Education Nation – Best Places For Expat Children
With most countries following the Gregorian calendar, many of us are doing our last-minute back-to-school shopping to ensure our kids fit into their uniforms, have all the books they need and have stationery to woo their class-mates.
But many people haven’t chosen an expat destination yet and much of it, for parents, families or newlyweds at least, comes down to those destinations which would be most suitable to our children.
Rand Rescue takes a look at countries around the world which measures highest for education, schooling and the general wellness of children.
Some of the countries on our list may not be such a big surprise for those who’ve done their homework, but others may just be welcome news for those considering alternatives to mainstream immigration nations.
Canada is a top immigration choice for South Africans so we probably don’t need to give you more incentive to move to this country, but we’ll humour you none-the-less.
According to the US News, BAV and Wharton’s annual country rankings, Canada is currently the no.1 country when it comes to education.
The first reason for this ranking is undoubtedly Canada’s multiculturalism policy which it adopted in 1971 – encouraging ALL individuals living within its borders to express and embrace their culture. As a South African you will therefore be urged to fly your saffa flag with pride.
In addition to the multiculturalism policy and no.1 ranking for education, Canada is also ranked fifth in the world overall for raising children. Much of this has to do with the high quality of life (also ranked at no.1) and the sparse population scattered over the enormous country – children are encouraged to participate in outdoor activities and have a host of choices from hockey, skiing, surfing, hiking, skating, swimming, football (soccer), gymnastics, volleyball, baseball, basketball and much more. Excepting Quebec, all other Canadian provinces offer public schooling in English, which means your little ones won’t struggle with any language barriers. And if you have a residency permit your children will be able to study for free in Canada, irrespective of your citizenship.
Canadian children not only rank in the top ten for maths, science and reading according to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, but your kids are also more likely to find work after their schooling than any other place in the world. Canada currently has the world’s highest proportion of working-age adults who have been through the higher education system (55%). As an expat you will feel right at home, given that a third of young adults in Canada hail from families where both parents are immigrants. In fact, Canada is one of the only places in the world where migrant children reach schooling levels equal to local children within three years of arrival – the country supports and encourages foreigners to integrate and enjoy equal opportunities.
If you’re struggling to choose a city in this vast country, perhaps consider Montreal, which was ranked the Best Student City in the world in 2017.
Germany has come under fire from various nations for its liberal and inviting stance towards migrants – but unlike those nations, South African emigrants are absolutely besotted by this warm welcome.
Germany not only welcomes migrants to the country, but as an expat your tuition is absolutely free AND you can even study in English if the German tongue is hard to master. The only current exception is Baden-Württemberg, one of Germany’s 16 states, which has reversed the free tuition for non-EU citizens. But comparably the cost of studying at these institutions is still a fraction of student fees in the US, UK, Australia or South Africa.
In addition to the affordable tuition, Germany is also ranked no.1 in the world for entrepreneurship. This ranking is significant as it points towards opportunities offered to new workers entering the job market – the country simply embraces new ideas, diversity and innovation.
Argentina is not top-of-mind for most saffas, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t consider this country if you’re relocating with family.
There are quite a few reasons why Argentina is a great place to raise children. First of all, as a South African, you’re probably a bit of a rugby or football (soccer) fan – and as the only country in Southern and Central America to compete internationally in both of these sports, you can assure your kids retain that South African sporting spirit.
This is a minor consideration though, as Argentina has loads more to offer. The country has a low cost of living, rich cultural diversity (much like South Africa) and high literacy rate. Irrespective of the cultural diversity, however, much like South Africa it has strong European influences – with most of the citizens being of European descent and of Christian faith (with the remainder mostly of Jewish and Muslim faith). Which means the culture shock for your children may not be as devastating as you’d at first imagine – as most South Africans have a western cultural orientation and a majority Christian population. The country is also ranked 55th on the Global Peace Index (compared to the USA in 114th place and South Africa in 123rd place) – which means it is far safer to raise children than your home country.
Of course, as a parent you’re probably wondering how much tuition costs in Argentina. Well, here’s the kicker – it costs absolutely nothing! That is, of course, provided your children study at one of the 38 public universities. Private institutions will cost you a buck or two – but still far less than you’d pay in the UK, Australia or the USA for instance. The country also has foreign and international universities and if you’re looking for natural beauty – your children will enjoy the vast open spaces, mountains, rivers, forests, oceans, cultural activities and bustling cities to keep them busy for ages.
Finland has been ranked no.1 for education by the World Economic Forum (WEF) several years in a row. The reason for this ranking is not necessarily due to the cost of education – but due to the remarkably innovative and unique educational system.
If you’re looking to offer your children something different – and as an emigrant this is most probably on the cards – then Finland should be your number one consideration. About 40 years ago Finland reconsidered the conventional orthodox education systems of the western world and decided to implement some drastic reforms.
Children don’t start any form of education until the age of 7 and unlike other countries children tend to take their first exam at age 16 and get almost no homework. You’d think this type of system would be counterintuitive, but you’d be wrong. Despite this unconventional way of schooling Finland has the highest literacy rate in the world at 100%!
As expecting parents you’d also be happy to know that Finland offers maternity and paternity benefits to ALL mothers and fathers. As an expecting mother you can choose between a box of maternity goodies – including clothing, a mattress and baby care goods, or a lump sum of €140 if you’re expecting one child. You also get 4 months maternity leave and roughly two months paternity leave – whether you’re self-employed or employed, the government will cover you financially for the time off.
If you want to stay home for longer, you’re also in luck, as the Finnish government also offers a child home care allowance which allows you to stay home until your child is three, or if you need to work they will pay for your private day care allowance. It doesn’t end there though – your child grants last until your child turns 17 and you are allowed additional partial leave until your child’s second schooling year, which means you can work fewer hours or take time off work to tend to your child until he/she is eight – with single parents getting even more time off and higher grants. Sick or disabled children also enjoy additional benefits covered by the state.
With this in mind, why NOT choose Finland?
The Czech Republic is undoubtedly not top-of-mind for most South Africans considering emigration, but believe it or not, it is one of the top places if you are a family man or woman.
Why is this? Well, education in the Czech Republic is free from preschool to university or college level (for all individuals under the age of 26 who are enrolling for their first degree). Add to this the low cost of living and safety of the Czech Republic and it’s hard to wonder why it is not a more favourable choice for expats. The Czech Republic is ranked 6th in the world on the Global Peace Index, compared to the United Kingdom in 41st place and the USA in 114th place. You can also look forward to paying approximately 50% less for consumer goods, 108% less for rent and dine for 100% less and buy your groceries for 74% less in the Czech Republic than in the USA.
There is one catch, of course – studying for free means your children will have to study in Czech. If they want to study in English, you will have to pay marginal additional rates for tuition and learning materials in English – but this will still be far cheaper than most other universities in the world.
Good old Sweden! Okay, so it is not the top destination for South African expats either, but if you are looking to raise a family, you’ll be happy to know that Sweden is ranked no.1 for raising children, no.1 for gender equality and no.1 for green living.
Among the numerous perks for parents in Sweden is a childcare grant, lengthy parental leave postpartum, reduced working hours until the child reaches the age of eight and certain regions ALSO offer free transport for parents travelling with children.
When it comes to the education system, Sweden is seen as the most innovative country, taking first place both for the quality of their educational research and human resources on the European Innovation Scoreboard. But the benefits don’t end here. When it comes to securing a future for your children, you’ll be relieved to know that Sweden also ranks number one on the UN’s Sustainable Development Index. Essentially, your children are assured that this is the country where, across the board, development is most sustainable from an economic, environmental and technological point of view. And should they choose to enter the job market, they can also trust Forbes’ “best countries to do business” ranking which places Sweden in top spot!
South Korea may not necessarily be a popular immigration choice for parents – being more popular with young adults who wish for some adventure in a foreign country – but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the advantages of the schooling system.
In fact, according to Edudemic, South Korea is the no.1 place to study in the world. The reason for the country’s high ranking (and reported 100 000+ foreign student population) has much to do with its focus on information dissemination and technology. If you have children you’ll be well aware that in the age of internet, connectivity is key!
Rest assured that your children will NOT complain about internet speeds in this country, which has an average download speed of 132.52 Mbps on broadband and 42.97 Mbps on mobile.
The country received the no.1 spot for tertiary efficiency by Bloomberg in 2016 which gave the country top honours for innovation overall! And this innovation is exactly why the education in the country has been applauded. South Korea, with its focus on innovation and technological advancement, places a far higher focus on international information exchange than other countries. As a country of research, sharing information with other universities, research institutions and businesses across the globe is par for the course at South Korean universities. They simply feel that sharing is caring and that information and collaboration across borders is a necessity for advancement.
Although tuition comes at a price, foreign students ARE eligible for tuition fee exemption on four-year degrees with an additional year’s Korean language added into the mix to help you master the foreign tongue.
The other thing to consider is the state of the country your children are likely to experience in future. According to the US News, Wharton and BAV country rankings, South Korea is placed no.3 in the world for “Forward-looking” countries. This ranking takes into consideration how much each country is doing to anticipate changes in future, how it is planning and developing to cater for energy crises, economic changes, infrastructure changes, environmental issues and health concerns.
Before even considering the state of education in Singapore, it’s noteworthy that the country (or the sovereign city-state) has retained its no.1 overall spot as expat destination for three years running from 2015 to 2017 according to HSBC’s annual Expat Explorer report.
Although education is not necessarily cheaper in Singapore, the satisfaction of expats with the quality of education is 15% higher than expats in other countries and 70% of foreign nationals living within its borders profess an improvement in their work-life balance compared to their previous countries. So if you’re after high quality education and more time to spend with your offspring, it seems Singapore is definitely the place to be.
The success of its schooling system seems to be, in total contrast to Finland, its focus on structure, curriculum-driven education and exam preparation. Students are encouraged to practice and master certain skills or rituals in order these skills become habitual and ingrained – leaving more room for other pursuits and/or innovation in later years as basic skills are embedded in memory.
What more does the country offer your children? Well, it not only took Business Insider’s top spot for safest country in the world in 2016, but it is also ranked among the top 10 cleanest destinations in the world according to CNN. It is also ranked 2nd in the world as expat student destination.
In conclusion – your children will receive a high quality of education, you’ll have more time to spend with them and you’ll spend all this time in a safe and healthy environment.
It’s no surprise that New Zealand has made its way into our top 10 expat education destinations. In fact of all the expats in New Zealand, South Africa is the fifth largest source of foreign nationals to the country. It is also the fourth most popular expat destination for South African emigrants.
Delving in to New Zealand’s country rankings, there is hardly an area where it doesn’t rank in the top 10. It is ranked second on the Global Peace Index, takes another second place as the world’s least corrupt country, is placed no.1 for prosperity and is ranked no.1 for a comfortable retirement.
But what more does New Zealand have to offer South African expats? Quite simply your children will enjoy a safer, healthier and more carefree lifestyle while still retaining a big chunk of saffa culture. It is well known that New Zealand shares the same interests as South Africa when it comes to sport. The two countries compete against one another in Rugby, Cricket, Football, Hockey, Netball, Surfing and other sporting events.
When it comes to education, the country offers the same equivalent degrees as its “maternal guardian”, the UK, but the degrees tend to be more affordable with course fees in the UK reaching up to $40 000 per year compared to a maximum of $25 000 in New Zealand. Another benefit of the education in New Zealand is the government’s focus on aligning all courses with a global standard – you would hardly receive a qualification in New Zealand that is not internationally recognised which opens loads of doors for post-grads.
Of course, the cost of living is rather steep in New Zealand and you shouldn’t expect to maintain your South African lifestyle on entry – but most expats deem the cost a small sacrifice given that the country is ranked the 8th happiest in the world compared to South Africa’s measly spot at no. 101.
Want to live in THE safest place on earth? Then head on over to Iceland which takes top honours on the Global Peace Index – a spot it has retained since 2011.
The country is not only safe, but if you’re looking for a breath of fresh air you will literally find no place with fresher or cleaner air than Iceland which tops the rankings for the country with the most untainted air. The quality of the air is attributed to its lush greenery and sparse population (the most sparsely populated in Europe).
Expecting parents get a stock-standard 9 months of paternity/maternity leave postpartum. Mum and dad both get three months with an additional three months to split between them as they choose. And for the entire nine months they are eligible for 80% of their salaries.
Like many of the other countries mentioned in this blog, Iceland offers free tuition to any students who qualify for studying at their public universities – with a compulsory registration fee by all students, whether native or foreign.
A Hallmark of Icelandic life for children is the “hands-off” parenting most parents support. Much as in South Africa, children are encouraged to play and explore unsupervised – and it is not uncommon for children to run around outside even in the most frosty weather. Iceland has a similar view on the family in general, with divorce being a non-issue and marriage not a necessity for starting a family. Given that the country is so safe and peaceful, it’s understandable that life tends to be so carefree.
And if your kids DO happen to get the odd scrape, cut or broken arm you needn’t worry, as a resident you are entitled to free universal healthcare and you don’t even need a GP referral to see a specialist.
Move abroad now – we’ll move your rands
If you’re considering moving abroad, rest assured that Rand Rescue can assist you with your financial transfers, foreign exchange, financial emigration and pension transfers to your new home. We’re the number one provider of South African expat financial services globally and boast far more affordable rates than our competition.
Contact us today for a hassle-free, no-obligation consultation.