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Wellbeing and online provision in demand at int’l schools – survey

Families are opting to send their children to international schools in the hope of boosting their English language skills and giving them an edge over peers in reliable pathways to global higher education, a survey of international school admissions staff has suggested.

international schoolsEnglish language is a major priority in the selection of potential schools. Photo: pixabay

84% said online learning provision was either "important" or "very important"

The white paper, published by ISC Research, also explored trends in the demand for international schools and the impact of Covid-19 on parental motivations for choosing international schools.

The global health pandemic has “resulted in parents making additional demands on their child’s school including structured student wellbeing provision, rigorous distance learning, and comprehensive health and safety protocols”, the paper noted.

Wellbeing is increasingly being recognised by many schools”

Prospective parents are now basing their decisions on these provisions as well as a school’s ability to respond to a crisis, the report added.

Of the admissions staff surveyed across a wide range of schools in key markets such as Europe, the Middle East, East and South East Asia, 66% said that wellbeing support provided by a school is now considered a “very important” factor during school selection.

Additionally, 84% said their school’s online learning provision is either “important” or “very important” to prospective parents as they have acknowledged the likelihood of repeated campus closures or isolation periods due to the pandemic.

“The impact of Covid-19 has raised awareness of strategic wellbeing provision in schools further to the point that, for more parents, it is now a stated requirement in school selection,” ISC Research explained.

Speaking to The PIE News, ISC Research communications director Anne Keeling said that many international schools expect the demand for wellbeing support to continue long term.

“Indeed many international schools providing strong support in this area are finding that this is helping them to stand out within their market, leading to more admissions enquiries,” she said.

The survey also re-asserted previously identified trends such as English language learning being a major priority for families in their selection of potential schools.

With the “majority of demand for international schooling now coming from local families seeking out alternatives to their local state and private options”, the research also identified that the demand for bilingual education is increasing – now representing one third of the international school market.

The survey – carried out in December 2020 – also re-emphasised that parents look to international schools as “reliable pathways” to global higher education options.

“Covid-19 does not appear to have changed the demand for a reliable pathway to global higher education, nor the desire for learning in the English language,” Keeling said. But there is an “increasing emergence of, and demand for, bilingual schooling around the globe”.

“Some governments now insist on national students being provided with local culture, history, tradition and language provision and this requirement can include international schools. Many international schools independently recognise the value of this,” she explained.

“In addition, many parents want their child to value their home language and cultural heritage as well as becoming fluent English speakers, and there is a growing understanding by international educators of the impact of subtractive bilingualism on children.”

Parental involvement with their child’s school is also increasing, Keeling highlighted, with provision ranging from classes focusing on skill development for parents, from phonics and maths, to online safety, and coffee mornings and yoga classes.

“In addition, parents want more direct engagement with their child’s teachers which is increasingly available by international schools through a parent portal or app,” Keeling said.

Some 58% of the admissions staff surveyed felt a parent community was “somewhat important” to most parents, while 25% said it is “very important”.

The report also suggested that “contact time and accessibility to teachers and key staff will be a question more parents are likely to ask during admissions enquiries in the future”. 

ISC Research noted that a few international schools “improperly ‘promise’ pathways to named universities, or guaranteed access to ‘top-rated’ universities”.

“Most reputable international schools now educate parents and their students about selecting ‘best fit’ universities and courses to ensure degree success and optimum career potential,” the paper noted.

Some parents are also looking to affordable fee points as Covid-19 has “reduced disposable income for some families”, ISC Research added, with some schools reporting “students being moved to more affordable international schools, as well as requests from parents for payment plans, fee discounts, bursaries or loans to cover school fees in the short-term”.

However, pointing to the recession following the 2008 financial crisis, ISC Research said many parents previously kept their children in international schools “even though they were financially impacted in other aspects of their lives”.

“Parents want ‘more bang for their buck’”

Schools – particularly in China – also reported increased parental enquiries regarding the school’s financial status as a result of reduced enrolment or lower school fees due to Covid-19. But, it added that the pandemic’s economic impact to international schools may not be fully realised until the 2021-22 academic year.

“The desire for international school education may well remain, but parents want ‘more bang for their buck’; they expect value for money and that no longer just means the provision of a pathway to global higher education,” the paper read.

ISC Research will be releasing a report about wellbeing in international schools in March.

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