22 July 2006

There was an interesting discussion on the WTM boards today about whether a family in Taiwan should send their children to the local public schools to learn Chinese. What I found most interesting was that the parents who had actually lived overseas with children almost all were against, and those who had not were for it.

The trouble is that you're going to miss out on a year of regular academics if you do that. Even if a child can converse in a foreign language in a few months, she's probably not going to be able to understand a math or history class that soon. While that wouldn't be a concern for some children, it might be for others, especially if you're only overseas for a year. There probably won't be a lot of chances to use the new language at home again and the year may pretty much get wasted.

Another problem is that public schools overseas, especially in Asia, are pretty different from what we're used to in the US. It's not simply a matter of shipping your children off to school everyday and expecting that things will work out well. I have to say I am pretty much completely unimpressed with the education system in Kyrgyzstan. Fluency in Russian would not have been worth giving up all the other things my children learned this year, especially if we never go back to Kyrgyzstan.

Personally, I think it's a better option to do afterschool types of language immersion things, and include language study in the regular schoolday. Even though the language probably won't be learned as quickly as it would be attending the local schools, you wouldn't have to sacrifice quite so much.

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