The international schools sector has been growing rapidly in recent years, and with increased globalisation this trend shows no signs of slowing down. Successful British schools are opening more sister campuses overseas to fulfil the surging demand for English education. This demand has been particularly intense in territories such as China and Saudi Arabia, where local parents are becoming increasingly keen to join the expatriate community and benefit from the advantages an international school education can offer.
Many parents in Saudi Arabia, for example, appear to favour the teaching methods and curricula on offer in English-education schools above those in the Saudi state and private systems. In a recent study, over 70 percent of parents said they would enrol their children in international rather than local schools. This interest has allowed the international school sector to flourish, creating opportunities for local students to be exposed to the different cultures and ideas found in schools offering International Baccalaureate (IB), SATs or GCSEs.
However, in China, international education is viewed as a springboard for Chinese students to further their education abroad. Parents’ enthusiasm for foreign curricula is so strong that it has prompted the Chinese government to implement policies to restore the country's "national education" as the priority for schools.
Why are emerging markets so enthused about their children participating in international education?
In short, an international education will lead to increased prospects for students once they leave school. Their qualifications will be widely recognised in universities around the world, and their English language skills will, in the majority of cases, already be at a level where they will be accepted to study at these institutions. International schools often have links to highly prestigious universities and these connections, along with the reputation of the curriculum followed, will improve the prospects of a student being accepted into some of the top tier institutes.
Furthermore, children will have been exposed to a wide variety of cultures and belief systems, allowing them to develop greater flexibility, adaptability and understanding when venturing out into the world of further education and employment. Their understanding of different ways of working, both independently and collaboratively, will be enhanced and they will have a deeper understanding of how to work in a multicultural, multinational environment. Growing up alongside Third Culture Kids (children brought up in cultures that are not their own), will help local students become more comfortable with the idea of studying or working abroad, which is especially valuable if options are limited in their home country.
It goes without saying, that attendance at an international school involves more than just access to an international curriculum and students from a wide range of backgrounds. Schools shape students’ values, actions and ethos and provide pupils with the capability to thrive in a world which is becoming increasingly integrated and multicultural. Children are offered access to a pastoral care system which benefits from research and ideas from all corners of the globe, encouraging them to grow and develop at their own pace and know that there are many ‘right answers’ to any given situation.
The growth of international schools demonstrates that we’re living in an increasingly interconnected world, with a need for expats to travel to ever more remote parts of the globe. Beyond that, it underlines the important role international schools play within the education mix of emerging markets, like China and Saudi Arabia, offering new opportunities for local students to get a great education and a chance at expanding their horizons. With such huge demand from expat and local parents alike, it’s unlikely we’ll see this growth decrease any time soon.
As Head of International Education at Winter’s International School Finder, Carolyn is passionate about education and has spent 15 years working with children from all around the world. She is a third culture kid, whose understanding of the changing face of international education runs deep and she’s keen to help parents find the right schools for their children.