Kathleen Ngkaion, Admissions Officer at Jakarta Intercultural School, offers her professional and personal insights into what parents can look for when looking for the “perfect” learning environment.
More parents are recognizing the benefits of global education, and with the proliferation of international schools around the world over the past decade, they now have more options than ever. This greater variety of opportunities and possibilities turns into a paradox of choice, however, leaving families confused and frustrated about what to look for when choosing the right international learning environment for their children.
As a long-time traveling expat, mother of four third-culture children, and now admissions officer at Jakarta Intercultural School (JIS), Kathleen Ngkaion knows very well the struggles and anxiety that parents go through in their search for this so-called “perfectschool. She recently spoke on the JIS podcast to give families some insider tips on what to look for before making their final decision.
According to business information firm ISC Research, the number of international schools worldwide has grown from 7,655 in 2011 to 12,373 in 2021, representing a remarkable 62% increase in just one decade. Nearly 200 are in Indonesia, Ngkaion added, and of that, more than 60% are located in Jakarta,”so that’s a lot of options!”
“There was a time when choosing schools was easy, and for some families it’s still easy; maybe you come from a small town where going to school was a heritage, like maybe your parents went there; or maybe it’s geography and there’s no other school in that area,” she said. “But now we live in a much more complex world and there are so many different schools to choose from, so thinking about schools can be very overwhelming for parents.”
These complexities – in an increasingly demanding, as well as digitally connected and competitive world – are forcing parents, locals and expats alike, to look to schools that use English as the primary language of instruction and offer learning programs. globalized studies, such as the Cambridge IGCSE, Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB). According to Ngkaion, around 80% of students who attend international schools around the world are local, meaning they were born and raised in that country.
“This is a complete change from international schools [of] many, many years ago. There’s this desire to be globally competitive, and that comes with language exposure to different cultures, learning to work with different cultures,Ngkaion explained. “Parents see international schools as an ideal ground to raise children who will be competitive in college education and careers, so it has become highly desirable for parents to send their children to international schools.”
Like any decision-making process, finding a school will start with research. And with the World Wide Web literally at your fingertips, the first places to look would be the official school website and social media accounts. What subjects, extracurricular activities and facilities does the school offer? What are the core values of the school? Do they align with your own values and priorities as a family? Where does the school get its accreditation? Here are some questions parents can ask themselves in their online research.
Once they’ve narrowed down their list of potential candidates, parents will have to see the schools for themselves – comparing the real thing with the glossy, edited images kept online.
“It’s very important that you go straight to the source, so go straight to the school. If a school interests you, make an appointment […] so you can hear them first hand and get a sense of what the school is like,” Ngkaion suggested. “Even if you have an education agent already giving you information or maybe your business [human resources department] helps you in your search, it is very important that you connect directly with a school.”
Of course, with many schools in Jakarta – and around the world – still participating in online learning or just starting to reopen under a hybrid study method, it can be difficult to access their campuses. In this case, virtual open houses are a great opportunity for families to get to know a school and its administrators. But don’t just listen to their explanations of how many subjects they offer or how many hours of math and science students get, Ngkaion warned.
“Really listen to what administrators, principals, and teachers are saying about their teaching and learning practices, their philosophy of teaching, and why the kids in their school are learning the way they do,” said she declared. “Listen to these beliefs and philosophies and see if they match your expectations. You can get information about the program and schedule through printed materials, but the interaction [with educators] and hear them talk about what they’re doing – something magical happens.
Ultimately, when choosing an international school, she urged parents to think about what is best for their children, including their passions, what they are good at, what brings out the best in them. themselves, as well as the whole family.
“At the same time, they should also think about what their family needs and what their family wants […] because the school becomes your community. Think about the philosophy of the school, the people you meet. Do parents share your values and what is important to you? Ngkaion said.
“The perfect school does not exist, but with a lot of research and a little time, you will find a school that is perfect for your child and your family.