comes to selecting the right school, some factors to think about include its reputation and rankings as well as the employability of its graduates. Attending education fairs and roadshows may also help parents find options that fit their child’s needs.

Lew says starting to research at least two years ahead of time is ideal. A school visit would also be recommended, especially for parents who are sending their children abroad at a younger age.

“A school visit with your child is important because they can see for themselves the environment they will be studying in, so they will feel more comfortable,” she explains.

Another key element to consider, says Lew, is how supportive the school is of its students and whether they provide more than just quality academics, such as a variety of extracurricular activities and counselling services.

One more key step before your child moves to a new country

Ease of banking overseas may be a top priority for international students.

“Convenience is important when it comes to banking overseas; parents may look at how easy the global money transfer process is, how friendly the banking platform is,” Qiu says.

Get your child’s bank accounts organized before they move, so there’s less worry about overseas transactions and banking in multiple currencies.

Planning a foreign education can involve a lot of detail and requires sound advice, but the result may be worthwhile.

“I think there’s the underlying piece that getting an overseas education may be, no matter what the culture, a good thing to do for your children,” says Chong.


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