Moving out into the world

The issues schools looking to expand into the international market need to consider were among the topics discussed at a recent ISC seminar

The International School Consultancy (ISC) – which provides data and market intelligence on the world’s international school market – recently held a seminar for schools considering global expansion. It’s a market that’s growing rapidly. ISC chairman Nicholas Brummitt told delegates that, by 2025, the number of students attending international schools around the world will have grown from 3.83 million enrolments today (as of January 2015) to 8.26 million by 2025. Representatives from two British independent schools which have successfully established their brands overseas then shared experience and advice.  

The development of Marlborough College in Malaysia

The founding master of Marlborough College Malaysia, Bob Pick, explained considerations for the school’s choice of location. “We decided that our first international school ought to be in the East – India or South East Asia – because we saw that area as the economic powerhouse of the 21st century,” he said. “We wanted to find a region that understood a British education. We came to Malaysia because we were provided with a 90-acre site and found a brilliant partner in the Malaysian government. We sell ourselves as a British public school abroad. People like to buy into a British education.” For this reason the school selected a mix of curricula including the national curriculum of England in the prep school, Common Entrance as the basis of a syllabus for years seven and eight, then IGCSE and the IBDP for years 12 and 13.

The school attracts British expatriates and local Malaysians as well as students from such countries as Singapore and Japan whose families like the idea of their children attending a typically British school. Its teachers are mostly from Britain, 20 percent of whom have some association with Marlborough in Wiltshire. “They are the reason we’re able to inculcate the ethos, the culture and the style of Marlborough UK,” Bob explained. The faculty also includes teachers from countries such as New Zealand, South Africa, China, Singapore and Malaysia. “With a pupil body of 36 nationalities, it’s good to have a mix of teachers too, so that the school has an international flavour in all constituencies,” he added.

Just two years since opening, Bob said that Marlborough College Malaysia has achieved its vision of creating a school with a wholly British ethos in an international setting and is looking to its next stage of growth. “Next year, the school will expand to 800 pupils and then we will have to move to phase two of the development because we’re close to capacity within the current buildings.”

Taking Sherborne to Qatar 

Michael Weston, senior headmaster of Sherborne School Qatar, described the experience of being part of a joint venture.

Sherborne UK was selected by Qatar’s Supreme Education Council (SEC) to join its outstanding schools initiative and, as a result, Sherborne Qatar was established. Although closely regulated by the SEC, it remains “a thoroughly British, English-language school upholding the standards of Sherborne UK,” said Michael, with educational standards monitored by the parent school. “We have an annual review process, and four governors from Sherborne UK come out three or four times a year to check that we have the resources and facilities we need,” he explained. “The reputation of Sherborne UK counts for a lot, but I think we have also proved ourselves to be a proper school in our own right. We have inspections from BSME (British Schools of the Middle East), COBIS (Council of British International Schools), BSO (British Schools Overseas) and we are part of the Qatar National Schools inspection.”

Today Sherborne Qatar has two schools with over 1,000 pupils studying the national curriculum of England with enhancements, and demand for places outstrips supply.

Offering advice for independent schools considering international expansion, Michael said: “Don’t expect a quick return on the investment; slow growth is important for long-term success. And clear understanding between the UK school and the overseas developer is essential.”

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