Should You Take Your Kids to an International School?

Good education and mentorship from an early age are what sets apart extremely successful individuals in life from mediocre achievers with average lives. In the quest to find the best education for kids in Africa, parents go to great lengths, those who are wealthy take their kids to international schools for primary education and later on abroad for university education. Those who can’t afford international schools and colleges abroad try to find scholarships for their kids. Those who can’t get scholarships and can’t afford a group of school fees go to great lengths to get their kids into international schools, they take loans and downgrade their lifestyles just to afford the education and training they would want their kids to have.

The international schools in Kenya and Africa that offer British curricula have been very attractive to kids and parents even from average and low-income households who see admissions to these schools as a ticket to success in life. Parents want their kids to learn and speak good English Spanish or German.

A section of Kenyans on the internet has called out parents stretching their pockets to get students to international schools as ‘pimps’ and ‘social climbers’ who are trying too hard to fit in environments where they don’t belong. They urge these parents to just stick to their means and opt for local schools that still offer nice education.

There are not many good schools in Kenya and Africa that’s why there is a scramble for the best around. Even the good public schools and boarding schools are not easy to get into. You must have either been a top performer or your parents must be wealthy to get into them. I went to a national school for my secondary education when there were only 10 national schools in the country. Nowadays many provincial schools have been upgraded to national standards. When I joined a national school, I noticed many students would be brought 1 month later, 4 months later, my cousin whom I was in the same school joined me a year later from a different school. When his parents learned that I was in a national school, they immediately made arrangements to also have him brought there.

Whether parents take their kids to international schools or expensive academies for status games or just good education is not the issue here. Do the kids want to go to that big school you want to take them to? will they fit in or feel out of place? Are there soft skills that a kid will learn and get from these schools that they can’t get elsewhere apart from ‘old English’.

I have a little sister, she is the last born of the family. When she finished her high school last year she started looking for a university to join and we were considering enrolling her to a nice private university here in Nairobi for a business degree. We made arrangements and told her to go for an interview so that she could join but to our surprise, she turned us down, she said that that college is for rich kids and she wouldn’t fit in there, she instead opted for another private university outside the city. We were so downhearted because we gave her a chance to go to a nice campus and she turned us down. I didn’t have a chance to join an Ivy League university even though that is always what I wanted. Even now if I get such a chance I might consider it.

Not every kid in a private school is rich, in every high social status group, there is a kid who got there just by strong character and ability and not his or her parent’s wealth. Your kid can be that one kid. Even among a group of rich friends who play golf after work, there is always one who is not rich in the group, maybe they bring humor or something else to the group or they have the potential to be rich, and the group offers to mentor him.

Enter the ‘Grace’ Students

I once read a book or a document I suppose, unfortunately, I can’t remember the name written by a religious author who I suppose taught at Harvard or was a staff there who said that in such an Ivy League university, there are students he refers to as ‘grace students’, who got into the institution by the draw of luck. They had no legitimate reason to be in such a school, some students got into the school because they were highly competent and others got in through their parents’ network due to the donations made by their parents to school projects, some got in by sheer luck and can’t explain what exactly got them in.

International schools are nice. If you can afford an international school as a parent without straining your budget, then go ahead and take your kids there, it is not ‘status jockeying’. You just want the best for the child, forget the naysayers. If you can’t afford it, opt for a good public school and look for a good tuition teacher or a mentor.

Many kids and even adults struggle with finding great mentors in the fields they want to pursue, and yet it is the most incredible thing to find if you want to be successful at something in life. If a kid wants to be great at basketball, chess, or business, he needs a mentor even more than an international school. Great people like Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, or Michael Jackson probably didn’t go to international schools or Ivy League universities but had good mentors.

For a good foundation, I would choose an international school anytime, for adulthood and life skills, I would go for mentorship if I were a parent. I have never been to an international school but I suppose they help students find good mentors. My friends who are parents have taken their kids to international schools and they seem to love it. When I talk to my friends who went to group of schools with politicians’ kids, they tell me how they never used to do any chores, the diet was great and the environment was just conducive for learning. It sounds like a lot of comfort to me.

I always wonder if these ‘group of schools’ kids learn how to be tough. They have a problem with being macho later in life. When I was in a national school, I schooled with kids who went to expensive private schools for primary and I could see how soft they were. They would complain about the food, the water, the dust, the school bus, and just everything else. I didn’t relate to any of that shit, they were soft like a Tae Bo kick and I was as tough as nails, a guy rough around the edges. Even though I also went to a boarding school at an early age, I didn’t have such kinds of problems the rich kids had. I came from a background that made me a bit hard early on.

Above all, group of schools indeed teach students good English, my friend Ree who went to a ‘group of schools’ for early education speaks very good English and his arguments are coherent, better than any graduate I know, and yet he didn’t go past high school education. It is also true that universities abroad train their students in skills better than the local campuses which are theory-based. My friend who went to China to study dental surgery tells me she is a very good job at her job and she taught local graduates she works with a lot of things.

I am an information science graduate and in that course, I studied knowledge management and seeking the right information to make decisions, one thing I will point out from my course is that you fight harder for knowledge, there is more to finding knowledge than reading books or going to an expensive private school. It is more nuanced than that. Find mentors if you can, develop the skills you need, practice public speaking and presentation, and learn all the social skills you need and those group of schools kids or Ivy League graduates might not be able to hold a candle to you in the boardroom or the business world but as they say, if you can’t beat them, join them. Finally, do you know that thing they say about education, “if you think education is expensive, try ignorance?”. In January as you select kindergartens and schools for your kids, consider the best that you can get.

Happy Holidays!


By Slade Jeff

I am a zen, I love this life plus a lot of wine..I will keep your days filled with interesting content. I am also pro-brands, I tell stories about them at a fair price, let me put in a good word for you. Contact me through for business.

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