Do your homework before you send your child abroad

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 June, 2006, 12:00am

Choosing schools overseas is more difficult than the already demanding task of selecting the best local options. Many parents rely on agents' recommendations and are unlikely to get a chance to visit all the schools they are considering in person. It is vital to check out as much information as possible about your short-listed schools. This should include:

Its academic performance. Information may be available in published league tables. Often it is lower-ranking schools that are most aggressive in recruiting overseas students.

Its location. If it is a state school, what type of population does it serve? Make sure this tallies with your expectations.

The pastoral support it offers, in particular for its international students.

Is there adequate support for English as a second language, if needed?

Does the school have an international outlook and celebrate cultural diversity? Is this its key motivation for seeking overseas students? This is so with some schools, but not all. An old-fashioned cultural arrogance exists among the more traditional.

Alongside English-medium education, are there any opportunities for students to continue developing their mother-tongue language, which is important for when they return home? In some Australian and UK schools, for instance, there is strong interest in Chinese culture and language.

How many of the school's students are local and how many international? If there are too many from Hong Kong there is a risk your child will mix mainly with Chinese-speakers and not learn enough English.

Look for signs in the staff that they will genuinely care for your child and that the school is not only after fees. If the principal or other staff visit Hong Kong, meet them and note how they interact with your child, other parents and alumni.