International Schools in Cambodia: Expat Advice

Feb. 16, 2017, 12:05 p.m.

international schools in cambodia Cambodia, despite a turbulent modern history, is now respected as one of the most dynamic emerging markets in Southeast Asia. Along with this improvement in its economic stability, many expats who have families and children are also moving into properties in the country.

Fortunately for them, the heightened sense of economic importance has also paved the way for the education sector to restructure and enforce new standards of quality. According to the World Bank’s census, the rate for net admission for primary school rose from 81 percent to 95.3 percent in 2014 in Cambodia. But higher education and universities in Cambodia aren’t so far behind in growth either, having thousands of people graduating each year from over 162 institutions.

However, expatriates – just like in any other country – should still be careful to consider different factors before enrolling their children in any school. So, here are a few things you might want to consider first before choosing which place to send your kids.

Location:

There are plenty of international schools in Cambodia, but international schools in Cambodia are more focused on the Phnom Penh area because this is where a large concentration of expatriates are located. But there are also a couple of international schools in other parts of the country that you can take a look at if you’re establishing your temporary home outside the capital, such as the International School of Siem Reap and the Ecole Française de Sihanoukville. It’s important to choose the right school with an accessible location so that children will find it convenient to come to and from your home, given that Phnom Penh can experiences some serious congestion around peak travel times. It also helps in terms of attending school gatherings where parents are required to go.

Future-proofing:

It’s important to note that public schooling in Cambodia is not something that’s offered to expat students. This is why you’ll see most of expat children going to international schools. But before choosing International schools in Cambodia, you may have to carefully plan out the next few months or years of your life first. It would be helpful to know whether or not you’ll be staying for long and where you’ll be moving to in the near future, because different schools will offer varying curriculums. Some of them might not be accepted in other countries you plan on calling your next home. So, if your family is thinking of moving to Canada or a place with a similar educational system, the Canadian International School has adopted the Canadian K-9 Curriculum in English which is approved and regulated by the province of Alberta to make sure that the school maintains the quality that is consistent to the education given in Canada. Northbridge International School, iCAN British International School and the International School of Phnom Penh (ISPP) are some other Phnom Penh institutions that import international standards of teaching and offer universally accredited qualifications. By ensuring that your child undergoes a curriculum that is compatible with the next country you’ll be travelling to, you’ll make transitions much easier and you’ll also avoid getting into complications such as repeating grade levels. This is also applicable for expatriate secondary students who are thinking of attending universities around the world.

Qualifications and Credentials:

Some institutions will claim international status but will not have the resources and facilities to prove it. So, taking your time and asking officials from schools should be a vital part in your decision-making process. This way, you can see the facilities and safety standards and also interview them about the experience and background of their teachers. Because international schools in Cambodia are mostly home to children of different cultures, one thing you can look for is a school that has teachers with the necessary experience to lead a multicultural class. On top of checking the school’s physical infrastructure, do a bit of online research and see if the school’s been accredited by any international regulating bodies. An example would be the Northbridge International School which has the Western Association of Schools and Colleges international accreditation.

Skills Training:

The iCAN British International School is one of the more popular international schools in Cambodia as well because it offers something that’s also essential for children’s growth. More than the academic aspect, they also focus on integrating skills development through their Early Years and Foundation Stage program where students are able to enhance their skills inside and outside their classrooms. Expatriates will find this as an attractive quality because it offers their children something to do while they’re in another country. At this point, they not only develop skills but also friends that will have the same interests as them. Cost: Cost is a vague topic with international schools in Cambodia as tuition fees for different institutions differ widely. Application fees, enrollment fees and capital fees may also vary. These can be attributed to many factors such as facilities, curriculum, miscellaneous charges, quality of education and the competence of its staff. There are schools out there such as Footprints International School which offers great quality but inexpensive schooling for expatriate students up until the 10th grade but may have a different curriculum than what your children may need. So, while institutions that charge more may give you the best education and curriculum, it is important to note that there are inexpensive alternatives that you can consider as well. However, for universally accredited schools you can expect yearly tuition fees anywhere from $5000 per year, up to $30,000.

Requirements and Inclusions:

In terms of cost, it’s also important to check out what you get in return for the tuition you pay. Some schools offer just the facilities but not resources like textbooks, while others may offer resources but not facilities such as a computer laboratory. A good example would be the International School of Phnom Penh (ISPP) which has a “Bring Your Own MacBook” policy which requires students in the 6th to 11th grade to have their own MacBook. Since “ISPP is a non-profit parent-owned association and relies almost completely on fee income to assure sufficient resources for the school's operation,” there are certain expenses that parents would have to shoulder. These are just a few basic things you need to look at during your decision-making process, but there are other things you can add to the mix to help you narrow the list down even further. Take your time, and make sure you choose the best school for your children’s needs.

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