Expat families are unique. Expat students, (the infamous Third Culture Kids – TCKs) are certainly unique. But even after reading all the books that help us identify these expat characteristics – and most of it rings real and true for those of us who have ventured out for an exciting life abroad – we are still left with our belief that we are special and different.
An expat experience is profoundly personal and unique no matter how homogenous we may be. We have to believe that we have an individual story to tell, with individual needs that do not always fit the traditional moulds.
When children and education are brought into the mix, our system goes into hyper-sensitivity mode. If you were a concerned parent, already anxious about your 6-year old’s university prospects while in your home country, you become even more neurotic abroad. You can feel the anxiety rising when you are talking to X international school teacher, at Y international school, in Z country, right?
Is there an alternative when a traditional school setting doesn’t fit – an alternative somewhere between your current international school option and the prospect of home-schooling your children while abroad? More and more, parents are learning that online learning is a compelling option with lots of benefits. Consider this excerpt from one family’s story:
“When a sudden job opportunity forced [a Mid-Atlantic family to move] to a small town outside Cologne, Germany, their immediate concern was for their children. How would the two adapt to their new surroundings? Would the move interrupt the progress they were making in school?
The concerns didn’t last long. Rather than look at the move as a potential problem for her family, [Mom] embraced it as an opportunity. Not only could she continue to homeschool her children using [an online] curriculum, she could also use their time abroad to expose [them] to an entirely new culture—one other children from the United States hardly, if ever, get to experience.
They are not unlike hundreds of other families who use [online programs] overseas. Through [them], children of military families, Foreign Service families, expatriates, and others who live abroad have access to a fully accredited, individualized curriculum that aims to prepare students for the social and intellectual challenges of the 21st century.” (http://www.homeschool.com/articles/K12G/)
Since 2009, when the article quoted above first appeared, online education has continued to grow and evolve and larger numbers of students now study online while living abroad. The previous barriers that existed in many countries, where home-schooling in various forms are not allowed, are being adjusted. Time and time again, parents are taking the lead on convincing the local educational leaders how and why an online education in 2011 is much more than homeschooling.
As online learning programs developed, school administrators ensured that the curriculum and programs included opportunities for socialization, field trips, and experiential learning.
Online learning is now a balance of the individual time and pace that some students require to learn the concepts, with many opportunities to interact with other students and develop social skills. Online students participate in clubs, activities, and receive the in-person support when needed, for example when it is time to apply to college. The previous belief that online learners only interacted for many hours with a computer screen is now a myth.
So, where might the developments in online learning go next? At the International School of Berne, Switzerland, the school administrators are starting to answer this question in new and innovative ways.
The answer is ISBerne Online, a new 26-credit US High School Diploma, including Advanced Placement (AP) options, now enrolling students for January 2012. This new program, the first of its kind in Europe, links an online student anywhere in the world to the students, teachers, support services and community of an established international school.
Furthermore, ISBerne, a school celebrating 50-years of service to the local, embassy and multi-national children in Switzerland’s capital city, is developing plans for a new campus in 2014 with plans to include blended-learning spaces, a term that describes a mixture of online and traditional learning.
ISBerne has consistently graduated high-ranking students while maintaining a close-knit and personal community. It’s a very connected school where everyone knows each other’s name, and a unique contrast to the multi-campused, 1000 or more student schools in other Swiss regions.
The program can be completed online, from anywhere in the world, and in that sense it is aligned with many other online diploma options. However, this program is designed to build direct connections with the campus. ISBerne Online students will have access to the services and experience of educators who have been teaching in the international school system for years.
The program also is developing an online research program and library to support both the on-campus and online students. IT services are receiving investment and upgrades to build the digital environment required to provide the latest technology services.
Finally, the resident terms are unique as well. Through the program’s optional resident program, students enhance their program by spending up to 7-weeks on-campus building friendships, being coached along with international students from over 40 countries.
Students can improve their foreign language fluency, take cultural tourist trips, participate in sports events, and other travel. Some resident weeks have specific themes such as one linked to US, UK and European College Fairs, another during the Ski and Snowboarding term, and another during conference trips for popular academic clubs like Model United Nations.
With ISBerne Online, a student’s educational experience has all the hallmarks of online learning with the additional balance and benefits that international students have received in thousands of schools around the world. It is the first online program that takes all the individual choices you have as an online student and links them to a Swiss private school. And during the resident terms, Switzerland provides a safe, secure, environment and Berne is a spectacular setting. The 1200-year old UNESCO World Heritage City is a short train ride from the Alps above Interlaken offering unrivaled outdoor activities.
Maybe this is an opportunity for your child? Through ISBerne Online, an international school education is now accessible to students in locations where it wasn’t feasible before.
How much do you currently spend on your child’s education? An international school experience is sometimes out of reach for some students because of the tuition costs. An online program’s tuition can often fit in a family budget and comes along with more payment options.
Or maybe the international schools near you have waiting lists and a place was not available? An ISBerne Online diploma is delivered to you wherever you have an internet connection.
Or lastly, is your child getting the support, flexibility or choices you require? ISBerne Online has over 150 proven courses available, with learning coaches and support from the beginning.
For high-achieving students, ISBerne Online even offers significant partial scholarships. A top student from a strong educational system could take on the online program in parallel with his or her local schooling. And finally, a successful graduation and diploma from an international school, will open up doors that your child never knew existed before.
ISBerne Online is building cultural bridges, building understanding, making friendships across boarders, and most importantly, giving you and other expats the choices you have been waiting for.
Article sponsored by the International School of Berne