Why Ignore the Cost of Repatriation Challenges?
Part One of a Series by Timothy Dwyer, President, Bennett International
A broadly accepted maxim is that expatriate assignments generally cost, per year, about two to three times the base salary of the employee on assignment. It is also generally agreed that assignees who return happy and successful from their time abroad are the best advertisement for the benefits of undertaking an international assignment.
Recently, Bennett performed an extensive "Education & Mobility Policy" survey to gather data regarding some of the key schooling issues confronting corporate mobility policies, practices, and programs today. The survey investigated all education-related aspects of the mobility policy of corporate responders—everything from when, where and for whom corporations pay for private school, the level of support they offer for different kinds of students (e.g., SEN students), what kinds of “extras” they do or don’t support (e.g., tutoring, books, trips, uniforms), and the degree to which they support expatriates with planning for their children’s reassimilation into the home country education system when they repatriate.
One takeaway from the survey was particularly surprising and prompted me to write this blog, given the enormous investment in these high-profile employees: fully 60% of participants offer no education-related assistance at all to repatriating employees, and of the remainder, only 15% offer the assistance of an education consultant.
It’s understandable that some might assume, at first glance, that repatriation is not that much of a challenge: the family is returning to its home country and is presumably well-equipped to deal with the schooling challenges and other issues to be faced. But good policymakers take more than one glance and realize that repatriation offers many unexpected challenges to families, and especially to children. Two real-life examples:
· A family was sent on assignment from Brussels, where the children attended French-language schools, to New York. During their assignment, their youngest son attended classes in English from age 6 to until their repatriation when he was age 11. Despite the fact that both parents are French speakers, when the family returned to Brussels and the youngest son returned to his old French-speaking school, the abrupt change of language and curriculum caused him to struggle. His academic performance lagged, and he became socially and emotionally withdrawn. After one painful year, his parents decided to switch him to an American curriculum school. Both his academic performance and social/emotional health improved dramatically.
· An American high school student repatriated from the UK with her family and entered a public (state) high school midway through her 11th grade. She had been in an English curriculum school and doing well academically. But upon her return to the US, she found herself out of step with her peers. She had not taken the local history, government, and culture classes that were required by her state for graduation. She was also not familiar with the SAT and ACT standardized exams, which are a significant part of the university entrance process and for which her peers had been preparing for several months already. The rest of her high school career was a scramble to catch up and graduate on time.
My colleagues and I at Bennett have seen countless other examples of families struggling through similar experiences. While repatriation is almost always going to be more difficult than people anticipate—it’s often said that we can’t go home again—repatriation planning and proactive academic steps (online classes, tutoring, etc.) can make the experience easier and mitigate many of the risks for students. Given that a satisfied expatriate is your best advertisement for the benefits of a mobility program, making an investment in education-related assistance upon repatriation is well worth considering.
Timothy Dwyer, President
Over the years, Bennett International Education Consultancy has worked with hundreds of corporations across the globe, many of them Fortune 500 companies, providing domestic and international school advisement & placement services - preschool through university - to the dependents of relocating employees. In addition to education placement, our team provides customized consulting for corporations with a range of education issues: education policy writing & benchmarking, tuition studies, group move advisement & planning, and remote education solutions.