Top 10 Tips for Choosing a School for your Children as an Expat in Tanzania

For most expat parents who move to Tanzania, it is almost a given that their children must attend an international school. There are, however, some parents who would disagree with this sentiment. Many public schools are just as viable, and some even more so.

Still, deciding on a school can be hard, and moving with children can be very stressful as it is. Fortunately, there are many places to find help. For example, InterNations provides information about schools in Tanzania.

But without further ado, here is a short list of 10 things you should look out for or keep in mind when evaluating schools for your children to attend in Tanzania.

1. “International” does not guarantee quality

Many parents associate the word “international” with quality. Naturally, a lot of international schools do have high standards, but this cannot be taken as a given. Schooling options at international schools can differ quite a bit from what parents expect, so be sure to evaluate schools equally whether they are called “international” or not.

You should also keep in mind that some foreign national schools are quite small, and they do not all offer the same range of classes and activities as other schools.

2. “Public” does not mean “Primitive”

Similarly, some expat parents tend to shy away from public schools under the preconception that they are “unsophisticated” or even “primitive.” This is far from the case, however. As mentioned, you should focus rather on what the school has to offer than on its name.

Besides, while parents are very well aware of what is “foreign,” children tend to be much less critical and are quicker to adjust to life abroad, including school.

3. Age

Your child’s age is also a significant factor. If they already made a lot of friends back home before your move, it can be quite hard on some kids to adapt to their new surroundings. Therefore, finding a school they would like attending is quite important. You could also get connected on InterNations to meet with other expat parents in Tanzania.

4. Language Skills

This is of course related to age. If you plan to stay in Tanzania, your child may have to (or even want to) learn Kiswahili, Swahili, or Arabic, depending on where in the country you live. At a young age, the majority of children can pick up languages without much help. Attending public school can therefore be a huge plus since the teaching will mostly take place in the local language.

When expat children reach a certain age, however, they may need help from a tutor to grasp the language. In that case, you should weigh carefully if they will be able to manage going to a school with no classes in English.

5. Length of Stay

How long you will be living in Tanzania should be a big factor in your decision. For longer stays, attending a public school or local private school could be a particularly good idea. Your child would learn a lot more about the local culture and make non-expat friends (who are less likely to suddenly have to move).

If you are constantly on the move, some type of international school may be more convenient, especially if you would prefer your child’s education to be somewhat consistent as you move from country to country. The intercultural environment at such schools could help prepare your child for an expat life.

6. Recognition of Qualifications

This one is two-fold. First and foremost, if your child has attended school back home or in another country, you should be sure to check if their qualifications are recognised at the school you are considering. Second, you should look into which type of diploma or certificate the school offers, especially if you will be moving elsewhere, and your child will have to continue their education in yet another country.

7. Range of Grades

This can seem banal, but it’s easy to assume that all schools offer a full range of grades. This is not always the case, however. A lot of unnecessary hassle can be avoided if you make sure to check that the school does in fact teach all the grades your child is going to attend while in Tanzania.

You may already know how long you will be staying in Tanzania. Sometimes, however, expat assignments are unexpectedly extended. Therefore, it could be reasonable to find a school that offers more grades than you initially expect your child to attend.

8. Tuition

Choosing a school naturally also depends on your budget. As such, tuition fees should be taken into consideration as well. Most, if not all, private and international schools charge a sizable tuition along with a range of other fees.

Public schools, on the other hand, are mostly tuition-free, so the only expenses come in relation to uniforms, school supplies and so forth. Public secondary school does require a tuition fee, but it is usually much lower than that of private schools.

9. Be thorough

Children spend a lot of their time at school, so selecting one is an important step early in your relocation process. This means that you should not rush into a decision. And this, in turn, means that you should start your research well ahead of time and be thorough to make sure you find a school your child will enjoy spending time at.

10. It’s all about them

Ultimately, your child’s well-being is what’s most important. All kids are different, and you know yours better than anyone. It can certainly be hard to figure out if they are unhappy with a particular school, with the move abroad itself, or with something else completely, but it is important to talk to them and make them feel safe and comfortable. For instance, if you believe they are old enough to express their own opinion, be sure to ask how they would feel about the schools you visit. Their opinion matters most.

By Thomas Sandbjerg (travel writer)