Children and Education

As citizens of the sending country, foreign service children have the right to receive an adequate education equal to that of any other citizen, and should not be disadvantaged in their education simply because they accompany a foreign service officer on posts abroad. However, foreign service children typically move internationally every few years, requiring them to change schools with each move. Local schools abroad are often linguistically inaccessible and/or do not satisfy all the requirements in the home country to qualify for higher-level education. While international schools are more likely to meet their curricular needs, they are not always financially accessible to foreign service families without additional support from their MFA. Students with additional educational needs or medical issues often have significant difficulties finding schools which meet their needs abroad, forcing parents to either find ad hoc solutions, or let their children’s needs go unmet. Good support and access to quality education is therefore essential – not only for foreign service families, but also for Ministries of Foreign Affairs that must be able to recruit and retain qualified staff and to post them wherever they are needed.

EUFASA has produced a guide for foreign service families on raising third-culture kids (read the guide here), and a detailed booklet with tips, information and resources for foreign service families with children who have additional needs (read the document here).


  • MFAs should provide diplomatic families with a Family Office or designated MFA contact person for basic information and support, including schooling and support for children with additional needs.
  • MFAs should take children’s full educational and medical needs into account when planning international transfers of foreign service officers.
  • MFAs should ensure that foreign service children receive at least as good a quality of education as they would receive if they were to stay in their home country.
  • MFAs should provide support for language proficiency courses when necessary to allow children to follow the curriculum at a new school on post and when returning to the home country.
  • Not all children are able to thrive when switching school systems, instruction languages, and environments every few years. Foreign service children should have the option to stay within a chosen school system, both while posted abroad and when in the home country. This implies providing support for attending international schools in the home country to ensure continuity of education, especially after primary school. This also implies being ready to support creative solutions for children’s education when appropriate school options are not available.
  • When possible, MFAs should encourage the recognition of foreign school-leaving diplomas and certificates to allow acceptance at university in the home country or other EU country.
  • MFAs should provide adequate financial support for families with children who have additional needs, including matching the level of support abroad to the level the child would have received had she or he stayed at headquarters for things like learning support, therapies, shadow teachers or aides, transport to and from school, etc.
  • Families sometimes have difficulty in finding local schools for their children when returning from abroad. MFAs should work to ensure that foreign service children can have a smooth transition into the school system at headquarters.