12 Considerations When Choosing an International School

Choosing the right school for your child is one of the most important decisions that you can make. 

Instagram graphic that summarizes the do's and don'ts when choosing an international school

By David Tysoe // October 6, 2022

Whether you’re moving for work, looking to supercharge your children’s education or just keen to help expand their horizons, an international school education is one of the best options for students, no matter where you are in the world. 

At Tutelage, we’ve got plenty of experience in picking the right school for each student. Here  are 12 things you should be looking out for when researching, visiting and choosing an international school:


Throughout this guide, and in all our work at Tutelage Education Group, we follow one guiding principle: Is this school the right fit for the student? At the end of the day, the student will be the one spending a significant proportion of their time at whichever school you choose, and a child will never thrive in an uncomfortable environment or one in which they can’t fully be themself.

Ask yourself (and your child) what you want to get out of school.

Is it academic rigour? 

A world-class drama programme? 

Lifelong friendships? 

Is it all of the above? 

Involve your child in as much of the research and application process as possible and give them a voice in this important decision. There may be external factors that affect the final choice, and maybe they won’t get to go to their number one pick, but it is important to give them a stake in their own education and future. They will always have the best chance to thrive if they’ve had some say in where they end up.


It’s a cliché, but in international education—as in real estate—the key is location, location, location.

Once you’ve worked out the first basic question: what country are you looking at? You then need to work out if you want a city school or one in the countryside. Think about access to airports, towns, shops, amenities, and cultural activities. Consider how close the school is to areas that you’d like to live in or other family members. Is your child an avid skier or are they passionate about surfing? Make sure that you put them in an environment that will allow them to nurture these passions.

Pastoral Care

We are, fortunately, moving away from the idea that schools are just a place to prepare for your exams. Good schools care about the wellbeing of the entire student and take a holistic approach to education. 

Pastoral care is as important as anything students are doing in the classroom. Make sure you’ve spoken to the school about their provisions for student mental health and their equivalent of PSCHE lessons. Find out what kind of support systems are in place for students who are struggling emotionally or academically. 

One great thing about international schools is, as the name would suggest, they are often a melting pot of students from around the world. They can often provide an unrivalled opportunity to learn about different cultures and foster a spirit of understanding between students from different countries. Along with good pastoral care, this kind of environment can make your child into a true citizen of the world.

Academic Standards

Despite the importance of everything else we discuss, schools are still places of learning. Academic standards and integrity should be at the forefront of your mind. Make sure that you are comfortable with the level of academic rigour and the expectations that are put on the student body. Make sure you know how selective the school is, what their average class sizes are and which exam boards they use. 

It is important to understand what type of school it is. 

Is it a results driven hot-house, determined to be at the top of the league tables and defining itself by its Oxbridge and Ivy League acceptance rate? 

Is it a middling school that makes sure all students receive a well-rounded education and don’t fall behind, but may not be able to provide the challenge that exceptional students often require? 

Or is it a school for which exam results play second fiddle to other, less academic pursuits? 

Each of these schools has their place, and you need to know which one will best suit your child. 

Remember, ask your child what they would prefer. Don’t assume that just because your academically gifted elder child thrived in a certain school that it’ll be just as suitable for your musically talented middle child. Whatever you choose, always aim to find a school with well-qualified teachers, who know how to encourage and engage their students and keep them excited about learning. If possible, ask to either sit in on some lessons or have your child visit an open/taster day, so they can get a good sense of what things will be like in the classroom.

School System

International schools often have the advantage of not being constrained by their country’s education system. They are free to follow whichever curriculum they deem most suitable. As such, there is a wide range of options, many even offering more than one curriculum within the same school.

The most common are the US High School Diploma, the UK’s GCSEs/A-Level system or the International Baccalaureate. Beyond this you may encounter schools following the French Lycée, German Gymnasium, Swiss Matura or any one of a range of other systems. Deciding which one is best for your child depends on many factors, from their previous schooling, languages that they speak to where and what they might want to study after leaving school. There is no right answer, but it is important to be aware of all the different options available.

Sports & Extracurriculars

School life is more than just what goes on in the classroom. It is a time to safely explore a whole range of different interests, and maybe even discover a lifelong passion. Many good international schools will have extensive sports and extracurricular programmes. This could be as simple as offering regular team sports or having facilities such as tennis courts or swimming pools available, all the way to offering regular skiing, hiking and camping excursions or cultural enrichment trips. Good schools will also offer the option to join many different clubs and explore new interests, from debate teams and model UN, to Warhammer and model trains most schools will offer something for every student to get involved in.

Boarding vs Day

This key question is closely dependent on the location and type of school that you’re considering, but it can be an absolutely make-or-break decision. It really depends entirely on the type of environment in which your child will most likely thrive. 

Are they going to be better off with the stability and security of being close to home and sleeping in their own room? 

Or are they more independent and likely to benefit from the freedom to explore and find themselves away from home, whilst still remaining in a safe, nurturing and secure environment? 

There is no one size fits all solution, each child has different needs. However, do bear in mind that, if there is only one decision on which you are going to consult your child, it’s this one!

Graduation Rates & University Statistics

This one is fairly simple: you want to be sure that the school you select is producing well-rounded and successful graduates. Ask if you can see their graduation rates and what sort of universities (or other tertiary education programmes) their students go on to attend.

Just remember to take these stats with a pinch of salt. High graduation rates can either mean that they are very selective on who they admit into the school or that they take care of their students and make sure that they are given every chance to succeed.

When it comes to university statistics, schools don’t always need to be sending students to the most prestigious institutions, it is often a positive to see students going onto good apprenticeships and professional qualifications as well as pursuing academic interests. What is important is that you get a sense of the type of institutions that their students attend and make sure that that lines up with what your child wants for themself.


Another simple one: Does your child want a 1,000+ member student body where they get the chance to meet and befriend lots of different people, or would they be more at home in a more intimate environment where the staff have the opportunity to really get to know their students and guide them on an individual level?


Regardless of whether you’re paying yourself or if your company offers school fees as part of their benefits package, an international education can often come with a significant price tag. 

Research from the International Schools Database (who incidentally also have a great article on how to choose an international school) suggests that, in 2021, median international school fees can range from $4,000 per year up to $40,000, not to mention the elite Swiss boarding schools who charge north of $100,000 per year. In most countries there are schools that are able to fit most budgets. But it is, of course, a consideration that must be taken into account. Beyond that, don’t forget that you’ll often have to pay extra for uniforms, supplies, activities and school trips.

Prestige & Reputation

This isn’t important for everyone, but many people do want to take into account the prestige and reputation of the institution in which they are enrolling their children. The networks that students build at reputable schools can definitely help them later in life, and that is a priority that may be worth considering.

On the flipside, it’s important to make sure that you’re putting your child in the hands of a school you can trust, that doesn’t have any scandals or skeletons in its closet. So make sure that you do some research, and check with people whose opinions you value, to make sure that you’re entrusting your child’s education to a school that you feel comfortable with.

Ownership & Structure

Our final consideration is one that often goes overlooked. Is the school you’re considering part of an educational conglomerate, such as GEMS or Nord Anglia or is it an independent institution, perhaps family owned like the Insitut auf dem Rosenberg? There are distinct benefits to both types as well as to those in the middle, but it is definitely something that you want to know before making a final decision.



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