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International School Boarding Programs

By World Family Education

A boarding school accommodates students to live and study for most of the year on campus. “Boarding students” are those who live at the school, and “day students” live with their families and return home at the end of the school day. Boarding schools usually close for the long summer and Christmas holidays, and students return home to their parents or guardians.

At a boarding school, students live together in a dormitory – there might be several boarding facilities in each school. There is also at least one house parent who is there to look after students and care for their needs.

Boarding schools are widely available in international schools around the world. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, also have a large number of local schools with boarding programs. These programs accept enrollments from both international students (non-native citizens) and local students.


In recent years, international boarding schools have begun to offer more flexible programs to respond to the ever-changing needs of the global family lifestyle. Some schools now provide full-time boarding along with weekly boarding or as-needed boarding.

Why Send a Child to a Boarding Program?

There are a variety of reasons parents will send their child to a boarding program, such as:

  • living in a location where no appropriate schools are available.
  • giving a child a more stable living and learning environment when parents’ work schedules are unpredictable and/or they travel extensively.
  • providing a safer environment for the child if the parents live in a politically unstable location.
  • giving a child a more global perspective.
  • giving a child the opportunity to practice English-language skills.
  • seeking a better educational environment for the child.

Whatever the reason you are considering a boarding program for your child, be aware that while some school accrediting bodies will also accredit boarding programs, there is no international quality standard for boarding programs. You will need to evaluate the program yourself to ensure it is high quality and a priority at the school.

It’s important to note that your child should be part of the decision-making process as you consider boarding school. Students who agree with the decision to attend boarding school will fare better emotionally and academically in the new setting than those who have no choice in the matter.

What to Look For in a Boarding Program

Accreditation for the boarding program means there is accountability by an outside agency to maintain high standards in the areas of personnel, facilities, finances, program, administration, and philosophy. Boarding programs may be accredited in addition to the school’s general accreditation. Two organizations that provide accreditation for boarding programs are the Boarding Schools’ Association (UK-based) and the Association of Christian Schools International (US-based).

Read more about accreditation at World Family Education’s page International School Accreditation.

Boarding parents should be experienced in caring for children and well-trained for the task. Thorough background checks should be expected, and staff should receive ongoing training.

Be sure to check on the boarding program’s vision and purpose statements. Boarding programs differ in their approach to child care, with some focused on a family atmosphere while others expect students to be more independent. Also investigate whether the school has made a child safety plan to protect children in its care from all types of abuse.

The best way to evaluate school and boarding culture is by visiting the school in person. Seeing the people and facilities that make up a boarding program is helpful in evaluating if the school is right for your child.

A good program should support your child’s academic needs and ensure they succeed in school. Schools differ in how they provide this support, but a clear plan should be in place.

Boarding parents should communicate often with parents of boarding students. Parents should be informed regularly of their child’s academic progress, extracurricular activities, and general wellbeing. The boarding program should also facilitate regular communication between you and your child. A good boarding program values a partnership with parents to help students succeed.

Your child’s wellbeing depends on a clean, safe environment, so be sure to check on what kind of facilities they will live in. Ask for details such as how many roommates your child will have, what household chores will be expected of them, will a bathroom be en-suite, what food will be served at meals, etc.

Boarding students may have little-to-no interaction with local culture since they live on campus most of the time. The boarding program should have a plan that allows students to venture off campus when possible to explore and interact with local culture.

More Helpful Information

How to prepare your child for boarding school — Expat Child suggests ways to help your child transition to boarding school.

Boarding school tips and advice — Expat Child discusses the challenges and benefits of boarding.