Are boarding schools the answer to the issue of constantly relocating expatriate children?

Are boarding schools the answer to the issue of constantly relocating expatriate children? There is an up side and a down side to most things, and the benefits and challenges for the families whose children undertake an international school education are much the same.

The opportunity to experience other cultures, be surrounded by fellow students from around the world and be exposed to experiences that they would never have in their home countries are all invaluable elements of an international education.

However, the sometimes transient life of expatriate families can provide hurdles that need to be overcome. The decision to relocate a family’s primary income earner is as likely to be made in a distant corporate head office as it is around the family kitchen table.

The forming and then uprooting of friendships and changes in familiar surrounds are probably some of the more significant challenges faced by children in international schools. This is the case even if the move is only from one Southeast Asian country to another. It is simply the trade-off for the wealth of experience on offer in new countries and cultures.

While not yet available in Vietnam, the option of international boarding schools does exist in nearby countries. This is an option many expatriate families who have relocated multiple times within the region are increasingly looking at.

Marlborough College is a British boarding and day school located on the southern tip of Malaysia, 10 minutes from the border with Singapore. It is the international campus of the college of the same name based in Wiltshire, England. Since opening its doors in August 2012, it has seen a steady increase in the number of boarding students.

The number of pupils boarding at MCM has grown threefold from 46 in 2012, to 139 this year. The majority of the pupils are from Malaysia and Singapore although the school also has children boarding from other countries including Vietnam, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Master of Marlborough College Malaysia, Robert Pick said students flourished very quickly in the boarding environment and formed close bonds and friendships.

“The immersive experience of boarding allows pupils to develop, in a highly-supportive environment, the social skills, maturity and judgment that will stand them in very good stead for the rest of their lives,” he said.

“The school is divided into five boarding houses that are staffed by teams of adults who work to sustain and uphold the health and happiness of young people in their care. Housemasters and Housemistresses are supported by Resident Tutors and Tutors and each pupil meets regularly with a Personal Tutor who provides age-specific guidance,” Pick said.

Extracurricular activities conducted at schools such as Marlborough College provide pupils with the opportunity to learn skills and gain experience in subjects outside of those timetabled. Whether the programmes are arts, drama, dance, music or sports based, these activities combined with the social occasions and weekend excursions to the theatre, cinema, sporting and musical events make for a varied and interesting campus life.

The well-serviced and affordable flights between major cities in the region, the continuity of the schooling experience offered by these kinds of institutions seems set to gain in appeal for mobile professional families.

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