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Moving from one installation to another in the United States can be challenging enough; but moving with your family overseas can be even more complex. One of the most important challenges can be summed up in one question: "Where will my children go to school?"
Where do I start?
Start with MilitaryINSTALLATIONS to learn more about your new installation. In particular, read the installation's education article. All overseas installations dedicate a portion of the education article to discussing the education options available in the local community, as well as the Department of Defense schools on the installation, if available. Most overseas installations with accompanied family members have one or more Department of Defense school.
What is the difference between a Department of Defense school and an international or national school?
The Department of Defense Education Activity, or DoDEA, operates schools in 11 foreign countries, Guam and Puerto Rico. All DoDEA schools are fully accredited by U.S. accreditation agencies and maintain high academic standards with well-rounded educational programs. Visit the DoDEA website for more detailed information.
The DoDEA's student preregistration system helps streamline the registration process and allows school officials to better predict school enrollment, make more informed decisions regarding teacher and staff requirements, and prepare for special services and supplies. Parents can preregister their children by visiting the DoDEA Online Student Pre-Registration site.
The U.S. Department of State's Office of Overseas Schools works to promote quality educational opportunities for families of American citizens overseas. If a Department of Defense school is not available, visit this site to learn more about the schools in your new area.
In general, international schools are English-language schools at overseas locations. National schools are schools where courses are taught in the native language. The curriculum and grading system of an international school tends to be similar to the traditional American education system. This may be an important consideration if your family will be returning to the U.S. before a child graduates from high school.
Where can I find a list of international schools in the country where my family is moving?
You can find a directory of overseas schools on the U.S. Department of State's Schools Worldwide page. The listing includes schools that receive assistance from the U.S. Department of State, as well as other international, private, religious and public schools.
How do I decide what school is best for my child?
Although you may not have as many choices as you had in the United States, the process for choosing a school for your child is the same. You can begin by making a list of possible schools. Next, you'll want to find out more information about each school. Talk to the relocation personnel at the Military and Family Support Center and with your sponsor, who may be able to put you in touch with other families with children around the same ages as yours. You may also want to contact the school and ask for references.
Once you have narrowed down your options, you may decide you want to schedule an interview with the school or schools. Here are some considerations you may want to discuss:
Now that I have chosen a school, how do I successfully transition my child?
Start planning for a successful school transition as soon as you learn about your move. The more your child knows about what to expect, the more confident your child will feel on the first day of school. Allow your child to be a part of the decision-making process, if appropriate, and take your child's opinions into account.