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Leah Wallace, a Foreign Service spouse, served as education and youth officer in the Family

Liaison Office for five years. She has an M.A. in special education and has taught in Fairfax

County, Virginia, as well as at the American Embassy School in New Delhi. Her two children

grew up overseas, attending international schools before going to U.S. colleges.

Options for Educating

Foreign Service Kids

For most Foreign Service families, the education of their children is

a primary bidding concern. Here is an overview of the many options.



ot too long ago, I spoke

with a new Foreign

Service officer who had

stopped by the Family

Liaison Office to talk

about all the changes

he saw ahead for his family. While

excited about his decision to join the

Service, his feelings were accompanied

by the litany of questions that frequently

arise for new members of the Foreign

Service: What have I gotten my family

into? Where can my family live while I’m

in training? What will our lives be like?

How can we navigate this new lifestyle?

Foreign Service parents have the

wonderful opportunity to offer their

children the chance to learn about and

explore cultures around the world. For

example, children may pick up one or

more languages while living in other

countries. Indeed, many consider the

possibility of their children becoming

“global citizens” a major benefit of the

Foreign Service lifestyle. The diverse

experiences our children will have living

and learning abroad will give them a leg

up in the college application process, as

many colleges consider students who

have grown up globally a valuable asset

to their student communities.

However, these perks are also accom-

panied by challenges. In fact, a primary

bidding concern for most Foreign

Service families is the education of their

children. Fortunately, the State Depart-

ment—believing that Foreign Service

families should have educational oppor-

tunities as equal as possible to what they

would have in the United States—offers

an array of schooling options and allow-

ances for families serving overseas.

This article will provide a brief over-

view of these options, as well as tips on

how to manage the transition back to

the United States and what to do if your

post is evacuated.

The Scholastic Smorgasbord

International schools are a popular

option for many Foreign Service

families. These schools are independent

institutions and have their own

admissions policies. Often there are

several to choose from. Most parents

enroll their children in the international

schools with an American curriculum

because they believe this may positively

impact their students’ transitions over

time. Nevertheless, there are frequently

British, French and local schools that

some families find to be attractive


Parents should be aware that it is

their responsibility to contact schools

directly about their impending arrival

at post. They must also complete the

schools’ application processes. The com-

munity liaison office (CLO) may have

information on the schools where post’s

families currently send their children or

have sent them in the past. CLO offices