Washington DC boasts a variety of schooling options, including public, charter, private and international schools. Expats are eligible to attend all types of school, though those opting for a public school may find their choices limited based on their neighbourhood of residence.
Being the capital of the United States, DC offers some of the best education in the country. It's also home to world-class tertiary institutions such as the internationally acclaimed Georgetown University.
Nevertheless, public elementary and secondary schools have faced challenges of funding and staffing, leading to their quality being inconsistent and frequently dependent on the average income level of the surrounding area.
Both Maryland and Virginia, while being extremely close to DC, have separate respective school systems.
Public schools in Washington DC
District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) governs all traditional public schools in Washington DC. Public schools accept students based primarily on their location of residence. Expats should, therefore, consider carefully where they settle in the city.
Despite numerous challenges, the city still offers some public schools that are among the most reputable in the country.
Expats also have the option of sending their children to public charter schools in Washington DC, which, despite being publically funded, function independent of government regulations. Such schools are run by the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board (DC PCSB) and have more flexible academic programmes and curricula than traditional public schools.
Charter schools have grown in popularity over the past decade, largely due to the perceived flaws of the traditional public schooling system. However, they can be inconsistent in terms of quality and many have been closed down in the past for failing to maintain sufficient standards. That said, parents can rest assured that the ones that remain offer a higher standard of education than traditional public schools.
Private schools in Washington DC
Many expats opt to send their children to private schools in Washington DC. Such schools have complete control over their curricula. As such, it's recommended that parents familiarise themselves thoroughly with an institution before enrolling their children. The Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW) is a collection of 19 accredited private schools in the DC area, providing expat parents with a way to determine a suitable establishment.
Tuition fees vary considerably among private schools in DC and depend on a number of factors, such as location and the school’s financial endowment. Though this is certainly a pricier option than public school, there are significant perks such as high-quality teachers, effective services and a low teacher-to-student ratio.
International schools in Washington DC
There are two primary candidates for expats looking to enrol their children in an international school in Washington DC: Washington International School and the British School of Washington. Both of these institutions offer the International Baccalaureate Programme.
International schools are considerably more expensive than other schooling options. However, they're ideal for expats who aren't planning to be in Washington DC for a long period or whose children are moving from an international school in another country. International schools will provide a more familiar environment, association with other expat children, and continuity with their previous curriculum.
Thanks to the city's large expat community, particularly within the diplomatic sector, demand for international schools in Washington DC is high. Expats are advised to apply as soon as possible to secure a place for their children.