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Digital learning resources in demand by international schools says new research

January 2017 - The first ever in-depth study into the use and demand for digital learning resources at international schools has been conducted by IERP (the International Education Research Panel), a research collaboration between ISC Research and C3 Education.

The study attracted responses from 836 international schools; 9.7% of all K-12 English-medium international schools around the world. A minimum of 8% of international schools from each region of the world responded, including a reliable cross-section of schools offering primary and/or secondary learning.

The 90-page report which includes regional analysis, is enlightening, providing valuable insight for schools and edtech suppliers. Results highlight the subjects and learning areas where digital resources are in particular need, and the type of content in most demand. The report also identifies other requirements that many international schools have when it comes to digital learning, such as training and optimising integration within the classroom.

Currently less than half of the international schools that responded to the research (41%) said they use digital resources to support personal learning, whether it’s free or purchased. However, well over half of the schools (59%) said they felt digital resources supporting personalised learning could help them raise their standards.

More schools said they are willing to invest in practice and revision content, and in summative assessment, rather than sourcing free content. Cross-curricular digital content is in high demand, as are Science and English subject learning resources. Also in demand by many schools are digital applications that offer simulations and animations to support learning, primarily through teacher-led tools such as interactive whiteboards, and for direct use by students, most preferably via desktops and laptops.

Almost 60% of schools surveyed said they would definitely or probably be sourcing and purchasing new digital content or applications in 2017.

Internet accessibility remains a challenge for some international schools. 19% said they still do not have suitable internet links with more than 30% saying they have concern regarding their internet provision. The regions where this is most a challenge are Africa (where only 67% of international schools have suitable internet access, and South East Asia (where only 65% of schools have the access they need).

However, the lack of internet is not the biggest challenge limiting new or expanded use of digital content amongst international schools. According to the IERP research, it is the lack of time to integrate solutions into lessons, combined with a lack of suitable training that are the biggest issues. 33% of international schools said there is insufficient training to optimise their use of digital content.

In separate research of international school senior leaders: A Review of Edtech in International Schools, IERP identified a number of areas where investment is likely to take place during 2017, including personalised learning and training of teachers in their use of edtech.

“We see that some international schools are already addressing the need to optimise digital provision throughout many areas of school life,” says Richard Gaskell, Director for International Schools at ISC Research. “Some schools are investing in extensive training for all staff, others are employing full-time technology integration specialists who act as a vital support role for teachers and administrators who have neither the expertise or the time to invest in understanding this complex and ever-developing market. This research suggests that more international schools wish to address this challenge,” he adds.

Diane Glass, Commercial Director at ISC says: “The research identifies some excellent opportunities for edtech suppliers and service providers. The research highlights significant need, desire and investment potential by many international schools. However, in some areas there’s a distinct lack of good quality, relevant resources that are intuitive enough for busy teachers to use or incorporate into children’s learning, and also there is insufficient training and support. The international schools market is a healthy and expanding education sector and digital education suppliers who can respond effectively to these opportunities will be very much in demand.”

Both reports are now available from ISC Research. For more details contact Diane Glass or call +44 1367 246031

New regulations in China force curriculum requirements

November 2016: Amendments to Chinese Government regulations for private schools which were announced recently will impact all schools in China offering international education to local Chinese children. It is believed the motivation for the new enforcements are as a result of the increasing number of costly private bilingual schools in China, some of which have not been abiding by existing laws.

The regulations (which were announced in October and earlier this month) will come into effect from September 2017. They focus on requirements for curricula and fees at non-public schools in China. Non-public schools fall into two categories: not-for profit and for-profit schools. The new amendments deliver broad statements enforcing the following principles:

For-profit non-public schools are prohibited throughout China for compulsory age children (grades 1 to 9).

Not-for-profit non-public schools are to be treated in the same way as public schools within China. This includes strict regulations regarding curriculum requirements. The authorities will determine what fees may be charged for grades 1 to 9 bearing in mind costs associated with running the school.

For-profit non-public schools for other ages (including early childhood and kindergartens, high schools, higher education and adult education) are subject to discretion of Chinese investors and education providers, and are free to price their provision independently.

Detailed implementation guidance is yet to be published by the authorities.

Although rumours have been rife that non-public schools will be closing down, this is not the case. The new amendments will, however, mean that non-public schools must ensure they adopt an appropriate structure that adheres to the Government’s curriculum requirements. This is something that many such schools in China are already implementing. For example, at Wellington College Bilingual Shanghai, a curriculum was created for this reason. “We appreciate the need to respect local regulations and meet any requirements,” says Helen Kavanagh, International Business Director at Wellington College. “We spent many months working alongside Chinese colleagues to ensure the syllabus at our bilingual schools will cover the Chinese and British curricula, taught through a Wellington approach that embraces collaborative, experiential learning in order to provide our children with the best chance of success in the modern world.” At YK Pao School, a not-for-profit non-public school in Shanghai that is licensed to offer an international programme, Executive Principal, Paul Wood says: “With skilful planning and scheduling, international curricula can sit around the outside of a mandatory core academic programme, which is exactly what we’ve been doing and continue to refine.”  This is also being achieved at Keystone Academy in Beijing, where the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) is delivered in combination with the Chinese National Curriculum. “The reason we selected the IPC is that there’s flexibility with it, which meant that we could adapt it for our requirements as a Chinese school with a bilingual immersion programme,” says Assistant Head of Primary, Gary Bradshaw.  Some schools however, were introducing foreign curricula in their entirety, without meeting Chinese curriculum requirements, particularly at grade 9 and this is now prohibited.

As a result of the new regulations, the challenge for China’s non-public schools wishing to offer international qualifications is that Chinese children will have to study the Chinese curriculum and sit the Zhong Kao (China’s national examination) through grade 9. This will severely restrict the chance for children to study for such international qualifications as the IGCSE which follows a two-year course of study at grades 9 and 10, preparing children well for the learning needs of A levels or IB Diploma. Nevertheless, non-public schools in China do have the chance to deliver international curricula from grades 10 onwards in combination with some Chinese curriculum requirements. These include the study of Chinese politics, Chinese history and geography, and Chinese language, all of which are required to be taught by Chinese nationals. This does mean that Chinese children can study for such qualifications as A levels, Advanced Placement or IB Diploma.

“These new enforcements are unlikely to stop any Chinese families, who wish for their child to study in a Western university, seeking out internationally-oriented non-public school options in China. The demand is huge,” says Richard Gaskell, Director for International Schools at ISC Research which provides data and intelligence on the world’s international schools market. “The challenge for these schools will be to meet the requirements of the Chinese curriculum and also prepare students in the best possible way for higher education opportunities abroad,” he adds.

Dr Mark Abell, Partner and Head of International Education at British law firm Bird&Bird says: "Although there have been rumours that the so-called ‘Third Amendment’ of the regulations spell the end of dual curriculum education between grades 1 to 9, this is manifestly not the case.” For independent schools considering expansion of their brand into China, Mark says: “What this does mean is that schools will need to ensure that their arrangements with local partners are properly structured, they do an appropriate level of due diligence in their partner's proposed structure, and they ensure that their Chinese schools comply with the operational requirements for ‘not for profit non-public schools’. Whilst this may involve a little more work and possibly slightly slow things down, it does not present any kind of barrier to schools entering China and teaching grades 1 to 9," he explains.

More details about all Chinese regulations for private schools, including the very latest amendments, plus market trends, opportunities and challenges for investment and development are included in the Market Intelligence Report for International Schools in China published by ISC Research.

Further reading: Sixth Tone: New law to quash for-profit schools has parents stressed (published 11th November 2016)

Expertise for independent schools considering international expansion 

September 2016: Alexandra Ingram has joined The International School Consultancy (ISC) to support independent schools wishing to expand overseas.

A skilled strategist, Alexandra has worked with schools in the UK and US, as well as international schools, for several years. Recently, Alex has worked as a consultant to schools and strategic partners for Impero Solutions UK, an education software developer most recognised for its successful Education Pro solution for schools. This included being based in Oregon, USA to support the opening of the company’s first US office and expansion of the US business in 2015.

In her new role at ISC, Alexandra will be drawing on her experience of supporting the strategic planning necessary when taking education brands abroad. She will be dedicated to assisting independent schools that are considering and preparing for international expansion.

There is widespread global demand for high quality, English-medium education and it’s far from just for higher education. The growth of schools for early years, primary and secondary level children that deliver the learning in the language of English, follow globally recognised curricula and examinations, and prepare children well for university is now extensive in most countries of the world.

Over 4.53 million children attend K-12 English-medium international schools around the world today and ISC forecasts that by 2026 this will have more than doubled to 10 million. Some of the most popular schools are the reputable independent schools that have established themselves overseas. These include Harrow International Schools in such countries as Thailand, Hong Kong and China; Dulwich College in Singapore, China and South Korea; Marlborough College in Malaysia; Malvern College in China and Hong Kong; Repton College in UAE; and several more. There are also a number of other independent schools preparing to open sister schools abroad.

“Independent schools with heritage and reputation in their home countries, that offer a very reliable pathway to leading universities around the world, are in particularly high demand in China right now,” says Alexandra Ingram. “International education that is accessible for Chinese children in their home country is still a new phenomenon. As more local Chinese parents realise these opportunities that are available for their children, so the demand increases. There are huge opportunities for independent schools that can bring a revered school ethos with high quality education, respected qualifications, and a reliable route to university to aspirational families in China and several other countries.”

Alexandra will be supporting independent schools with market data, trends, intelligence, and benchmarking of their future school, as well as providing connections to best-of-breed experts covering all aspects of international development, from skilled legal guidance to recruitment support. For more information, contact Alexandra Ingram at or visit

Huge growth of international schools in the Middle East come with challenges

September 2016 - New data on the K-12 English-medium international schools market shows that although the market in the Middle East is extremely healthy, it is facing several challenges right now.

The latest news from ISC, the leading provider of research and intelligence on the international school’s market, says that 458 new international schools for pre-school, primary and secondary age children have opened in the Middle East in the past five years taking the total this academic year to 1,504. However, some of these schools are being impacted by the world’s oil and gas slump as a significant number of families employed by the sector and in related industries have not returned to expatriate postings following the long summer holidays.

“The schools most affected are those that have a high percentage of enrolments from families working in the oil and gas sector,” says Richard Gaskell, Director for International Schools at ISC. “The feedback that we are receiving from many schools is that they have been able to fill these gaps through existing waiting lists, or they have stepped up their admission marketing, and some have cut back on their staffing for this new year,” he adds.

Another challenge is teacher employment. ISC data suggests that international schools in the Middle East currently employ the highest percentage of Western teachers in the world; 86% of all full-time staff. In the leading international schools in the Middle East, the number of Western teaching staff increases to 92%, predominantly from the United Kingdom and North America.

The global international schools market is growing at pace. At the end of the last academic year (2015 - 2016), international schools around the world were employing a total of 417,000 full time teaching staff. Within five years (by 2021), ISC predicts there will be a need for 613,000 teachers. If international school standards are to remain high, justifying the school fees and maintaining the high demand for school places, this will require the employment of teachers who have the skills and experience to teach globally recognised curricula such as the National Curriculum of England, the International Baccalaureate and American curricula.

According to ISC data, the Middle East is expected to see over 70 new international schools open this year and in the near future.

Increasing global demand for English-medium K-12 education

July 2016 - The insatiable appetite for English-medium, Western-style education for children continues to expand around the world. The new 2016 Global Report on the English-medium K-12 international schools market published by The International School Consultancy (ISC Research) indicates that the number of international schools in many countries is rising rapidly.

The 2016 ISC Research Global Report states that the number of English-medium K-12 schools (which includes British and American schools overseas, and British independent schools abroad) has increased by 41.5% in the past five years to a current total of 8,257. The number of students attending international schools is now over 4.3 million; a 45.9% growth in just five years. Asia (including Western Asia; the Middle East) has seen the greatest increase in students during this time with a 55.7% growth. Asia now has 54% of all international schools (4,448) and 60% of all students (2.55 million).

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and China lead the world in terms of number of schools; UAE has 548 schools and China has 547. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have the highest number of students; 564,200 students and 265,400 respectively.

The number of students studying at international schools in their home countries continues to increase. This means that more families are selecting a fee-paying international school in preference to the local national school.  The main reasons for this choice are to enable children to learn in the language of English, to obtain globally recognised qualifications (predominantly A levels, International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme or America’s SATs, ACT or Advanced Placement), and to follow a Western-style of learning. This education experience provides the most reliable pathway to gaining a place at a reputable university.

In several countries where government policies restricting local children from attending international schools have been relaxed or removed altogether, this has resulted in a dramatic increase in demand for school places. This has been particularly notable in Vietnam, Malaysia and South Korea. In Malaysia, where some schools are currently experiencing a significant loss of expatriate children because of the oil and gas crisis, high demand from local families for international school places has helped to keep enrolment high.

In China where, by law, local children are not allowed to attend foreign-owned international schools, new types of international schools are now emerging catering specifically for Chinese nationals. Current international school growth in China is being fuelled entirely by the local market and this is producing an unprecedented increase in the number of Chinese-owned private bilingual schools.

Enrolment in Latin America is also on the rise, led by Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. Many schools are adopting a bilingual approach (where English is one of the languages of learning) and offering an international curriculum (most often the International Baccalaureate) in response to demand from local families.

An average annual tuition fee at international schools globally has dropped for the fourth year in succession to $9,330. According to the Global Report this is 0.2% lower than in 2011. However, total annual fee income for the K-12 international schools market has increased by 45.9% over the last five years to $39 billion as a result of the huge market expansion.

The future continues to look extremely good for the international school sector and for future investment within the market. ISC Research forecasts that by 2026 the K-12 international schools market will reach 16,000 schools teaching 8.75 million students, generating a total fee income of $89 billion. The biggest challenge will be the ability of international schools to recruit enough qualified, Western-trained teachers; a key selection criteria for many parents. ISC Research predicts that the number of teachers required within ten years will be 780,000; double the current number of full-time staff employed in the sector.

Nicholas Brummitt, Chairman of The International School Consultancy says: “Looking to the future, the most significant concern for international schools will be the sourcing and hiring of enough suitably qualified teachers and leaders. No one really knows where they are going to come from. One thing is certain; demand by parents for places at international schools with predominantly Western teachers who have respected Western qualifications, is unlikely to be satisfied.”

More data and intelligence on the world’s international schools market is available in the new 2016 ISC Research Global Market Report.  For more information and to purchase a copy of the report contact or call 01367 246009.

International Schools Moving Towards Inclusion

April 2016 - An increasing number of international English-medium K-12 schools are embracing the opportunities and challenges of inclusion says a recent survey conducted by ISC Research and Next Frontier Inclusion.

The survey was conducted this January and asked over 8,000 international schools about their approaches to inclusion and their provision for children with learning differences. Responses were collected from 584 schools of varying sizes, based in all regions of the world.

Today’s international schools market responds to the learning needs of children from both expatriate and local families, and provision for students with special learning needs is no longer an exception. As legislation supporting inclusion in schools is being implemented in such countries as the UK, US and Australia, so expatriate parents are expecting such provision from international schools. And local families, unable to access specialist support in their state schools, are increasingly turning to international schools for the solutions they need. It is as a result of these demands that a growing number of international schools are becoming more inclusive.

The results of the survey by ISC Research and Next Frontier Inclusion (NFI) reflect this move towards inclusion. Although a third of the schools that responded classify themselves as selective (27% based on testing and previous school records and 6% as highly selective), the remaining schools consider themselves non-selective to varying degrees. 13% said they accept a managed number of students with mild learning differences and 28% said they accept a managed number of students with both mild and moderate learning differences. 9% said they accept a managed number of children with learning differences who include some with intensive needs. Often children with intensive needs follow a modified curriculum and may be placed in ‘a school within the school’, following an alternative pathway to graduation.

Integration within the mainstream classroom varies significantly. 35% of schools that participated in the survey said they follow an inclusive approach whenever they can; 25% said they use a learning specialist as a consultant and 10% said they use a learning specialist to co-plan, co-teach and co-assess alongside the mainstream teacher (known as a ‘push-in’ model). 44% said they use both push-in and pull-out (resource room) models. Only 5% of schools reported that the pull-out model was the main learning approach employed. However, NFI has found that there remains considerable confusion in international schools regarding the relative merits and weaknesses of different models of provision suggesting more understanding of appropriate provision needs to be developed.

What is evident from the survey is that most international schools are uncomfortable with an exclusionary attitude towards children with special learning needs. However, skilled staff are often lacking. Only 33% of the schools in the study said that staff working with students with learning differences are entirely qualified special educators. 21.5% said staff are mostly qualified, 39% said some are qualified, and 14% said they have no specialists to support children with learning differences.

Of particular note was the fact that 84% of the international schools that responded to the survey said they enrol children with special gifts and talents, but only 35% of the schools said they are satisfied with their provision for this group of students. “There is a disconnect here,” says Bill Powell, Director of NFI. “Many times, school leaders use finances as a reason to exclude children with special educational needs. They’ll say: ‘we don’t have the programme for you, so it would be wrong for us to take you into our school’. But on the flip side of this, some of these schools are accepting children with high academic gifts and talents, even though they admit they are not happy with the provision they provide. That’s a significant ethical consideration that this survey has highlighted.”

In response to this misalignment, NFI is putting together a task force to propose standards for meeting the needs of highly capable students in international schools.

Other conclusions from the survey suggest an attitudinal shift away from elitist and non-inclusionary language and policies although many schools indicate they are insecure about how to change. “There’s a greater willingness towards inclusion, but there’s also some scratching of heads about what to do, and a fear about getting it wrong,” says Ochan Powell, also a Director of NFI.

The survey is the first of its kind amongst international schools and ISC Research intends to track the market on an annual basis to identify trends as they develop. “Anecdotal evidence suggests the market is moving towards being more inclusive,” says Richard Gaskell, Director for International Schools at ISC Research. “This focused research will help us to provide the data that international schools need in order to know how the market is actually responding to the needs of all students.”

A full report of the survey is available here or from ISC Research.

ISC Research is part of The International School Consultancy (ISC) and has been the leading provider of data and market intelligence on the world’s international schools market for over 20 years. Next Frontier Inclusion is a non-profit membership organisation supporting international schools on their journeys to becoming increasingly inclusive of children with special education needs.

UAE continues to lead the international K-12 schools market says new report

April 2016 - The UAE continues to be the leading country in the world for English-medium K-12 international schools.  In terms of the number of international schools, the UAE is currently competing in a very tight race with China, but in terms of student enrolment, the UAE leads the world decisively. The data has been published in the new Market Intelligence Report for International Schools in the United Arab Emirates by ISC Research, the world’s leading provider of data on the international schools market.

According to the new ISC Market Intelligence Report there are 548 English-medium international schools in the UAE; just three ahead of China.  The two emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi dominate with 260 schools in Dubai and 191 in Abu Dhabi. More schools are under construction with 14 due to open during 2016 including GEMS International School in Mudon, Canadian International School in Dubai, and Sunmarke School in Jumeirah Village. Several more schools are in various phases of development. 

The total number of students aged between 3 and 18 attending English-medium international schools in the UAE is 545,074. This is the highest enrolment of any country in the world by a significant margin (Saudi Arabia follows with 260,989). 36% of all international schools in the UAE have over 1,000 students.

There are several reasons why student enrolment is so high at international schools in the UAE. Major factors include the wealth of the country, an extensive expatriate population, demand for high quality, English-medium education by both expatriates and wealthy locals, plus the fact that the governments of Dubai and Abu Dhabi allow unlimited enrolment of local children at international schools.  According to the ISC Market Intelligence Report, Emirati students comprise the single largest student nationality (25%) with the exception of Dubai where they are outnumbered by Indian children (29%). However, in no emirate do local children exceed 50% of the student population.

The report states that, with Dubai’s population projected to grow by 13% within the next two years, and further expansion in Abu Dhabi, demand for international school places in these two emirates will continue to increase substantially. The report also suggests that the Northern Emirates, which currently have 29 international schools, represent a potential growth market for the UAE where new developments have been emerging over the past two years.

Fees at some international schools in the UAE are being impacted by the recent oil crisis, and the report evaluates the impact of this on demand and income. Another issue raised by the report is the increasing concern about access to enough qualified teachers with skills and experience from the UK. 47% of the international schools in the UAE follow a British curriculum and 73% offer IGCSE, GCE AS and/or GCE A levels. The report cites less competitive teacher salaries in the UAE than many other countries, plus a drop in the number of people applying to enrol for teacher qualifications in the UK for this concern. “If the number of qualified teachers…begins to dwindle,” says the report, “schools will find it difficult to expand.”

However, the ISC Research UAE Market Intelligence Report, which contains detailed data analysis and crucial information relevant for school expansion, new developments and education suppliers wishing to understand the UAE market in depth, states that the international schools market in the UAE is flourishing. “Further growth is inevitable, spurred by increasing demand from both the expatriate community and from local families,” it concludes.

For the first time, the report includes a detailed focus on Sharjah and the Northern Emirates where development is underway and growth potential exists.  The 160 page report includes detailed research and analysis on tuition fees, student and staff nationalities, capacity utilisation, fee income, salary ranges, new developments, market outlook and more.

Further information about the world’s international schools, as well as the UAE and other country-specific market intelligence reports are available from The International School Consultancy (of which ISC Research is a part) at

Anne Keeling

Marketing & Media Relations

ISC Research (ISC)


Telephone: 02920-712265

Mobile: 07906-353-863

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