Whether you are at home or abroad, choosing the right school is always an important decision for you and your family. These days our futures depend on it more than ever. So, now that you are living in the United States, how can you decide without knowing your options?

In any new context, be prepared for change. You will be experiencing new ways of thinking as you learn how things get done in the USA. It’s not uncommon for newcomers to discover that their child may be up to two years ahead of an American counterpart.

The American school system is child-centered. It’s a model that values what the child thinks rather than the instructor. Your education may have placed an extraordinary value on “Learning” where teachers are highly respected (and well paid). Perhaps yours was rote-based that felt more vertical. In this type of system, there’s a greater power distance between the learner and instructor. Titles and age are also of consequence. Your child may also be comfortable with strict discipline standards.

As you make your way through American public schools, you will begin to see that it values equality. This makes it flat, democratic and participatory. Traditionally, the learner is empowered to be independent and choose what’s important. Student creativity and initiative are important. This model is changing, based on the new Common Core Standards and it is projected that American student academic performance will improve significantly because it will be more rigorous and evidence based.

While the child-centered learning model was advantageous in certain areas, the drawbacks have taken their toll on our national output. Innovation aside, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) study determined that American students scored lower compared to their global counterparts (34 other industrialized member countries including Japan, Germany, the Republic of Korea, and the United Kingdom) since the initial surveys were conducted in 2000.

About the Author

Lisa La Valle-Finan leads Cultural Adaptation Support at Globiana. She is  a highly sought-after global expatriate lifecycle consultant, author, and speaker with nearly 25 years of international living experience. She’s sought for her ability to smooth global transitions for executives and their families through “deep culture” workshops. Her industry expertise ranges from publishing and media, to luxury goods, consumer, healthcare, non-profit, and travel.