The BBC is reporting that another top UK Independent School is opening up a campus in Asia. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35533953 I am sure that the move will make good business sense and possibly even help to keep down fees in their UK operation if it makes money.
The BBC piece concludes that there are now about 8,000 international schools around the world, teaching 4.26 million students, according to research by the International School Consultancy. Apparently, nowhere has growth been faster than in Asia.
Such has been the growth that the BBC article reports Thailand now has over 172 international curriculum schools, half of them following England’s national curriculum.
Malaysia has 142, Japan 233, and Singapore – which makes it difficult for foreigners to enrol in local schools – around 63. Myanmar could also become a hotspot – Dulwich College will open there next year. .Hong Kong which had 92 such schools in 2000, now has 171. Only South Korea has seen a retraction, with some international schools struggling to fill places.
However, the big growth has been in mainland China. From a dozen schools 15 years ago, China has some 530 English-medium international schools, catering for 326,000 students.
Now those that have heard me speak at conferences recently will have noted that I have said I was one of the few people that would be happy to see a slowdown in the Chinese economy because of this growth in schools. I have said that too many international schools in China could be a real drain on teacher supply in this country.
If we assume that the majority of the 8,000 schools worldwide use English as at least a partial medium of instruction and employ an average of ten UK trained teachers per school that would mean upwards of 80,000 trained teachers not available to work in the UK. Assuming a 10% growth, would mean 800 new schools a year and as a result possibly 8,000 teachers departing overseas to staff these schools, this plus the regular replacement numbers for posts in existing schools. This might explain some of the growth in departure rates identified in the recent NAO Report. 8,000 teachers would equate to between a quarter and a third of the output of training in England, although presumably some of the teachers going overseas will come from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so the lower figure might be more realistic. Even so, anything above 10% would be worrying, especially in the subjects where there is a shortage of supply.
It is not clear what can be done to stem the growth of international schools and it is becoming a valuable export industry that no doubt also helps to steer undergraduates in the direction of UK universities. Perhaps we will need to import more teachers from overseas, but that won’t go down well with those worried about immigration.
What we cannot do is allow schools in deprived areas of England to be starved of teachers to satisfy the demands of the affluent middle-classes of the emerging Asian nations.