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Instruction in English Seen as a Passport to the World

By Anne Keeling
Instruction in English Seen as a Passport to the World

The number of English-medium international schools around the world has reached 8,000. In total, these schools are teaching over 4.26 million students aged from three to 18.
ISC Research (part of The International School Consultancy), which is the leading provider of data and intelligence on the international schools market, says the figure was reached this October and the market continues to grow. By 2025, ISC Research predicts there will be at least 15,000 English-medium international schools teaching over 8 million students.
A passport to a global world
The primary reason for this growth is the increasing demand by local non-English-speaking families. According to a report (“English as a Medium of Instruction – A Growing Global Phenomenon”) by the British Council and the University of Oxford published in 2014, the desire to learn in the language of English is a “growing global phenomenon” and, in some countries, the report states that “English-medium instruction is being promoted by policy makers, administrators, teachers, and parents as a passport to a global world.”
For many families, international schools go one step further. Not only do they provide an English-medium education, they also deliver globally recognized curricula and high standards of learning and teaching. For many parents, local as well as expatriate, this is considered an important educational route, one through which their child can gain a place at a western university, being well-prepared not only in language but also in qualifications and a western style of learning. It is this preparation that makes all the difference for many higher education establishments.
Karen McKellin, Executive Director of International Student Initiatives at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada says: “International schools are a very important market for us. Their students meet all of our requirements, they are well prepared to mix and participate, they have very good facility of English language, and they’ve been exposed to internationally recognised curricula.”
Typical of an increasing number of universities today, a significant percentage of the transnational undergraduate students (70 percent in the case of UBC) originate from English-medium international schools.
Demand exceeds supply
According to ISC Research, which has tracked and analyzed data on the world’s international schools for over 20 years, the market has grown dramatically since the year 2000. ISC Market Intelligence Country Reports for several countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong, state that demand for places at many of the leading international schools exceeds supply, with long waiting lists.
In the UAE, there are currently a total of 526 international schools employing over 39,000 full-time teachers and, in Dubai alone, 21 new English-medium international schools are due to open over the next two years. In Hong Kong, the number of English-medium international schools has risen from 92 in the year 2000 to a total of 171 today. However, the number of students has more than doubled, from 34,200 to well over 77,000. Even with several planned new developments and expansions, ISC Research says that demand is expected to exceed supply in Hong Kong for the next few years.
The international schools market in China is also attracting attention. Strict restrictions prevent local children from attending the traditional international schools for expatriates in China (known as Schools for Children of Foreign Workers). However, Chinese-owned international schools, which can accept local Chinese students, are now emerging. These schools are often partnered with a recognized independent school brand from the U.K. or U.S. to support the delivery of a western-learning ethos and approach. The U.K.’s Wellington College is one such example, announcing in October the first phase of Wellington College Bilingual Shanghai, a school for local Chinese children that will fully integrate both Chinese and British education and where learning will take place in Mandarin and English.
“In many developing countries, English-medium international schools are growing in popularity, and several governments are including planned international school development within their economic transformation programmes,” says Nicholas Brummitt, Chairman of ISC Research. “The market is looking extremely healthy.”
The demand for international school teachers
This growing popularity for English-medium international schools also means an increasing need for quality teachers to deliver the curricula and learning style in the language of English. International schools currently employ a total of 393,000 full time teaching staff.
The premium international schools tend to hire mostly expatriate teachers. In the UAE, where the vast majority of international schools are considered to be premium international schools, 47 percent of the teachers in these schools are from the U.K., 13 percent are from North America, while less than 1 percent are local teachers
ISC Research predicts that the UAE alone will need at least 14,000 more teachers within the next five years, and by 2020, the global international schools market will be employing 503,000 fully qualified, full-time teachers.

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