International schools are booming

The number of children attending the world’s international schools has now passed three million. In 2002 the figure was just one million, according to ISC Research. It seems this surge in demand is driving rapid expansion in the sector, and is set to create great opportunities for UK teachers wanting to work overseas.

International schools are typically fee-paying institutions that deliver the curriculum wholly or partly in English, outside an English-speaking country. Many are highly respected. Their phenomenal growth in just ten years is a trend that ISC Research, which has been tracking data on English international schools for twenty years, predicts will continue for the foreseeable future.

More pupils from local families

ISC Research says that whereas ten years ago the typical international school student was from an expatriate family, today that student is more likely to be from a local family. But it’s not that the number of expatriate children attending international schools has decreased – in fact there are many more; what has changed is the recognition by local families that international schools are a means of advancing to further education at some of the world’s best universities.

“Parents of the next generation are looking towards international schools to satisfy the need for critical thinking rather than learning by rote,” says Clive Pierrepont, Director of Communications at Taaleem, which owns and manages 13 schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. “The parents clearly see international schools as a route through for university opportunities.”

It’s this recognition, coupled with increased income, which is making attendance at an international school a real possibility for wealthier local families; ISC Research says today 80% of students at international schools are local children – and in a number of cities, this demand from both expat and local families is outstripping supply. This is causing many relocating expats to demand security of school places before taking up jobs that may otherwise pay well and be in attractive locations, and causing a number of countries to actively encourage international school growth – notably in China, India, Malaysia, Korea, and the UAE.

Six million students predicted in next decade

ISC Research predicts that the number of students in international schools will reach six million in another ten years, and that the number of international schools will increase from 6,000 today to 10,000.

“The international school market has become big business. There are now a number of highly respected, multinational groups of schools driving growth forward,” says Nicholas Brummitt, managing director of ISC Research.

“The one thing that nearly all these groups have in common is that they are expanding aggressively, either by buying existing schools, expanding existing operations or starting new schools. There are also schools with campuses in several countries. These include a number of UK private schools with international operations such as Harrow, in Beijing and Bangkok, with a third school in Hong Kong opening in September this year, and Dulwich, which has schools in China and is opening several more in Asia over the next few years.”

This growth of international schools has got to be good news for qualified British teachers wanting to live and work abroad, who are held in high esteem by many international schools.

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