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Relocating With Children: Selecting A School

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 | By Susan Freer
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Relocating to Barbados


Relocating to a new country can be both exciting and challenging. There’s the initial thrill of exploring a new country but there’s also the anxiety of leaving friends and family for an unfamiliar location. Choosing the right home is a key decision for successfully transitioning from one country to another.

Barbados offers a wide variety of property choices – single standing dwelling houses, apartments, townhouses and condominiums. Some of these may be within planned residential neighbourhoods or gated communities. To ensure the relocation process is successful, identifying the type of home the family requires becomes essential. What types of amenities are necessary to create the ideal lifestyle? Will a pool be needed or a large, beautiful garden? Having a great understanding of these needs makes the home search process less time-consuming. Many websites feature properties available for rent on the island and these should be used for research prior to planning a home search trip.

When children are also relocating, choosing the right school is another important decision for the relocating family. A preview visit of the island’s schools, understanding the differences in the education system and an appreciation of the application process work together to make the education decision a success. It is highly recommended that assignees relocating with children be given the opportunity to visit the island on a preview trip arranged a minimum of six to eight weeks prior to the actual relocation. Ideally, the time should be planned to correspond with a time that school is still in session on the island. The primary reason for this preview trip would be to tour the school, meet staff and start the application process.

Children are expected to start primary school by the age of 4 years but prior to this age, the assignee will find a number of nurseries and pre-schools on the island for the younger children. The decision on a nursery or pre-school is more of a personal and emotional choice and these schools, aware of this factor, allow parents to visit and spend time
in the environment before making their final decision. In addition, some primary schools offer a kindergarten class allowing children to start school at the age of 3 years.

The education system in Barbados is based on the British system. There are three main levels: Primary, Secondary and the Tertiary. For the children relocating from the UK, the system is familiar. For the children relocating from North America, the differences are readily apparent. In the primary and early secondary levels, the differences are minor enough to allow an easy transition into the Barbados system. Children will find the study material covered very similar to what they would do in their home country. What may vary are the
teaching methods and the testing standards.

The major difference comes at our 4th form (14 to 15 years of age) where children enter into a twoyear program which cumulates in examinations of each subject studied. The examining body is the Caribbean Examinations Council and the exams are familiarly known as the CXCs. The number of CXCs and the marks achieved are the determining factors for entering into the tertiary level of the system. For the relocating 15 to 16 year old child, entering into the Barbados education system can pose some difficulties. These students would have already missed one year of the 2-year CXC program and without the CXC results, they are unable to proceed into the tertiary level of the
education process.

The tertiary level of the system is not mandatory but there is a 6th form offered by some of the public/government secondary schools. Like the CXCs it consists of a 2-year program offered by the Caribbean Examination Council culminating in examinations familiarly known as CAPEs. The results of these examinations are then used for entry into both the regional and overseas university. Some children may opt to do their CAPE studies at the Community College which offers, in addition, Associate Degree Programs, Bachelor Degree
Programs and Non-Associate Degree Programs.

There are a number of public schools in Barbados at each level of the education system. The number of private schools is much fewer. Most of the private schools operate at the primary level and this can translate into a higher possibility of assignees being offered placements at the school of their first choice. The secondary level has a fewer number of private schools and the choices therefore become fewer. At the tertiary level, there are no private schools at this time. The island does have an international school on the east coast that does not follow the Barbados system but offers the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. As an international school, the program allows for easier assimilation for relocating and repatriating children.

The procedure for entrance into the public school is very time sensitive and time consuming. All applications have to go through the Ministry of Education and the children are required to take an assessment test. The Ministry will then assign the children to a public/government school based on space availability and the children’s test results. The time line to get all this done can be significant and will vary if done when schools are in progress or during school holidays. Private schools are much more autonomous. The application is made to the school and the principal makes the decision to accept the children or not. Student Visas need to be secured in all cases.

We cannot underscore the significance of choosing the right school. Children not settled satisfactorily into a school – both academically and socially – present a myriad of challenges for a family and threaten the relocation. An early visit to the island, familiarisation of the education differences from the country of origin and managing the application process will ensure a smoother and less stressful transition into the Barbadian education experience.

Susan Freer
Senior Director of Client Services
Corporate Relocation Details Inc.

Extracted from: The Red Book 2012 - The Pink Pages ... Page 111

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