Boarding vs Homestay
Secondary Focus

Accommodation options at secondary schools worldwide vary in availability and requirements.

In the secondary education sector, accommodation options are strongly linked to destination. Among English-speaking countries, there is a marked difference between the UK, on the one hand, which is largely day or boarding-only, and other markets, where public sector school districts/states take responsibility for organising homestays to encourage international students.

Hence, says, Celine Gibassier, spokesperson for Nacel International School System and Notre-Dame International High School, both in France, "I tend to think that the linked to the destination country. While students wishing to study in schools in the UK or China [tend to] choose boarding options, those going to Canada, Australia or the USA would rather opt for homestay."

However, in cases where the study destination is not pre-determined, there are a number of arguments for and against each option, which parents are advised to weigh up.

In favour of homestay is the higher level of personal care that students may enjoy while living as part of a family. Furthermore, comments Celine, "A homestay.allows students to live a different experience outside of school, creating relationships not directly linked to their studies. enriching their overall experience." This is homestay at its best.

However, as Chang Wan Bang, Managing Director of BCW Consulting in Seoul, Korea, observes, "Depending on the individual host family, there can be various levels of satisfaction or disappointment."

Key advantages of boarding, notes Carlos Robles from IEP in Brazil, are that students enjoy "more autonomy, developing survival strategies, learning for life and more limits". He comments that boarding is also "a more controlled situation", as there is normally a full-time supervisor of the same sex living on the same floor of the accommodation.

"This is a good choice for students who need a certain group dynamic to focus on their studies," adds Celine.

Against boarding, however, Carlos points to the possibility of solitude, lack of emotional support when needed and difficulty in making friends.
Referring to UK boarding schools, Christine de Chanaud of Séjours Home Abroad in France observes that they are "superb, but expensive", and agent Christine Top of Top School in Alicante, Spain, sums up, "I personally prefer boarding [as an option for my students], as we get fewer problems than with families, but host families are much cheaper, and this is a very important point."

Some arguments can take on a national dimension. According to Canan Sempa of Sempa Study Abroad in Turkey, which deals mainly with the UK, homestay is not widely favoured by his students because visa regulations require guardianship arrangements for international students in this type of accommodation.

The arrangements schools make for homestay accommodation - whether organised in-house or outsourced - vary in different countries.

 According to Carlos - the majority of whose clients opt for this - New Zealand schools tend to manage their own homestays. Here, he says, most have their own homestay co-ordinator, which means that when a problem occurs, they can promptly get in touch to discuss it. "Most problems are immediately resolved because of that," he points out.

When it comes to boarding, it is worth looking around. Carlos highlights Cromwell College in New Zealand, which offers boarding with a difference for students who are part of the school's Outdoor Pursuits Academy. As he explains, this accommodation, which caters for a small number of both boys and girls in separate areas, is near to the school. Common facilities, such as kitchen and lounges, are shared, and a live-in couple provide supervision and support. Menus are chosen by the students and cooking and household chores are shared.

Boarding is well regarded, but with cost very often a key determinant of choice one point stands out, and that is that there is an unmet demand for more affordable accommodation of this type.

In addition, says Christine, "We would love [schools] to be flexible in terms of accepting short-term students [for less than one semester/less than one term] if they have the space." She notes that UK schools are doing this now, but not, unfortunately, those in the USA.


Flexible option
At Notre-Dame International High School, an American day and boarding high school in France, accommodation options are flexible. Spokeswoman Celine Gibassier explains that they can choose between full-time boarding, full-time homestay or five days boarding and weekends with a French host family.

"Students usually like to be weekly boarders and enjoy being with their classmates on weekdays, sharing some activities after school, studying and then dining together. English is usually used among international students at the dorm. For weekends they really appreciate having a more family-orientated life, practising their French and discovering the French way of life."


Chan Wan Bang, BCW Consulting, Korea:
"For me, the decision about accommodation is down to overall cost. Compared to UK schools, the USA/Canada offers lots of cheap tuition and schools without boarding facilities. For Korea, there are a lot more parents selecting the USA/Canada rather than the UK, mainly because they can more easily find affordable schools for their kids. Their favourite type of accommodation is definitely boarding, but the cost matters."


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