International Schools: A Growing Choice

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Ten years ago, the chance of finding an international school in your new relocation destination was, at best, sporadic. Today, most major cities have at least one good international school, if not several. Most international schools cater for a healthy mixture of expatriate and local children. And international schools continue to gain a reputation for preparing international children well for English-speaking higher education opportunities throughout the world.

In 2000 there were 2,584 international schools teaching close to 1 million students; mainly expats. Today that number stands at 5,676 international schools teaching over 2.5 million students and by 2020 the prediction is for over 11,000 international schools with over 5 million students. The growing desire to send local children to international schools is based on the quality of teaching and learning that many of these schools provide, coupled with the recognition by local wealthier families of the value of an English-medium education.

These figures and trends are all tracked by ISC Research – the only independent organisation dedicated to mapping the world’s international schools and analysing developments in the market – who predict continued opportunities for parents wishing to provide an international education for their children wherever they may be living in the world. “Asia (including the Middle East which is Western Asia) has dominated the growth since January 2006 and with 3,000 schools, accounts for 53% of all international schools worldwide,” says Nicholas Brummitt, Managing Director of ISC Research. “The leading countries for international schools currently are China, India, Pakistan, the UAE and Thailand. Europe has also grown significantly and now has 1,324 international schools. We expect future growth to be centred in Southern Asia; particularly in India and Pakistan, in Western Asia in parts of the UAE, Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, in Eastern Asia; especially China, Hong Kong and South Korea, and in South East Asia in Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore,” he says.

So why the growth in local children attending international schools? It’s mostly been fuelled by a significant increase in the wealth of local families says Nick. “In many cases, an English-medium education for their children is very high on their list of priorities. It is now widely accepted that opportunities for students after international school are tremendous with the top universities the world over consistently competing for the best students. Many local families want this opportunity for their children and most schools see this as an enormous benefit for their expatriate intake; providing immediate and direct links with the local community that they’re living in.”

Although some international schools employ a small percentage of local teachers, the vast majority of teaching staff in English-medium international schools come from English-speaking countries around the world where education training and the teaching profession is revered. This includes teachers from the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, America and South Africa. Currently there are 350,000 fully qualified teachers working in international schools and that number is anticipated to rise to 500,000 by 2020 to meet the demand from increased student intake and additional new schools. “This is the biggest problem facing international schools today,” says Nick Brummitt. “Not only to meet the demand of students, but also to maintain the high quality standards that most international schools currently hold.”

Nick points out that a recent new trend in international school options is the establishment of sister schools of top UK private schools. Harrow, Dulwich, Shrewsbury, Repton, Oxford High and Wellington College have all opened international schools and Epsom College, Oundle, Brighton College and others are preparing for imminent school openings in international locations.

“Excellent schooling options for expatriate families continues to grow,” says Nick Brummitt. “In many internationally commercial cities you may have the choice of several international schools. Making your choice may therefore require the consideration of curriculum as you may well have the choice of schools focusing on the UK curriculum (British International schools), American or other national
curricula, or international curricula such as the International Baccalaureate or the International Primary Curriculum. Also bilingual international schools are becoming another alternative.”

More information about the international schools market, including a comprehensive database of schools throughout the world is available at

Source: The Expat Education Guide 2011/2012


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