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Teacher demand international schools’ biggest challenge, says ISC Research

Professional capital will be the biggest challenge for the English-medium international schools market over the next five years, according to a report from ISC Research. Some 150,000 qualified teachers will be needed by 2021 as the number of students enrolled globally exceeds six million.

Dulwich College Yangon international schoolDulwich College will open two campuses this year in Burma - one country where demand for international schools is starting to open up, according to the ISC Research report. Image: Dulwich College Yangon.

"Families are placing a high priority on education that will enable their children to access universities in the US, Canada and the UK"

International schools are no longer being seen as an option for just elite and expatriate families, and parents’ desire to equip their children with English language skills and prepare them for university overseas have contributed to a worldwide boom.

“The need for high quality training provision is vital if the market is to continue to expand at pace and maintain its reputation”

The number of international schools worldwide has climbed from 6,000 enrolling three million students to more than 8,600 with 4.5 million students as of December 2016, according to ISC Research’s new report on the global English-medium international schools market.

And this growth is set to continue, with the number of students forecasted to reach 6.3 million by 2021.

Schools will therefore face the challenge of finding enough skilled teachers to deliver a high quality education to all of these students.

There were around 426,200 teachers working in international schools at the end of last year, according to the report, but 581,000 will be needed to accommodate demand by 2021.

“The need for high quality training provision is vital if the market is to continue to expand at pace and, at the same time, maintain its good reputation for teaching and learning,” noted Richard Gaskell, school director at ISC Research.

“Potential options include upskilling local teachers, remote top-up training, conversion courses, and more.”

One issue is that parents often prefer their children to be taught by “skilled Western expatriates” who have both native English language proficiency and experience teaching the appropriate curriculum and pedagogy, Gaskell told The PIE News.

However, he added that some schools are managing to successfully balance teaching between both expatriate and well trained local staff.

“Opportunities for teacher training and conversion courses do exist and there are more public conversations now about best solutions to this developing challenge,” he said, nodding to the role that transnational teacher training providers could play in answering a skills deficit.

The UAE, which leads in international school numbers, has the greatest demand for teachers. Its 592 schools currently employ more than 45,000 teachers, and those with experience of teaching England’s National Curriculum are most in demand, according to Gaskell.

Over 45,000 teachers are currently being employed at international schools in the UAE. In most demand are fully qualified teachers who have experience of teaching the National Curriculum of England.

Demand for teachers is also “huge” in China, Gaskell noted. Chinese aspirational families seeking globally-recognised high school qualifications, as well as the emergence of private Chinese-owned bilingual schools, are driving growth, with some of these schools reporting waiting lists of several years.

Student enrolments at international schools in China increased from 117,900 to 232,100 in the year to December 2016.

Largely because of this, East Asia saw the greatest percentage growth in regional enrolment at international schools during the 2015/16, up by 13%.

“There is a huge growing desire by middle-income families to invest significant amounts of money to give their child the best education”

“There is a huge growing desire by middle-income families throughout East Asia, particularly China, to invest significant amounts of money to give their child the best education in order to get them into the best Western universities,” Gaskell said.

Enrolment at international schools in South East Asia in particular has increased by 10.1%. The report identifies Burma as one of the countries driving market growth in this region.

Dulwich College, for example, will open two campuses in the Burmese city of Rangoon in September, which will be the first in the country to have a direct link to a British independent school.

Like India, Colombia and Peru, where international schools are also gaining in popularity, Burma’s economy is improving. “In all of these countries, families are placing a very high priority on the education of their children, especially an English-medium education following globally recognised curricula and qualifications that will enable them to access universities in the United States, Canada and the UK, Gaskell said.

Student numbers have continued to climb even in the Middle East, despite the oil & gas slump, which was predicted to affect the number of students enrolled by 1-2%. Student enrolment numbers have increased by 7.8% in the last five years, the report showed.

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