International schools

International schools: A growing choice

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International schools continue to gain a reputation for preparing international children for English-speaking 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 continue to gain a reputation for preparing international 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 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 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 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.

The demographics of international schools

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 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."

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 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

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3 Comments To This Article

  • Nurcan Uçar posted:

    on 30th November 2012, 10:39:26 - Reply

    We are expat family in Belgium, came here only few months ago. It is very good to have International school oppurtunity, because we will be here for a short time. There is big support from companies for new international schools in Belgium. There are new schools in other cities like Ghent which is very intellectual and comfortable city. Also, because of increasing competition, their fees are comparable. I suggest parents to give chance all alternatives.
  • Beatrice posted:

    on 24th January 2012, 15:31:32 - Reply

    When children are arriving newly to the Netherlands they can surely opt for the governmental facilities, that are great and free, even if it is special (like Waldorf but prior to that they "should" learn Dutch, and this is done in "opvangscholen" they are sort of new comers reception-care schools.
    Nevertheless, I have a deep concern about those schools because some studies seem to point out that they tend to be found in neighborhoods that are somewhat problematic, with not too well integrated immigrants and from countries in which educational concepts and ideals are quite far from the one Dutch society (and other "developed" nations) is trying to promote.

    Many of the children who attend those schools have not just to cope with learning a new language, and this is the point that worries me the most, they also have to cope with an extra load of stress from their social environment: lack of proper care, attention and emotional support due to the huge amount of hours the immigrants parents are likely to spend at work; lack of pro-active education at home due to the parents' concepts about education more similar to those we had ourself over 50 years ago, like authoritarianism, etc..

    Those facilities are necessary, due to high-rise of children from abroad and it is hard to make it in a balanced way... It is also sad to acknowledge more and more gap between "the rich" and "the poor" in our society, where the ones who pay for it first are the most vulnerable, like in this case, the children. So children in those schools are sometimes more aggressive, and more disruptive than the more balanced ones.

    Indeed, the section of the immigrant population of those belonging to "highly skilled" migrants those who come from similar educational values, tend to enroll their children in international (and expensive) schools or semi-sponsored schools (still expensive for some immigrants).
    Somewhere in between are schools like the one who offer a special orientation in education, like Dalton, Waldorf, Montessori. Many foreigners with an interest for alternative or progressive education choose to enroll their children in such schools, but again, those are accessible once the child has some sound knowledge of Dutch.

    I believe that it is indeed a problem that is hard to solve for the education department, not just in the Netherlands but in many more of the developed nations.
  • well.. posted:

    on 30th October 2011, 19:49:20 - Reply

    Yeah but sadly the international schools are pricey and usually private. Catering mostly to kids who's families move around a lot in their occupation.