Expat children: mother tongue or local language school?

Being able to use different languages and thus to communicate with people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds is one of the many fascinating aspects of the expat life.
Most definitely enjoyable if seen from an adultand’s viewpoint but a rather daunting task for our children!
In this context, when the time has come for our youngsters to start attending school or to continue their education, a very important decision has to be made.
Technically speaking, everything is possible. You can enroll your kids at a nearby public school where Turkish is the primary language of instruction. Or, you can opt for a school where English or another foreign language is taught and used during most classes. And there is a third alternative: a school where two or even three languages are offered in similar numbers of teaching hours.
Expat parents must not only carefully evaluate their childrenand’s needs, but at the same time check their bank balance. The first option is of course the most affordable, whereas the other two carry a hefty price tag: Away from the bigger cities, the amount you would need to allocate can vary between TL 10,000 and TL 15,000, whilst in a metropolis such as Ankara or Istanbul, it is not uncommon to invest in the region of TL 25,000 or even TL 35,000.
Question time! First, does your son or daughter already speak more than one language — think a bi-national and bi-lingual family?
Second, for how long do you plan to stay in a particular country are you in for the long run or abroad for only one or two years?
Third, is your financial situation solid enough to spend a serious amount of money, not just for one year, but for longer?
Fourth, what about the logistics such as the distance from your workplace or home? Is there a service bus? Is the school a half-day or full-day establishment?
Fifth, consider the general structural appearance of the school, the cleanliness and the restrooms. Is there a sit-down meal option? Or, if not, a hot snack shop? Is there an adequate library?
And there is, of course, a sixth aspect — the persons we entrust our children to, that is, the teachers. Personally speaking, I have had very positive experiences with a public school, as I found the class teacher highly motivated and caring. As our daughter was already used to speaking both Turkish and English, the fact that most classes were taught in the former did not pose any obstacle, either.
Nevertheless, assuming one day in her future she will move to a country where another language is spoken more widely, we had to find a balance between her expected linguistic ability and our more modest family budget circumstances. Eventually, we located a school where over one-third of lessons are given in English, plus, she could begin studying French as well, with just over half of all classes being offered in Turkish. And, although it is at the lower end of the fee-paying scale, quality is not compromised.
A last observation, though: The one thing that surprised me, regardless of whether the school is public or private, was the fact that the involvement of parents in how the school is run was rather limited. I had previously been used to strong input from the elected parentsand’ committee but, figuratively speaking, was unable to throw my hat into the ring over here.
In a nutshell: there is abundant choice and, as I wrote above, going public does not mean lesser quality, and going private does not have to break the bank. What is necessary is sufficient time to find what suits your children and yourself best.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman