Choosing Between International and Public Schools in Asia


Choosing the right school for your child/children is a crucial decision to make at any time, let alone whenmovingacross the world. The first and most important choice will be whether to send your precocious offspring to a public school oran international school.

The cost of education will undoubtedly come into the equation, given that public schools are much cheaper and sometimes free, whileinternational schools charge a considerable fee.

Are the fees worth it, you wonder?

Let’s take a look…

What’s the main difference between public and international schools in Asia?

While Asian public schools receive government funding, international schools are funded through student fees. Usually, the latter are owned either by a foreign individual or company.

Now,stating that international schools have better teachers because they can offer higher salaries is incredibly simplistic. Generally, in Asia, we’re talking about two school types that offertwodrastically different education models.

  1. International Schools offer Western-style education, Public Schools offer Asian-style education

The foreign connection of international schools means everything about their teaching methods and curriculum is styled on the Western-style model. The familiarity of an international school is the main enticement for foreign parents and, a close second is the fact that curriculums are truly global. This Shanghai international school, for example, offers an IB education continuum that’s available in over 150 countries worldwide.

In contrast, many Asian public schools follow their respective government-mandated curriculums. Some expat families, usually with one or both local parents, feel comfortable with the local schooling system because they’remore familiar with it. They can help their children with theirhomeworkin the local languageand are able to supplement their kids’ education in areas where they feel the public system runs a little short.

  • International Schools Tend to Have Better Facilities

Public schools in Asia take their public education system seriously, and schools do a fantastic (and world-class) job of teaching some subjects, like mathematics. But in countries with some of the largest and most densely populations on the planet, there’s only so much funding to go around, and many public schools do miss out on ‘extras’.

In stark contrast, partly due to their high student fees, international schools can often pour much more money back into the school. This means more and better teaching equipment, state-of-the-art technology, world-class gyms, fantastic science labs, beautiful campuses,and generally more space per student.

  • International Schools Generally Have Smaller Class Sizes

It’s not unusual for public schools to hold classes for 30 and even 40 students, which greatly restricts the chance for any personal guidance. International schools, on the other hand, are revered for offering a much better student-teacher ratio. Classes in international schools usually only have between 14 and 18 students.

Smaller classes allow each student to learn, participate, and shine through, and this is something that international classes prioritize.

  • International schools can afford to hire more qualified teachers

Let’s be clear: public school teachers are not ‘bad’ in any way,but they are usually less qualified and experienced than their counterparts in international schools. Teachers in international schools tend to be held to the same, and often higher, standards as teachers in Western countries. Much of the time, this means that a degree, followed by a postgraduate degree in education is the minimum requirement for teaching jobs in international schools.

Given all the extra funding, international schools can not only afford to hire more teachers, but they can also afford to hire better teachers. International school jobs are some of the most sought-after teaching positions in Asia because they are also among the best paid. Jobs are notoriously difficult to get and are exceptionally competitive. This means only the cream of the crop is successful in gaining employment.

  • Public Schools are stricter and more disciplined, International Schools inspire free and independent thinking

Several reasons compel expat parents to send their children to a local, public, Asian school. Aside from the lack of schooling fees, somemay want their children to be exceptionally fluent in the local language(which they’ll have to be). Moreover, if one parent is local, they may also wantstricter discipline to be instilled in their child.

Both reasons are quite valid, of course, yet they won’t necessarily suit every international student. International schools tend to be better at encouraging independent thinking and learning. They may not be as ‘regimented’ as public schools, but most expats don’t necessarily see that as a negative.


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