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Why Are International Schools So Popular?

Why Are International Schools So Popular?

The original article was written by Millie's cofounder Giuseppe Iademarco for Scholato in May 2021.

International schools have experienced exponential growth over the past 20 years. The number of schools increased from approximately 2,500 with 1 million students—primarily expatriates—in the year 2000 to over 12,000 international schools with more than 6 million students, predominantly from host countries, in 2021 (ISC Research, January 2021).

Why is there such a strong demand for international education? Why is this demand no longer driven primarily by international expatriates seeking continuity in education for their children as work relocates them from one country to another, but rather by local parents? Naturally, as incomes rise, wealthy and middle-class families in search of quality education might consider private institutions they can now afford. But why are they specifically drawn to international schools?

One reason is that the primary language of international schools, regardless of their location, is English. Parents view proficiency in English as a fundamental requirement for a successful future career, irrespective of their children's eventual choice of location or industry. English is perceived as the gateway to global mobility and the finest opportunities, regardless of their place in the world.

"The demand for international education is no longer driven by international expatriates, but by local parents"

Another reason is that international schools are ideally positioned to prepare students for global universities, particularly those in the US and the UK. The world’s top universities require not only fluency in English but also qualifications they recognize. Most international schools offer the American, British, or International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, with which global universities are well acquainted.

But most fundamentally, the reason parents choose international education is that they want their children to develop a global mindset, free from the limitations that local education can sometimes impose. Take the IB program, for example, one of the most modern and innovative curricula in the world, now implemented by over 5,000 schools worldwide. The aim of the program, developed independently of government and national systems, is to encourage students "to think critically and challenge assumptions" (from the IBO website). This is not an easy task, as evidenced by students switching from local schools to IB schools and initially struggling. Having been accustomed to memorizing information and repeating it during written and oral examinations within specific fields (an approach common to many systems worldwide, from continental Europe to Asia), they find it challenging to research and form their own opinions in a multidisciplinary manner.

"The reason why parents choose international education is because they want their children to develop a global mindset"

Given the expectations parents place on the education their children receive, international schools are increasingly seeking ingenious ways to deliver quality education and prepare their students for their chosen university path. Organizations like the Millie Group have emerged in the past few years to address this precise need.

Millie exists to support international school students in taking the next steps towards the future they dream of, either directly or in partnership with their international school counselors. When working with schools, Millie addresses two broad types of needs: those coming from recently established schools, sometimes in remote locations, and those coming from more established schools in mature markets. While the former look for ways to get up to speed quickly on the requirements of global universities and how to prepare best, the latter seek more advanced ways to differentiate from other schools.

By leveraging a global network of mentors, Millie can meet both sets of demands. Millie mentors assist students with university entrance preparation needs, such as essay writing support, test preparation, tutoring, and college counseling, but also address more holistic needs around career and life guidance. This unique approach aligns with the reality of the international school market: no two schools are identical, and no "one size fits all" method works in this sector.

As a social enterprise, it is critical for Millie to impact all students, not just a select few. Their Partner School Program is free and gives schools and students access to all of their content, live and recorded. To date, they have produced over 150 hours of curated videos on topics ranging from how to start a podcast as a high school student, to careers in management consulting or UX/UI design. Millie mentors feature on webinars and panel discussions every Saturday, giving partner schools and students a regular stream of content they can tap into and interact with live.

As a social enterprise, it's crucial for Millie to impact all students, not just a select few. Their Partner School Program provides schools and students access to all their content, both live and recorded. To date, they have produced over 150 hours of curated videos on topics ranging from starting a podcast as a high school student to careers in management consulting or UX/UI design. Millie mentors participate in webinars and panel discussions every Saturday, offering partner schools and students a consistent stream of content they can engage with live.

The growth of international schools seems unstoppable. By 2030, ISC Research estimates that the number of international schools and students will roughly double. Millie has laid its foundations and honed its expertise — from its network of mentors to a tailored approach for each school's needs — to accompany this journey and become the preferred partner supporting the schools' mission of nurturing the global citizens of tomorrow.

More works from Giuseppe can be found on his Medium.