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Bilingual School or International school: which is better for your child?

Bilingual School or International school: which is better for your child?

Choosing the right school for your child is one of the most important decisions you will make as a parent. If you are considering a bilingual school in Milan or an international school, there are some key differences to consider. This article will explore the main differences between a school like MILE Bilingual School, and an international school, to help you make the best decision for your child.

Key points:

The differences between bilingual schools and international schools

Bilingual Schools

There are a few key differences between a bilingual school and an international school. For example, MILE school integrates the Italian national curriculum with the Cambridge International curriculum, offering an equal balance between the two languages of instruction. International schools offer international curricula such as Cambridge International or IB (International Baccalaureate), with instruction primarily in English. 

A significant advantage of a bilingual school is that it can help students learn two languages simultaneously. Starting as young as one or two years of age, enrolling your child in a bilingual nursery school can be extremely beneficial in preparing students to become fluent in two languages, and potentially to study abroad in the future. Bilingual schools often have a strong cultural focus, as well, exposing students to the customs and traditions of diverse cultures.

International schools

International schools usually have a diverse student body, with learners coming from all over the world. This can offer an enriching educational experience, as students are exposed to a variety of diverse cultures and perspectives. The curriculum, especially in high school, often includes international relations and global issues, which can be beneficial for older students who are interested in pursuing a career in an international field.

Which type of school is better for your child?

Both bilingual schools and international schools have their own benefits. It is important to research and visit each type of school before making a decision about which would best suit your child. Choosing the right school depends on each child’s individual needs and interests, as well as family priorities. 

If your child is interested in learning two languages with the aim of reaching a fluent, mother-tongue level, then a Bilingual school would be the best fit. Becoming bilingual at an early age can prepare your child for a bright future, considering the ever-changing globalized community.

If you prefer your child’s education to be delivered primarily in English, or your family is only staying for a brief period in Italy, an international school might be your preferred option.  Some parents might elect a hybrid approach, starting with a bilingual elementary/middle school and later moving to an international high school, boarding school or overseas exchange program. 

Bilingual education: the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages / Photo courtesy Mile School Milan

The long-term benefits of a bilingual education

There are several long-term benefits to bilingual education, especially for children. These include enhanced communication skills and enhanced opportunities later in life. Additionally, bilingual education can help children learn about other cultures and appreciate diversity. Research has shown that bilingual education can improve cognitive skills, including problem-solving and critical thinking, as well as promoting social and emotional development. Other proven benefits include:

  • increased cognitive development
  • better academic results
  • improved mnemonic abilities
  • better adaptability to change
  • greater empathy
  • cross-cultural appreciation

Are there any disadvantages to bilingual schools or international schools?

When it comes to both bilingual and international education, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Parents should bear in mind that bilingual and international schools in Italy are private. They do not receive public funds but do have a reputation for highly qualified teachers, personnel, and facilities.  

Another consideration is that bilingual education can be quite demanding for students, as they learn to juggle schoolwork in two different languages. Students who do not speak a second language at home may struggle at first, but with time and guidance will easily overcome the challenge.   

In summary, both bilingual and international schools can be great options for students, depending on their needs, preferences, and personal goals. 

This guide was written in collaboration with Mile Bilingual School in Milan.

Welcoming students from over 20 nationalities, MILE is a paritaria school, officially recognised by the Italian Ministry of Education (MIUR), both for Primary and Lower Secondary. All subjects are taught in Italian and English to ensure a solid academic foundation for students to access the best Italian and international high schools. Learn more about MILE Bilingual School

Article by Anthony Ryan for Easy Milano. Images courtesy Mile Bilingual School.


Easy Milano

Easy Milano is the online publication for the international community of Milan. We offer practical tips, key information and essential insights about living and working in Italy. Easy Milano has been assisting English speaking expats in Milan since 1999.
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