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Advantages and disadvantages of studying in an international school

What are the main advantages and disadvantages of studying in international schools?

International schools are gaining more and more popularity. Parents and children are attracted by their interesting curricula adapted to the requirements of an increasingly globalized society. The multicultural environment is conducive to developing tolerance and expanding knowledge about other cultures, as well as to shaping soft skills, which are extremely valuable in the modern labour market.  continue reading...

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International schools operate in many places in Poland: in Warsaw, Wrocław, Kraków, Poznań, and many other cities.

An international school and a bilingual school

The interest in private education in Poland is constantly growing, and the number of private schools is growing along with it. The offer for parents and children is very broad and covers different stages of education. So you can take advantage of private preschools, elementary schools, and high schools. When choosing a private school, however, you need to pay attention to whether it’s an international or a bilingual school. And, what's the difference between them?

In bilingual schools, as the name suggests, classes are conducted in two languages—Polish and a selected foreign one, usually English—but the Polish core curriculum is used, extended only by elements of foreign programs. In international schools, on the other hand, not only lessons are conducted in a foreign language, but teaching is also based on the foreign curriculum. This means that when attending an international British, French, or American school, a student will be exposed to education based on the guidelines developed by the ministries of education (or their equivalents) from these countries.

However, Polish education law obliges all international schools to teach the basics of the Polish language to students from other countries, and offer courses in Polish geography and history to Polish citizens.

Polish law talks only about international classes, not entire schools. Such classes can be established in both public and private schools. Therefore, the name “international school” can be given to those institutions in which all classes are international (i.e., they use foreign curricula).

It’s worth noting that, in fact, many international schools combine curricula from different countries, including Poland. So they often function as bilingual schools with international classes.

Who are international schools for?

International schools are aimed at a wide audience. They’re often attended by kids from other countries who are currently in Poland. The possibility of learning in their native language and according to their native country curriculum allows them to continue their education without losing a year or having to make up for program differences. This option is often used by children of foreigners, employees of international companies and diplomats, i.e., people who, for professional or personal reasons, live and work in Poland.

However, international schools are also attractive to Polish students, especially the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme or when teaching follows a foreign curriculum, at the same time using the Polish core curriculum.

Advantages of international schools

Education in international schools undoubtedly has many advantages. Its strength is not only the implementation of curricula which are better adapted to the requirements of the modern labour market and globalized society, but also the multicultural environment. Below, we list the most important advantages of studying in international schools.

1. International curricula

As we mentioned earlier, international schools offer education that’s in line with foreign education curricula. However, many of them combine elements of more than one system, e.g., a curriculum based on the Polish core enriched with elements of British, American and other systems. Such curricula are often much better suited to the requirements of the global labour market.

A particularly interesting option is the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme, which prepares children for the international diploma. Its goal is comprehensive education focused not only on expanding knowledge and skills (both academic and "soft"—communication or social), but also on the development of one’s personality and shaping the attitudes of tolerance, understanding, and responsibility.

There are also private secondary schools in Poland offering Advanced Placement (AP) courses. These courses were created by the College Board—an American association of numerous universities and schools in the US, which also administer the SAT exam. The AP program is aimed at imparting specific knowledge. There are 38 subjects to choose from, including art history, biology, chemistry, psychology, music theory, and more. It’s an ideal choice for those students who want to gain in-depth knowledge in a specific field. Another great advantage is that some AP courses are recognized by prestigious universities in the United States and Canada (including Harvard and Stanford). Thanks to this, you can significantly reduce costs and shorten your study time. AP exams also facilitate admission to these countries.

2. Learning languages

As classes in international schools are conducted in a foreign language (usually English), they provide extraordinary opportunities for the development of language skills. These schools also offer a wide range of additional language classes: French, German, and Spanish, but also languages less popular in Poland, e.g., Japanese. Language skills are confirmed with appropriate certificates respected all over the world, which is a big asset on the labour market.

Both public and private schools with international classes are also obliged to teach Polish. This gives foreigners the opportunity to expand their communication skills, get to know the culture deeper, and adapt to Polish society. It also guarantees that children from Poland who attend the international class or school won’t be behind in learning their native language, as well as Polish geography and history, because these classes are compulsory for them.

3. Own grading system

International schools use not only foreign curricula, but also assessment systems used in other countries. They’re often more motivating and less stressful for children and adolescents than the classic system (grade scale from 1 to 6) used in Poland. It should be remembered that in primary schools, including international ones, kids are required to take the Polish Grade 8 exam.

4. International environment

One of the greatest advantages of studying in an international school is its multicultural environment. Students get to know other cultures. Thanks to this, they develop the ability to cooperate with people who have different characteristics, customs and cultural norms. They also learn tolerance, mutual respect, empathy, and understanding of others—their behaviours, motivations, aspirations, and values. Such an environment helps to shape the citizens of the world, who will easily feel comfortable anywhere.

5. Greater opportunities in the labour market

Graduating from an international school increases opportunities in the global labour market. This is especially true of the International Baccalaureate Programme, highly regarded around the world. The IB diploma is recognized by most foreign universities and employers view it very favourably.

A diploma from an international school allows a graduate to stand out and testifies to a high level of knowledge and competence, which gives the diploma holder a significant advantage over graduates of ordinary schools.

6. A wide range of extracurricular activities

International schools are not only about interesting, international academic programs. They also offer a wide variety of extracurricular activities, which include foreign language lessons, sports, and artistic activities, such as music, art, dance, and photography.

A large selection of these activities allows the student to develop their interests, shape their curiosity of the world, and teaches them to be systematic in acquiring skills and achieving goals. Thanks to this, an international school student has the opportunity to acquire general and professional knowledge, as well as to develop socially and emotionally .

Disadvantages of international schools

Private schools with international classes undeniably have many advantages. However, there are some “minuses.”

The main downside is cost. The average tuition fee at this type of school in Poland is PLN 2,000 per month, and the best schools can cost up to PLN 60,000 per year. For this reason, education in an international school may be hard to afford to some families.

The second problem is the risk of a certain alienation of the child. It results from the fact that in the minds of many Poles, private schools are associated with a kind of elitism (which for some, may be an advantage, not a disadvantage). Children attending such schools may be perceived by their peers as belonging to the upper social class, which may (but does not have to) lead to some alienation and rejection of the child by their peers outside their school.

Advantages and disadvantages of international schools: the final evaluation

When we look at the list of advantages and disadvantages of studying in international schools, it clearly tilts in their favour. High-level education, global standards, and a rich cultural environment give young people a significant advantage in the labour market. Curricula focused on the overall development of a student, including not only knowledge and academic skills, but also soft skills and personality, help to educate mature and responsible citizens. Graduates of these schools easily find their place in the modern world, where the ability to cooperate and develop communication skills and practical knowledge are highly valued.

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