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Why International Schools Are Now the Choice of Many Parents

By Doris Suchet, ISC Research
Why International Schools Are Now the Choice of Many Parents


In most cities of the world, parents now have extensive education choice for their child; in some cities, the range of international schools is vast. ISC Research data shows that Dubai currently has 333 international schools, Shanghai 194, Doha 177, and Abu Dhabi 174. In fact 14 cities now each have over 100 international schools for parents to select from alongside other school types.  

Demand for international education during childhood and adolescence (between ages 3 to 18) continues to rise. Student enrolment within the world’s K–12 international schools market has increased in the last five years from 4.64 million to 5.58 million. Even with the impact of COVID-19, enrolment within the market increased this year, albeit by a lower percentage than normal.

The reasons why parents are selecting an international school in preference to other options—including those that are state funded—is explored in a white paper recently published by ISC Research.

What parents want

The white paper explains the shifts in demand for international schools and, although each family is different, there are some reasons for choosing an international school that are common to admissions teams around the world. These include learning in the language of English or in a multilingual learning environment where English is one of the languages of learning, academic outcomes that prepare students for higher education mobility, the curriculum and its learning approach, the facilities, and the co-curricular offerings.

The quality of a school’s teaching and leadership staff is also an important factor for many parents today. 92% of all admissions staff interviewed for our white paper believe that the quality of teachers is now a very important factor to most parents when selecting an international school.

However, we do know that many parents can misunderstand teacher “quality” and are often influenced by nationalities or language skills without full consideration for teacher qualifications or their value to the school community.

The skills and experiences of teachers employed by international schools are vital to maintaining educational standards, and this does not always relate to their nationality. This requires the continued education of current and prospective parents and is an important message that international schools need to emphasise in their marketing and admissions conversations. 

COVID-19 impact on parent priorities

The pandemic has also impacted the way that parents are choosing their child’s school, and this is highlighted in the white paper. According to our research, 66% of the admissions staff surveyed said that a school’s wellbeing provision is now considered a very important factor for many parents during their school selection. Student wellbeing and its impact on a child’s learning is increasingly being prioritised, and some international schools are now delivering outstanding wellbeing practice as we know from our very latest Wellbeing Report just published.

The white paper suggests that another new demand by parents as a result of COVID-19 is their child’s access to online learning. Whether access is important for future campus closures, isolation periods, or for the potential learning benefits some parents have realised it gives their child, many are now exploring the preparedness of this by potential schools. The white paper states that 84% of the admissions staff surveyed said their school’s online learning provision is either important or very important to prospective parents.

In addition, every single international school surveyed said that procedures for school building sanitisation, social distancing protocols, and other safety procedures are currently considered important or very important by 100% of parents, and many are wishing to know the details of such policies.

Both the white paper on education choice and the report on wellbeing in international schools are available free from ISC Research.

Doris Suchet is School Development Manager at ISC Research and advises school leaders and development directors on the data, intelligence and expertise available from ISC Research to support school business strategy, planning, expansion and new development. 




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