I often wonder what factors parents moving abroad consider when selecting a school for their children. Nevermore has this been the case since I started to work in the field of international education. Like in any major city, Paris offers many choices and, at first glance, may seem overwhelming for parents. In this blog, I explore some of the options.
One option for families who will be based in France for a considerable period of time is to enter the French or bilingual sector. Many well-established French schools have “English sections” and can offer children an authentic French education with the safety net of some learning being in their mother tongue. French is taught intensively and thus allows non-native speakers to become immersed in the French curriculum. One cannot argue that this isn’t an academically rigorous route for children. When successful, it can open up a raft of opportunities in terms of college and workplace preparedness.
More commonly, ex-pat families arriving in Paris will consider one of the four established English medium schools for their children. These schools being the International School of Paris, The American School of Paris, Marymount International School, Paris and the British School of Paris.
The International School of Paris arguably offers the best location within the city limits in the 16th arrondissement of Paris. ISP is unique in Paris in that it offers all three IB programs (PYP, MYP and IB Diploma). The disadvantage for ISP is that it houses approximately 700 students in cramped accommodation and little space for play or physical education. This is a particular disadvantage for children in the Early Years Section and Elementary School, where learning through play is integral to development. On a more positive note, ISP educates a genuinely international community and claims to have children from 60 different nationalities.
The American School of Paris is a little piece of the United States in Paris. ASP offers a K-12 curriculum including IB and AP in the Upper School. The campus covers a total area of 10 acres (40,000 m2) and is situated at the southern end of Saint-Cloud in the southwestern suburbs of Paris. ASP benefits from economies of scale and has a functional, although perhaps characterless, modern feel. Its location is far from ideal and is poorer served by public transport. For children whose ultimate destination is likely to be College in the US, ASP is a popular choice.
Marymount International School, Paris is situated in the leafy Paris suburb of Neuilly Sur Seine. It has the benefit of being close to the city of Paris (it’s only 4km to the Champs-Élysées) without the feeling of being in the midst of the inner city. Marymount is a Catholic school and is distinct in its vision and objectives from the other English medium schools in Paris. The curriculum is standards-based in line with schools in the US with the flexibility of an international dimension. Marymount offers K – 8 and benefits from being a tight-knit community with student numbers being around 350. To some, it may seem that Marymount has the disadvantage of not having a high school. Still, in many respects, this absence of older kids preserves the younger children from the pressure of a high school environment and allows the school to focus exclusively on the needs of younger children. Upon graduation, Marymount students seamlessly transition into one of the other English medium schools in Paris, the bilingual or French sector, or back to their country of origin. Children at Marymount are taught to be skilled enquirers and lifelong learners who can fit into any educational system upon leaving the school.
The British School of Paris was founded in 1954 to offer the British ex-pat community in Paris the opportunity to access British education. BSP is found Impressionist town of Croissy-sur-Seine, which is a one-hour commute (15km) from the city of Paris. The school is built on the banks of the Seine, and it has impressive modern facilities. Like many “British” schools, BSP offers a program based around the English National Curriculum, culminating in students taking IGCSE and A-Level examinations. Most students from BSP will go on to study in the UK upon completing their studies.
The options for ex-pats in Paris are considerable. There is a genuine variety of English speaking alternatives, but these options tend to be somewhat more expensive than the bilingual options. A consideration for any family coming to Paris may well be the affordability of their child’s education. Many companies will meet the costs of the school fees in the English medium schools, but where parents must fund their child’s education independently of the package offered by their companies, they may have to dig deeper.
More information on the school mentioned in this article and of the various French/Bilingual options can be found at Paris Advice.