Since 2015, Shaun Williams has been Managing Director for Nord Anglia Education schools in Southeast Asia. With over 35 years’ experience as a teacher, principal and CEO – as well as being a father of three – Shaun outlines five things all expats should look for in a good international school.
- A clear sense of purpose is a hallmark of a great international school. A school with purpose nurtures that same quality in its students; the children develop a personal sense of direction and also a wish to see their classmates do well, too. So, when you meet teachers on your next school tour, see if the staff can articulate their ambition for the children in their care.
All international schools claim to hire high-quality staff, and the best schools certainly attract the best teachers available. But schools are like any other organisation: they need to nurture their staff if they truly want to bring the best out of them. Don’t be afraid to ask what programmes a school has in place to help the teachers to refine and improve their teaching practice on the job.
Good schools don’t follow education fads; they think ahead and develop meaningful and sustainable approaches to educating young people. That includes partnerships with organisations that can offer genuine value to children’s education, like Nord Anglia’s collaborations with The Juilliard School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). So don’t just be impressed by talk of ‘innovation’, ask what that means in practice.
Talk is cheap, great facilities are not: Is there evidence that the school is delivering promised improvements or is there more than a hint of wishful thinking about its development plans? And be sure to test their thinking: ask how the layout and quality of facilities will improve how students learn.
Look out for the level and nature of engagement between students and teachers. Are the students asking questions, demonstrating intellectual curiosity and a willingness to question respectfully what they are being taught? These are all vital skills and a good school will be cultivating them.