Two young boys in blue school uniform t shorts carrying backpacks and water bottles walk down a single track lane in Bali

Enrolling the kids in international school during a family gap year

One of the aspects of a family gap year that we really wanted to incorporate was the opportunity to enroll the boys temporarily in an international school somewhere. I had worked with international schools across Asia, North America and Europe in my previous pre-kids life. So I knew what a fantastic educational environment they could offer for our boys.

But finding an international school for the boys to enrol in as part of our year away was incredibly challenging! In the end the school we chose for them was pretty perfect. Getting to that point though was definitely a long and frustrating journey.

Read on for all the details of how we enrolled the boys in international school as part of our family gap year, how much it cost and how it went!

Why did we choose to enroll the kids in international school?

It had always been part of our thinking that they would attend international school somewhere as part of our family gap year away. There were a couple of reasons for this:

  • We wanted them to have the opportunity to see what school is like in other countries
  • Having the chance for them to mix with children from all over the world was really important to us
  • We felt it would be beneficial for them to have some time away from us – with peers their own age. This helped to break up the constant family time (especially true for our youngest, who is always the baby to us at home but tends to play a very different role at school!)

I’ll be honest – there was also a fear element involved in the desire to send them to an international school. Namely the fear that we just wouldn’t be able to do a good enough job of home/world schooling to keep them up to scratch in terms of their learning and development.

Having now done a large part of that world schooling, I am so much more confident that they are learning so much on our travels without the need for formal schooling. But I just wasn’t this confident pre-departure! That definitely meant that we leaned in to the idea of an international school for at least some of the time away.

How did we choose an international school?

The number of international schools around the globe is staggering. There is so much choice out there for anyone considering this as a route for their children.

We knew that we wanted to be based in South East Asia for a good amount of time. We also knew that it would probably offer some of the cheapest living and schooling costs we would be able to find. Based on this, I spent a long time researching international schools in areas I thought we might want to live in via the online international schools database here. This at least gave me an initial idea of what options were out there for us.

The trickiest part we found was finding a school that would accept temporary enrolment of one term (or less). Some international schools allow this but many don’t (for completely understandable reasons). Often the only way to determine this is to contact the school directly; most got back to me pretty quickly either way.

We also looked carefully at the curriculum at various schools. Ideally we wanted the boys to follow a UK curriculum so it wouldn’t be different to what they had been following at home (though we were open to other options as at primary level we felt they could ultimately cope with the change if needs be).

Once we’d filtered the search down to schools that we could afford, that were in locations we wanted to be based in, and that allowed temporary enrolment, this left us with a pretty short shortlist to work with!

What about visas?

The other aspect we had to contend with in the planning process was which countries would require a visa for our extended stay.

Some schools will help to manage to visa application process for you (even if you are only enrolling your children for one term). We looked very closely at schools in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. All had slightly different rules for visas. However they all had options that would enable us to enroll the boys in school and stay for the length of a term. Although in some cases this would have involved doing what are known as ‘visa runs’ in and out of a country to extend the length of stay.

As we opted for an enrolment of 30-days at the school we chose in Bali, we were able to do this on tourist visas. Indonesia grants UK visitors with a 30-day tourist visa on arrival that you can extend for a further 30-days. If you’re considering enrolling kids in international school as part of a family gap year you’d need to take a good look at the current visa rules for each country. We also took a lot of advice from the schools we contacted.

Two young boys stand in front of a decorative Balinese wooden door in school uniform blue t shirts, shorts and green Crocs. They are both carrying their school water bottles
Two youngs boys in school uniform and carrying backpacks walk along a paved road on their way to school. To their left is lush greenery

Enrolling the boys at Pelangi School, Bali

After a long process, we finally decided to enroll the boys for six weeks at Pelangi School in Ubud, Bali.

Pelangi School offers the International Primary Curriculum (IPC). This is very closely aligned to the UK curriculum. The school has around 200 students and is based on a small campus just south of Ubud.

We really liked the feel of the school right from the first communication we had with them. It doesn’t have the fancy facilities or a huge campus like many of the international schools we’d looked at. Pelangi is a non-profit, community-focused school focused on providing a fun and engaging environment for children to learn in. We had an online tour of the school and a meeting with the staff before making our decision. We just got a really positive feeling from everyone.

Pelangi is also fairly unique in the fact that it offers temporary enrolment for a term but also for a ‘drop-in’. A drop-in can be anything up to 30 days in total. This flexibility is great if you are thinking of factoring time in international school in to a family gap year itinerary.

What were the requirements for entry to Pelangi School?

The boys entered the Grade 2 and Grade 4 classes (the equivalent to their year groups of Year 3 and 5 in the UK). For both boys we had to pay the initial registration fee of £25 each in order to submit an application.

Once we’d completed the application forms, we also needed to provide:

  • their most recent school reports
  • copies of their passports
  • a teacher recommendation form from their current/most recent class in the UK (which was sent directly to Pelangi by their UK school).

Angus didn’t have to take any tests for entering Grade 2 but Griffin did need to take one for Grade 4. This was fairly straightforward, comprising English and Maths questions for him to attempt, including writing a short story. This was much more light touch than some of the other tests we had looked at for other schools. It seemed to be used more as a guide for their new teachers to be able to see what they had/hadn’t covered.

Image of the outside of an international school building where we enrolled our boys as part of our family gap year. The school is painted a coral colour and has a sign stating 'Pelangi School'. In front of the building are several tropical plants

How much were the fees for temporary enrolment in international school?

In total, we paid £802 per child for 23 days of drop-in enrollment at Pelangi. So a total of £1,604 for the two of them. With the holiday days that fell within the weeks they were enrolled, these 23 days stretched across a six-week period. This worked really well for us as it meant some break days for the boys and some family time for us all.

In addition we paid £25 per child in registration fees.

The boys opted to get involved in several extra-curricular activities that we paid for in addition to this. We also paid for school lunches from the school warung (kitchen).

Fees at Pelangi vary depending on the grade/year group of the child. We found them to be really reasonable compared to the other international schools we’d looked at in Bali, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.

To summarise, this is what we spent on the boys schooling:

School fees£1,60423 days of school
Registration fees£50£25 per child
Extra Curricular activities£1195-weeks of Coding Club for both boys
5-weeks of private guitar lessons for Griffin
5-weeks of Karntoon Klub for Angus
School lunches£8023 days of school lunches/morning snack for both boys
School UniformFREEIncluded in the school fees

If you’d like to find out more about our budget for the whole of our family gap year, then check out our other post How much we budgeted for a family gap year

Our experience at Pelangi School, Bali

I can’t really rave enough about how positive our experience at Pelangi School has been. From first contact right through to the last day for the boys at school, it’s been a lovely school to be part of.

Every single member of staff that we came across has been incredibly helpful and friendly. Class teachers, assistants, arts/music teachers, office staff, security – everyone!

The class sizes are much smaller than at their school back home in the UK. At Pelangi there are around 20 children in each class, with 2-3 members of full-time staff per class.

The boys had the opportunity to join after school clubs that they don’t have access to in the UK. These have sparked new interests and given them new found confidence (especially in art, which both boys hadn’t previously considered themselves ‘good’ at but is now their favourite hobby in an evening!).

They’ve met kids from all over the world (including lots of kids from right here in Bali). This has given them an amazing immersion in to Balinese culture. I was lost for words watching them taking part in the school ogoh-ogoh parades over Nyepi. That kind of unique cultural experience was exactly what I wanted them to gain from their time in international school. They’ve even learned some Bahasa Indonesian basics!

Would we enroll them in international school again?

Absolutely! They’ve gained so much confidence from going to school in another country. They have gained a real, genuine insight into life in another culture. And they have had the opportunity to develop new interests that they just didn’t get to do at home. It has been such an enriching and confidence-building experience for them both.

Plus, we enrolled the boys at international school at around the halfway point of our family gap year. This gave us all a much-needed break from life on the road. And it gave us the chance to live properly in one place for a longer period of time. The boys had the opportunity to spend time with kids their own age (instead of just each other and us 24/7, 7 days a week!). It also gave us as adults an amazing spell of time to pursue our own interests and catch up on life/travel admin in a slightly more relaxed fashion!

Planning a family gap year?

Check out some of our other posts for info on how to plan your time away!

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