Americans switching to british curriculum?
I have a 10 and 8 year old, and we are moving from the U.S. to Abu Dhabi this August. We have been admitted to GEMS American Academy and Cranleigh so far, and likely will not get in to ACS any time soon (but may at some point down the road). What is it like to make the switch from the American to the British system? How big a change is it academically? Culturally? Does it make sense to switch to a British system, or am I better off going to GEMS and hoping to get in to ACS and transfer the kids later?
Dear Rolleiflex 91,
Thank you for your query. In general, I would usually advise that for children entering Primary/Elementary School, the curriculum choice does not make an enormous difference, but given that your older child will be moving into Middle School, I am inclined to think that staying with the US curriculum may be the better option, since this is open to you. The organisation of Secondary schools does vary between the two curricula and particularly the focus of the Humanities subjects is inevitably more biased towards the “home” country.
You will find that both schools have a wide range of nationalities in terms of students – so settling here will expose the children to friends from many different countries – but are much more narrowly focused in terms of staffing. So Cranleigh definitely has a very strongly British-biased focus on its staffing whilst GAA is much more heavily focused towards North American teachers. In terms of settling into school, the routines at GAA will probably be pretty familiar; they will also probably be quite different at Cranleigh, which has a much more traditional British Prep school feel about it.
The other issue you may want to consider is where you are likely to go after Abu Dhabi. If you are likely to returning to the US in 2 or 3 years from now, it probably makes sense to go with the US curriculum; if you are likely to be moving internationally or are not sure of your plans, you may choose to be more flexible.
The UK curriculum differs from the US also in terms of the testing process, with public examinations at ages 16 and 18 following a 2 year programme at each stage leading to these exams. If you do choose the UK curriculum for the longer term, you need to bear these specific programmes in mind, as switching school part way through either the GCSE or A Level programmes is difficult.