Last update on April 24, 2019

International schools continue to gain a reputation for preparing children for English-language higher education opportunities throughout the world.

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 to a healthy mixture of expatriate and local children. In addition, international schools have a reputation for preparingi children well for English-speaking higher education opportunities throughout the world.

International schools: The facts

In 2000, there were 2,584 international schools teaching close to oe million students – mainly expats. Today that number stands at 5,676 schools teaching over 2.5 million students; by 2020, the prediction is that there will be over 11,000 international schools with more than 5 million students.

The growing desire to send local children to international schools is based on the quality of teaching that these schools provide. Local, wealthier families also recognize value in an English-language education.

International schools

ISC Research, an independent organization dedicated to mapping the world’s international schools and analyzing developments in the market, tracks these figures and trends. They 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. This accounts for 53 percent 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 United Arab Emirates, and Thailand. Europe has also grown significantly and now has 1,324 schools. We expect future growth to be centered in Southern Asia, particularly in India and Pakistan; in Western Asia, in parts of the United Arab Emirates, 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.

The demographics of international schools

So, why the growth in local children attending international schools? It’s mostly been fueled by a significant increase in the wealth of local families says Nick. “In many cases, an English-language 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. The top universities the world over are 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 schools employ a small percentage of local teachers, the vast majority of teaching staff in international schools come from English-speaking countries. This includes teachers from the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, and South Africa.

Currently, there are 350,000 fully qualified teachers working in international schools. 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 of these schools currently hold.”

New options

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 foreign locations, while Epsom College, Oundle, Brighton College, and others are preparing for imminent school openings globally.

“Excellent schooling options for expatriate families continues to grow,” says Nick Brummitt. “In many cities, you may have the choice of several international schools.”

Making your choice may therefore require the consideration of curriculum. You may well have the choice of schools focusing on the a national curricula, or an international curricula such as the International Baccalaureate or the International Primary Curriculum. Bilingual international schools are becoming another alternative.”