The innovators are offering expats more affordable schools

A few years ago, competition for places in Dubai’s best international schools was so intense that British expat Jemma Schilbach felt she had to get her two children on the waiting lists for her preferred schools before they were even out of nappies.
Work ended up taking the family away from Dubai for a couple of years. When they returned in 2014, they were relieved to discover there were plenty more schools to choose from, but there was another issue: cost.
Both Schilbach and her husband, who’d previously worked in jobs where companies paid for children’s schooling, were now self-employed, and would need to pay for their children’s education themselves.
Schilbach, 43, who now runs expat community website, enrolled both her children at Foremarke Dubai, which is affiliated with the UK independent school Repton.
She was impressed with the small class sizes and Foremarke’s reputation, but with tuition fees there starting at 65,000 AED ($18,000) a year, it meant the family had to be more careful about spending to ensure they had the money to send their children, aged five and seven, to the school.
“We economise on other costs during the year,” says Schilbach, adding that ordering some household items from the UK and closely watching what the family spends on weekends have helped to save pennies. “In our opinion, the money is better spent on educating our children to a high standard.”

No more bells and whistles

As expatriate contracts change and people accept more flexible benefits, move onto localised employment packages or decide to find their own jobs overseas, finding the money needed for education is a growing challenge for families living abroad. In Dubai, for example, falling oil prices have led to many employers cutting the salaries and benefits packages they are willing to offer their expat staff. It leaves many expats no option but to pay for their children’s schooling themselves, partially or in full.

The cost of education is among the most popular topics of discussion on BritishMums. “It’s an employer’s market,” says Schilbach, who founded the site in 2012. “The old-time expat contracts are few and far between these days.”
This month, in a survey by HSBC involving nearly 8,000 expat parents, 62% said it was more expensive to raise a family overseas than at home. Some 58% mentioned that the cost of childcare, in particular, was more expensive.
A separate survey by Singapore-based advisory service, which covered 98 countries and 707 international schools, found fees rose 3.43% last year compared with the year before.
The most expensive schools for international education were in China – median fees for children aged 11-12 came in at $36,400 a year – followed by Switzerland ($28,300) and Belgium ($27,800), according to the survey. But international education in Britain, Hong Kong, the US, Singapore and Australia also cost more than $20,000 a year. Schools may also charge extra for uniforms, examinations, extra-curricular activities and even books.

“Schooling has become very expensive over the years,” says Sébastien Deschamps, ExpatFinder’s chief executive and founder. “That’s a challenge not only for the expatriate, but also for HR professionals because they still need to attract foreign talent and find ways to keep them.” He advises parents moving abroad to engage a local specialist and thoroughly research full education costs before agreeing benefits with their employer.

Alternative options

The competition has intensified as international schools are pitched more and more at local families looking to give their children an English-language education set to an international curriculum. That demand, along with the soaring fees, has led many expatriate parents to explore options beyond the traditional – and usually expensive – international schools.
Depending on language and local laws some may be able to send their children to state schools within the country where they’re working. Other possibilities include home-schooling, boarding in their home country or taking short-term or commuter deployments so their children don’t have to move at all.
Mostly, however, families are looking towards more affordable schools.

Emma McHugh, a 39-year-old mother of three and Schilbach’s co-founder at BritishMums, is in the process of returning to Dubai from Abu Dhabi. Her children will start at Safa Community School in September, where tuition fees start at 47,000 AED ($12,800).
While her choice wasn’t all about the cost – Emma felt the school had the feel of a typical UK primary with an emphasis on nurturing and care – discounts for siblings, parental referrals and the lower tuition fees came as a “huge bonus,” she says.
This new demand for affordable schooling options has encouraged some countries with sizeable expat communities to tackle the problem head on. In Malaysia, a deliberate government policy to support the development of international schools, setting aside 777.8 million ringgit ($179 million) for 2013-2015 for the purpose, has created more choices for parents whether foreigners or locals.
There are now 170 international schools across the country, from expensive established institutions such as the Mont Kiara International School, which follows a US curriculum, and the non-profit Alice Smith School, to established local chains and newcomers offering British, Canadian and Australian curricula. More are due to open in 2018.
In Singapore, the opening of Invictus Private School in August last year, founded by a tech entrepreneur with fees of about S$15,000 a year ($10,600), has also focused attention on the need for more affordable education for foreigners.

Since 2008, Singapore’s Economic Development Board has held a series of “Request for Interest” exercises for international schools, offering long-term leases on land. In April, it announced a tender to convert a former government secondary school on the west side of the island into an affordable international school.
“Foreign system schools play a part in strengthening Singapore’s position as an attractive global city,” explains Marcus Dass, director of human capital at the Economic Development Board in a statement. “While many existing foreign system schools in Singapore have been delivering high quality international education, there are requests for more affordable and diverse school options.”

Meeting expectations

Even at schools with lower fees, parents’ expectations remain high.
Many prefer teaching to be led by native English speakers, and International School Consultancy, which tracks the international schools market worldwide, expects demand to intensify for the best and most experienced teachers. With fees generally reflecting teachers’ salaries, and Western-trained, native English speakers in highest demand, schools need to perform a careful balancing act to maintain affordability and attract the best staff.

“The reputation of the international school market is such that schools that severely lack facilities, resources and quality teachers often lose favour and their enrolment declines,” says Richard Gaskell, schools director at ISC Research. “Such schools would [also] struggle to gain any reputable accreditation or quality inspection result, which many parents use to make their selection.”

ISC advises parents to check schools’ accreditation, examination board authorisation and membership of school associations such as the Council of British International School (COBIS), and the Federation of British Schools in Asia (FOBISIA).
For Yvonne McNulty, who’s lived in Singapore for 12 years and is a senior lecturer at Singapore University of Social Sciences specialising in expatriation and HR research, it’s all about “bang for the buck”. McNulty recently moved her children to Dulwich College, which opened in Singapore in 2014, where she feels she gets better value for money than the school where they were previously enrolled.
International schooling is “a hot button issue,” says McNulty. “It’s not just financial, it’s also emotional. There’s a lot of guilt linked to moving abroad so (parents) want to make it up to their children.”

The original article can be viewed here.

Relocating or living in Algeria? Here’s our expat guide for you:

Algeria is located in North Africa and is bordered by a few other African countries and the Mediterranean Sea. Both Arabic and French is spoken in Algeria. The country boasts large amounts of natural gas which it exports. This is a big draw for expats who come to Algeria in order to find work and earn a good living.

Algeria City of Bridges

International Schools in Algeria

El Kalimat School
This English-speaking school is located at a residential district in Alger. They use the Cambridge International Curriculum that covers both primary and secondary years for children aged 5 to 14. A Foundation Stage class is also offered for children 3 and 4.
Curriculum: Cambridge International
Address: 52A lot la fumée Bouzaréah 16200, Ben Aknoun, Alger, Algeria
Tel: +213 (0) 21 908783, +213 (0) 21 908784
Fax: +213 (0) 21 908785

Lycee International Alexander Dumas Alger
Curriculum: French
Address: Chemin Areski Mouri, 16030, Alger, Algeria
Tel: +213 (0) 21 913292

Residency and Visa Information

Visitors from Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Seychelles, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen may come in visa-free and stay for up to 90 days. Algerian Consulates and Embassies in respective countries handle visa applications. There are different kinds of visas available: tourist, family, business, work, cultural, transit, press, medical, and student; each with different requirements. Please check in with the Algerian Embassy/Consulate in your country for these requirements.

Visitors must hold:

  • Completed application form
  • Three recent passport size photos
  • Personal invitation or hotel booking
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months
  • Copy of first two pages of the passport (for US and UK, two copies of the whole passport is required)


Healthcare facilities, resources and staff in Algeria are in short supply, however they are up to a reasonable standard. Cash payments are to be expected; emergency cases are treated for free. Expatriates are advised get vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid and any other routine vaccinations before visiting. Make sure to secure a comprehensive medical insurance.

Insurance Companies

MSH International

With ASFE (Association de services des Francais de l’Etranger), MSH Internation provides insurance solutions for expatriates around the world, with packages for different age brackets.
Address: 16, rue Monceau, 75008, Paris, France

Tel: +33 (0) 144 204877
Fax: +33 (0) 144 204880

Clinique Chifa
Address: Micro Zone d’Activite Hydra, Algiers, Algeria
Tel: +213 216 05252
Fax: +213 216 0 1717
Website (French):

Travelling or moving to Tunisia – a must see video

Immigration – Focus on Tunisia

The Republic of Tunisia is a country located in North Africa. It is bordered by Algeria to the west and Libya to the southeast. It is the northernmost country on the African continent, and the smallest of the nations situated along the Atlas mountain range. Around forty percent of the country is composed of the Sahara desert, with much of the remainder consisting of particularly fertile soil and a 1300 km coastline.

The population of Tunisia consists of 97% Berbers, Arab or a mixture of two. The Berbers are the indigenous population of North‐Africa. The Berbers primarily speak Berber languages, often called Shelha.

Tunisian immigration law is relatively restrictive in its application. Requirements, processing times, employment eligibility, and benefits for accompanying family members vary by visa classification.

Tunisia typically issues single-entry business visas for business visits of up to 90 days consecutively or 183 days cumulatively.

Foreign nationals seeking to engage in business-related activities for a period of more than 90 days generally must obtain a work permit. Visa nationals who have obtained a residence card may use it to enter Tunisia and need not obtain an entry visa. Work permits can be extended if the foreign national can demonstrate a need.

Note that some foreign nationals (investors, directors etc.) are exempted from obtaining a work permit, but would still be subject to a formal process by applying for non-submission of a work permit.

Why do expats live in bubbles?

Tanglin Mall sits just west of Singapore’s swankiest shopping street; a four-storey building that’s home to a gourmet supermarket, a clutch of cafes and boutiques selling European toys and books. Every Christmas, families bring their children to play in its annual snow show.
For many Singaporeans, it’s the “expat mall”.
“I’d no idea that was what locals called it,” says Jennifer Gargiulo, an Italian-born lecturer of humanities and literature at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, whose blog musings on her family’s life in the city-state have been published as the Diary of an Expat in Singapore.

Expatriates the world over are often seen as existing in cosseted bubbles, living and interacting only with those who share their nationality or language. But the reality, like the nature of the expat world itself, is complicated and changing. Nowadays expats are just as likely to be Asian as they are Western and an increasing number of professionals are moving abroad independently, instead of on a company-sponsored posting. But are they sticking with their compatriots or mingling with locals? And, if you want to get to know the people and culture of your host country, how do you break out of the expat bubble?

Gargiulo says that while her friends are “mostly” expats — for example, the other parents at United World College where her children go to school (and is open to Singaporean children only in limited circumstances) — she has got to know some locals, and their culture, through her colleagues, her work contacts and even her students.

“You could live in a complete bubble, but you would be losing so much,” she says. “If you want to get something out of it; the food, the culture, you have to know local people. To me the opposite is hard; to make a conscious choice to stay insular and stick within the bubble.”

Life in the bubble
Of course, in some places, where the expat population far exceeds the local one, sticking within the bubble isn’t so difficult. In Dubai, the overall foreign population makes up about 88% of those living in the emirate, according to the International Organisation for Migration. In nearby Qatar, it’s 76%, the IOM data shows. Unsurprisingly, in these places expats are more likely to socialise with each other (65% in Qatar and similar levels in the UAE and other Gulf states), according to InterNations, the global expat networking group.

In a country like Saudi Arabia, the demographics aren’t so stark, but strict rules govern society, making it hard for expats to make friends among the local community. Some 61% of the expats InterNations surveyed there said they found it difficult to make local friends. In Kuwait, 31% went as far as to describe the process of making local friends as “very difficult.”

The nature of the host country — be it a developed nation or an emerging economy, an open culture or a more guarded one — can also affect the kind of social circle an expat develops.
Fiona Gavin, who works in finance at a multinational, arrived in Yangon a couple of years ago as Myanmar opened to the outside world, after decades of military rule had reduced what was once one of Asia’s richest nations to one of its poorest.
That meant chaotic roads and pavements, patchy electricity and little in the way of the basic amenities, such as reliable healthcare. In those early days, even the 35-year-old Irishwoman, a veteran of postings to Zurich and Shanghai, sometimes felt a little overwhelmed, retreating to the calm, and more comfortable confines of her hotel.
Now, thanks to Facebook, online networking groups, embassy events and the local chambers of commerce, Gavin has built up a diverse circle of friends including expats and Burmese locals. While there are certain restaurants, bars and clubs, “where all you see are expats” Gavin says she’s found it easy to make friends with local people.

“People have great English here and are happy to meet foreigners,” she says in an email from Yangon. “If you can speak some basic Burmese and smile at people you can have a wonderful time with the locals. Oh, and football, of course. A lot of my friends who have Burmese friends play sport together.”

Cultural differences
But understanding cultural differences is also crucial, she adds. At the weekend, Burmese people will probably spend time with their families or go to the pagoda. And, while a Westerner might want to go out to a nightclub and party into the early hours, a Burmese friend is more likely to want to go home by 10pm to be up early the next day.

“People socialise in different ways in different countries,” Marian van Bakel, assistant professor at the department of marketing and management at the University of Southern Denmark wrote in an email. “For example, in the Netherlands there is quite a large divide between work and private life, yet many expats expect their colleagues to invite them for dinner or drinks and then get disappointed when this doesn’t really happen. Knowing how to socialise in a specific culture can prevent disappointments.”
The Dutch researcher also says personality, attitude, and the place in which the person works and lives all influence the development of expat social networks.

When she first arrived in Amsterdam a decade ago, Cecily Layzell found the move more of a challenge than she had expected. Layzell, 39, felt the Netherlands offered better job prospects than her home in Britain, but alone in unfamiliar surroundings she struggled to find her feet. Looking back, she admits she was a little naïve. “I nearly gave up and went home several times.”
It was a job at an Irish pub — a place Layzell had vowed never to work because she thought it was too much of an expat cliché — that finally helped her settle.
“It turned out to be a great place to meet people, mostly expats who were passing through but also a few who had been here for a while,” recalls Layzell, now a fluent Dutch speaker and working as a food writer, editor and Dutch-to-English translator. “Through one of them I got a job in a call centre and eventually a position as a junior copywriter in a communications agency. It was about two years in that I decided I was going to stay a while and that learning the language made sense.”

Making connections
Layzell is one of a growing number of young professionals who head overseas looking for work, usually on local terms, and end up staying. But for other expats, making friends with locals may not be such a necessity. After all, it’s often other expats who are better placed to advise newcomers on schools, accommodation and dealing with utilities, and the posting may only last two or three years.
Other expats are also easy to meet — through the office, kids’ schools and even around the playgrounds and pools of their apartment complexes. But the internet has hugely expanded the opportunities for those who want to meet people outside their own community, including like-minded locals.

At InterNations, which operates in 390 cities around the world, about 30% of its membership is local. At a recent event in London, British citizens were among the 100 different nationalities who signed up.
“People like meeting other expats who might have had the same problems and dealt with them,” says InterNations co-founder Malte Zeeck. “But they also want to meet locals who know the city even better and want to share their culture.”

Singapore, New Zealand and Canada topped the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey in 2016, partly because expats saw the three countries as welcoming places where it was easy to integrate into the local community. For the second year in a row, Canada was named the most welcoming. More than three quarters of all expats there said they were integrating well into the local culture, compared with a global average of 61%.
Van Bakel’s latest project is partly an acknowledgement that local people can do more to make their international colleagues feel welcome. Designed to help her university’s foreign employees connect with local colleagues, she’s called it Breaking out of the expat bubble: Connecting with a local colleague.
“Many people are not aware that many expats would like to connect with them,” she says. “That is quite normal, after all, you have your life and circle of friends, and you’re busy enough. Often you see that people who have lived abroad themselves are more easily inviting towards expats — because they know how difficult it can be. It would be good if people would be more aware of how valuable an invitation to an expat can be.”


The original article can be viewed here.