Over recent years there has been a significant growth in the number of international schools set up around the world.
Traditionally the preserve of expats, they are increasingly fuelled by the growing importance of the English language in global business.
International schools are now being used by parents as a choice to educate their children locally to ensure that their qualifications and language proficiency will be an asset as they develop their careers. English as the most widely used second language drives the demand as well as the opportunity to gain globally recognised qualifications following the English curriculum, International Baccalaureate and US qualifications. These give students an advantage in applying for places at universities in the US, UK, Canada and Australia.
The International Schools Consultancy report that there are currently 5 million students in international schools, in 9,459 international schools with 483,000 staff generating $48 billion in school fees. Although this is a small proportion of overall student numbers, Forbes reports that this is expected to continue with forecasts of 16,000 schools and 8.75 million students by 2026. Forbes said that the market is expected to be worth $89 billion by 2026.
Asia has the largest increase and now accounts for over half of the international schools and 60% of the students. ISC Research report that in Eastern Asia there has been an increase from 977 international schools in 2012 to 1,421 by the end of 2017. China restricts Chinese children from attending foreign-owned schools leading to Chinese owners linking to foreign schools, particularly British independent schools. This is driven by growth in the number of affluent families in China able to afford private education. The South China Morning Post reported that there are currently 15 education providers looking for space to expand or set up new campuses in Hong Kong.
In South East Asia demand from expats is down, but there is increasing demand from local families. Thailand has seen 30% growth since 2012 and even Singapore where there are restrictions on local students attending international schools there has been 11% growth since 2012.
The British brand in Asia is strong with Dulwich College having campuses in Beijing, Shanghai, Sezhou, Seoul and Singapore and Harrow in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Bangkok.
In the Middle East the UAE has the largest number of students attending international schools with 621,900 students and this is projected by ISC to grow to 959,000 by 2022. Saudi Arabia is also expected to see growth as the country opens its economy to foreign involvement.
This has led to a major increase in demand for qualified teachers. Nicholas Brummit, chairman of the ISC said “The most significant concern for international schools will be sourcing and hiring of enough suitably qualified teachers and leaders. Nobody really knows where they will come from.”.
Overall the development of the international schools market is changing the nature of the experience for students with greater involvement from local citizens adding to the traditional demand from expats for an option that enables them to obtain qualifications that will be an asset when they return home. It also opens up teaching as a career option for those who want to live and work abroad for a proportion of their career or as a long-term career choice.