The quality and variety of schools in a particular country or region is an important consideration for families with school-age children. Education standards vary considerably from country to country and even from school to school. There are good private and international (usually English-language) schools in most of the world's major cities, particularly in western countries, although the standard of state-funded education may leave something to be desired, particularly in run-down neighbourhoods. Education is compulsory in many countries between the ages of around 5 and 16, although students are often encouraged to remain at school until the age of 18 and go on to university.
State education (from nursery to secondary school) is usually free, although parents may be required to pay for certain items such as text books, writing materials, art supplies, musical instruments and sports equipment. Many schools have a school uniform, which may be compulsory (particularly in private schools) and expensive. Schools may provide a canteen or restaurant, although this is rare in most countries, and transport to and from school may also be provided (there's usually a fee for these services). University (tertiary) education may be free or subsidised for residents, while non-resident students may have to pay hefty fees, which may include education in your home country if you become a non-resident. Some countries provide grants or loans for university students, which are repaid out of future income.
State schools in most countries are co?educational (mixed) day schools, although some may accept boarders, particularly secondary schools in countries where students must travel long distances to school. In many countries, private schools usually include both day and boarding schools, and are mostly single?sex, although this is changing in some countries. Admission to a state school for foreign children is usually dependent on the type and duration of the residence permit granted to their parents.
Note that in any country, your choice of state and private schools will vary considerably depending on where you live.
Their children's education is one of the most important decisions facing families when considering a move abroad. The choice of school and education regime should only be made after consideration of all the options and obtaining independent expert advice. You should think long-term and consider your child's interests, particularly regarding their education when your period abroad ends and you return home. Note that if your child has any special education needs, particularly concerning learning difficulties, you should seriously consider whether relocation is in the family's best interests, as it's extremely unlikely that you'll find the right sort of help and support abroad. Any help you find will probably be limited, particularly if you move to a country where lessons will be conducted in a foreign language (other than your child's mother tongue).
Another important decision facing parents abroad is whether to send their children to a state or private school. In some countries, state schools are the equal of the best private schools (some are better), while in others, particularly in neglected inner city areas, they lack resources and may achieve poor results. However, in some countries, many parents prefer to send their children to a private school, even when this involves considerable financial sacrifice. In most countries, there's no legal obligation for parents to educate their children at school and they may educate them themselves or employ private tutors. Parents educating their children at home don't usually require a teaching qualification, although they must satisfy the education authorities that a child is receiving full?time education appropriate for his or her age, abilities and aptitude (they will check and may test your child).
Further information is available in our Living and Working series of books.