Demand is driven by a desire from students and their parents to be able to compete globally in the foreign university degrees arena. However, growth could be hampered by a short-supply of native English teachers the organisation has warned.
“It’s not only learning in English … It’s also the increased opportunities that internationally respected curricula and examinations offer”
Five years ago, the total number of students at international schools was 2.75 million, and 15 years ago just under a million students were enrolled.
Now with four million students attending an international school, Nick Brummitt, chairman of ISC, emphasised how international schools are becoming increasingly desirable across the globe.
“As economies improve and incomes increase, an international school education becomes high on the list of priorities for more families,” he told The PIE News.
Around 80% of the students in English-medium international schools are from non-English speaking families, according to ISC.
However, “it’s not only learning in English that’s the impetus,” commented Brummitt. “It’s also the increased opportunities that internationally respected curricula and examinations offer.”
English-medium international schools often teach Western-recognised curriculums including the International Baccalaureate and the National Curriculum of England, which Brummitt says appeals to students from around the world.
“Such qualifications are a way for young people to increase their chances of attending reputable, English-medium universities and to compete on the global stage,” he said.
“And this is what’s fuelling the growth of international schools around the world.”
Some regions are growing more quickly than others. The UAE, for example, has seen a huge increase in supply from 312 English-medium international schools five years ago to 514 last month.
The total number of students enrolled in these schools is now at 479,700 – an increase from 278,717 in May 2010 – representing the highest number of students enrolled across all major international school markets.
As well as the level of demand from the local population, the growth in this region has been attributed to the high number of expatriates, the wealth of the country, and the governments of Abu Dhabi and Dubai allowing an unlimited number of students at international schools.
In addition to the UAE, the international schools market in China has also boomed, increasing from 260 schools in May 2010 to 530 English-medium international schools across the country, enrolling 326,400 students this year.
“There are not enough top quality teachers who meet these criteria and schools compete to recruit the best ones”
According to ISC, there’s an increasing demand from Chinese nationals for English-medium, western-oriented education that prepares students well for western university.
Beyond the UAE and China, Brummitt expects enrolments to continue to rise right across the globe.
“In Malaysia, the government has removed a previous limit on enrolment of local students at international schools,” he said. “In Qatar, UAE and Hong Kong, demand exceeds supply and school expansions and new developments will respond to this.
“In some of the Latin American countries improved economies coupled with a growing demand for bilingual education is fuelling the growth,” he added.
However, he noted that recruiting and retaining a quality teaching force remains a significant barrier for some providers.
In its Global Report released earlier this year, ISC observed that international schools “need to recruit teachers whose mother tongue is English, who have experience of teaching globally recognised curricula and who are willing to move away from their home countries.”
It went on to underline that: “there are not enough top quality teachers who meet these criteria and schools compete to recruit the best ones.”