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International Schools Support Higher Ed Success, Says New Research

By Anne Keeling
International Schools Support Higher Ed  Success, Says New Research

A new, free report published by ISC Research shares information about the university choices that are being made by students at the world’s international schools. The report also focuses on research examining the professional relationships between schools and universities that facilitate selection success for students. “Pathways From English-medium International Schools to University” includes qualitative and quantitative research conducted by ISC Research in September 2018, with college counselors in over 180 international schools around the world. The report highlights the fact that English-medium international schools are a fast-growing source of high-caliber undergraduates for universities. It also identifies the challenges that students and guidance professionals at these schools face as the global higher education market expands and becomes increasingly competitive. International schools around the world have become recognized for their success in offering a reliable pathway to higher education, and this has helped the market to grow into a multi-billion-dollar industry. Many parents select international schools on this fact alone. According to ISC Research data, there are now over 10,000 English-medium international schools worldwide delivering learning to over 5 million students. Fifty-five percent of these schools provide learning for students between the ages of 16 and 18. Academic success, greater choice The report highlights the Grade averages of the three most popular qualifications offered by the world’s international schools; A Levels, International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP), and Advanced Placement. They suggest significantly higher levels of academic achievement than global averages. In addition, 83 percent of respondents in the survey stated that over 90 percent of their 2017–2018 grade 12 students gained places in higher education. University destinations for 2017–2018 international school students were varied, covering all countries where English-medium degrees are now offered. The most popular countries were the U.S., U.K., Canada, Netherlands, Spain, Australia, Germany, and Japan. The report indicates various reasons motivating students’ choice of country, including cost, visa benefits, safety of the country, ranking of the university, and active promotion by the university to students, as well as location of the university and quality of education provision. Almost 50 percent of the college counselors researched in the study said that universities from more countries were now promoting their degrees to the school and its students. “With the expansion of English-medium courses in non-English-speaking countries, including the Netherlands, Germany, and the UAE, the choices that a student, their family, support network and the college counselor need to consider are increasingly complex,” states the report. “Today, college counselors need to be educated in all the options available to the students,” it adds. The most popular universities where international school students gained places in 2018 were University of British Columbia and University of Toronto in Canada, University College London and King’s College London in the United Kingdom, and New York University in the United States. The most popular subject choices focused on accounting, finance, business and management studies; engineering; economics; and computer science and information systems. But the research highlights the fact that international school students made a broad selection of degrees that also included politics, law, medicine, art and design, and psychology. Essential selection support The report provides some clear insights into the challenges and opportunities that international school students face as they select their next step and make their move to higher education. It also demonstrates the benefit that trusted relationships between international school college counselors and university international officers can have on student pathway outcomes. “It is all about connections,” states the report. “College counselors spend considerable time building relationships with university international officers. The development of these relationships, through close engagement, allows college counselors to enhance their body of knowledge on the most suitable and relevant options for students’ specific circumstances. With this counseling expertise, students are closer to making decisions,” the report explains. One college counselor, Jacqui Brelsford from the British International School in Phuket, said: “Universities coming to us is really important. The students know about the universities that come to visit and they apply to the same 10–12 universities each year. I would like to see some of the lesser-known universities come visit us.” However, the report suggests that, for some international schools, the guidance of students at this pivotal stage of their life may be lacking as a result of the increasingly complex nature of university selection. “College counselors’ roles are extremely variable between schools, more a function of the allocation of resources and college counseling provision by individual schools, than a reflection of interest or counselors’ specific approaches,” states the report. “As the number of students studying at international schools and seeking entry into higher education continues to increase, this is about managing workloads more effectively and distributing resources.” Balancing aspiration and best fit The report also raises awareness of the high aspirations of many international school parents and the challenge that college counselors face in managing conflicting desires of the student and parents. The report says that most college counselors who were researched mentioned how parents can have quite different expectations for their child’s university education than their child. “College counselors can spend considerable time with the parents, who can communicate a strong position on the ‘what’ and ‘where,’” says the report. College counselor Jeremy Handcock from Vienna International School told the researcher: “It does happen quite often that parents have decided that their son or daughter will be a doctor or engineer… and sometimes they even decided which university their son or daughter will go to, irrespective of the fact that Oxford or Cambridge are on 40 plus points and their kid has got 30.” This is where the role of the college counselor is vital, according to the report: “It’s essential for informing the student and parent body, cohort after cohort, of university campus qualities and course selection; it is equally important for guiding ‘right fit’ selection, so increasing the potential of degree retention and success.” The report highlights areas where improvements can be made at international schools, and by universities, if college counselors are to offer the best guidance, resulting in successful progression and degree retention for all students.

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