Alan Wechsler wrote an excellent article about international schools earlier this month in The Atlantic. The International School Surge: Increased demand for a “western” education around the world has reshaped whom these institutions serve. The piece gives a great overview of the pros and cons of international education and how it fits in with the global economy.
The photo above captures a bit of international school culture. I hosted a BBQ for the school elementary baseball team after a parent-student game to culminate the season. In the photo are citizens from six different countries.
I have worked in international schools since 1992. I have seen the growth of the number of schools and the switch to local families instead expatriates enrolling in them. When I started there were around 1,000 international schools, today there are over 8,000 and it is expected to grow to 16,000 in the next ten years. That is good for my future job prospects! Locals now make up 80% of the student population. Driving the demand are two factors. First is the quality of higher education in the USA and other western countries. Rich people want to send their children to the best universities in the world. They also want fluent English, which has become the world’s language of commerce and culture. My third culture kids (TCK) have more in common with international school students throughout the world than they do with students in my home of Northern Michigan.
All of these international students taking up spaces in American universities does have some downsides. They take spaces from US students and create competition for jobs afterward. Researcher Monica Gallego Rude points out in the article that this system is increasing inequality in the world, with a small group of rich families paying for access to the English-speaking global economy while most of the world does not have this access. Tuition can be quite high in international schools. Our tuition is over $20,000 US per year.
I am really interested in the future of international education and where it is headed.