The Reality Behind one of the Fastest Growing Education Markets
The original article was written by Millie's cofounder Giuseppe Iademarco & published by EdTechXEurope in April 2021.
Growing up in Brescia, a small industrial town in Northern Italy, I clung to any opportunity to get international experience. Back home, the choice I had in terms of high schools would not allow me to go beyond the standard pathways of Italian education, and those international experiences met my desire for global exposure.
Today, an increasing number of students around the world can choose to follow an international education path from a young age by enrolling at an international school. These are institutions delivering a curriculum to any combination of pre-school, primary or secondary students, wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country or, if located in an English-speaking country, offering an English-medium curriculum other than the country’s national curriculum.
In recent times, they have exploded in popularity. They grew from c. 2,500 in 2000 to c. 12,000 in 2020, barely keeping up with demand. Student enrolment rose by 518% in the period 2000-2020 and the current c. 6 million international school students are expected to double within the next decade. Initially created exclusively for expatriate families, with some countries even requiring a foreign passport as a prerequisite for enrollment, the vast majority of enrollments (approximately 80%) are now children of local families (Source: ISC Research).
"Student enrollment increased by 518% between 2000 and 2020, and the current 6 million students are projected to double in the next decade."
However, while meeting the aspirations for international education, what international schools often provide are set pathways that limit students’ choices. For example, British international schools would guide their pupils towards UK universities, American international schools towards US colleges, ignoring destinations that are rising in popularity (like the Netherlands) or the needs of crossing curricula (e.g. British international school students looking to study in the US).
When students turn outside of their schools for destination-agnostic guidance, they find little help. The vast amount of freely available information is almost exclusively geared towards single-pathway students (a quick google search will show how queries like “writing a UCAS personal statement” addresses A-level students as opposed to AP or IB students who have never experienced the British system).
Organisations like Millie Group for example are working to fill this information gap by engaging mentors, former international school students themselves, and having them provide what they wish they had when they were in high school. Mentors help in a variety of ways, from offering free support in the form of blog articles, workshops & panel discussions, or delivering paid programs. Consistent with the mission to act as a social enterprise, for every ten mentoring programs sold, Millie offer one pro bono to a deserving student.
I now live in New York where Millie is incubated at Columbia University’s StartUp Lab. Recently, however, I found myself on a call with a head of school in Brescia. Today, like over 2,000 cities in the world, my hometown also has an international school.
More works from Giuseppe can be found on his Medium.