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The Pros and Cons of Boarding: Is it Right for Your Child?

Updated: Aug 20, 2023

One of the most critical decisions that parents are tasked with is determining the best place for their child's education. The increasingly globalized world opens a plethora of choices, and a growing number of families are considering boarding schools, often located in countries different from their own. While boarding schools offer unique opportunities, the decision to send a child to board away from home can be emotionally challenging and multifaceted, as it often involves considering factors like the child's age and the parents' readiness to let go. This article provides an in-depth exploration of the pros and cons of boarding schools to help parents make an informed decision.

Pros of Boarding Schools

Independence and Personal Growth: Boarding schools provide a unique environment where students learn to cultivate their independence and develop personal growth. Living away from home, managing their daily routine, responsibilities, and problem-solving offers an invaluable opportunity to acquire crucial life skills. Let's take the story of Sophia, for instance, a teenager from Singapore who attended a boarding school in the UK. When Sophia first arrived at her boarding school, she felt overwhelmed by tasks like laundry, budgeting her pocket money, or managing her study time. However, as time went by, she began to find a rhythm, learning to navigate these tasks independently. By the end of her first term, Sophia had grown more self-reliant, and her confidence in her abilities had soared. This experience instilled in her valuable skills such as time management, problem-solving, decision-making, and resilience.

Diverse Cultural Experience: Boarding schools, especially those located internationally, attract students from various backgrounds, cultures, and nationalities. Such diverse exposure offers a unique opportunity for students to learn about different cultures, customs, and global perspectives, broadening their worldview. This multicultural interaction fosters a sense of global citizenship, a crucial attribute in today's interconnected world. For instance, Tom, a student from the United States studying in a Swiss boarding school, found his interactions with peers from various parts of the world eye-opening. These relationships helped him develop a deep understanding and appreciation for cultural differences, preparing him for an increasingly globalized world.

Extensive Support and Resources: Boarding schools often have a wealth of academic, pastoral, and extracurricular resources at students' disposal. The small class sizes and dedicated staff ensure each student receives personalized attention and support, often exceeding what might be available in traditional day school settings. For example, when Emma, a student struggling with maths, enrolled in a boarding school in Canada, she found the support system significantly beneficial. The school had a dedicated academic support center where Emma could work closely with her teacher to improve her understanding of complex mathematical concepts. In addition, the school offered a wide array of extracurricular activities from robotics to theater, allowing Emma to explore and develop her varied interests alongside her academics.

Cons of Boarding Schools

Homesickness: Homesickness is a common experience for most boarding school students, particularly during the initial period. The feeling of being away from home, especially in a foreign country, can be daunting. However, it is important to note that most schools have comprehensive support systems in place to help students adjust. From mentorship programs to counseling services, boarding schools are equipped to help students navigate these emotions. When Rahul from India first went to a boarding school in Australia, he found the transition challenging and often felt homesick. The school's pastoral care team, along with his 'buddy', a senior student assigned to help him adjust, provided essential support during this time. Over time, Rahul became more settled and began to enjoy his new environment.

Cost: Boarding schools, particularly those located internationally, can be costly. The cost includes not only tuition but also boarding fees, travel, and other related expenses. Financial considerations are a significant factor in the decision-making process. Many boarding schools offer scholarships and financial aid options to help families with the cost. However, it's essential for parents to conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis and consider their financial planning before deciding.

Limited Family Time: Attending a boarding school inherently reduces the amount of time students can spend with their families. This limitation can potentially impact familial relationships and pose challenges in maintaining regular communication about school progress. However, most schools have mechanisms to facilitate regular communication between students and their families, such as scheduled emails, phone calls, and video chats, and they also organize family visitation days or weekends.

Deciding Whether Boarding is the Right Choice

Child's Personality and Readiness: Each child is unique, and their personality, maturity, and readiness for independent living play a significant role in determining whether they will thrive in a boarding school environment. It is vital for parents to have open and honest discussions with their child about the expectations and realities of boarding school life.

Family Circumstances: The family's circumstances significantly influence the decision. For example, if parents' work commitments require frequent travel or relocation, a boarding school may provide a stable, uninterrupted educational environment for the child.

Research and Visit Schools: The importance of comprehensive research cannot be overstated. Parents should seek information about different schools, their facilities, pastoral care, academic and extracurricular offerings. If feasible, visiting these schools with your child can offer invaluable insights. Conversations with staff, current students, and parents of enrolled or former students can provide a holistic understanding of the school's environment.

While boarding schools present unique opportunities for personal growth, cultural exposure, and academic enhancement, they also pose challenges like homesickness, cost, and reduced family time. The decision to send a child to a boarding school should be a careful, well-considered one, keeping in mind your child's personality, readiness, and best interests. Regardless of whether your child attends a boarding school or a day school, remember that a supportive, understanding family environment forms the bedrock of their growth and success.


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