Competition for Expat English Education in Global Cities Heats Up

For expat workers with families, suitable education can be one of the most costly and frustrating hurdles to navigate when transferring to a foreign assignment. To insure that children are able to transition back into their home system at the end of the assignment, move on to a top university or to another international assignment it is preferable for them to have been following an international school curriculum with English language instruction.

For comparison we’ll look at the cost and some of the considerations in finding an international school in two popular expat destinations: Zurich and Hong Kong.

Cost of Living and Cost of Education Don’t Always Match

As a baseline we’ll use a London, England private international school such as the ACS International School in Egham or Kings College Wimbledon and compare that to both Hong Kong and Zurich.

While overall Zurich and Hong Kong (HK) both rank in the top 10 most expensive cities for expats while London sits well back at #17, education is a different story. It provides a relative bargain for private international education with school fees 7.7% lower than London while Zurich area international schools are more than 20% higher. If you had school aged children then taking an assignment to Hong Kong over Zurich would seem like the cost conscious choice but fees don’t paint the whole picture.

Hong Kong

Since the establishment of the English Schools Foundation (ESF) in 1967 for the education of expat children, there has been a strong international school presence here. There are over 100 international schools, mostly teaching in English but the increasing popularity of international schools among permanent residents, the HK equivalent of citizen, has created on overwhelming demand.

While Hong Kong recognizes both English and Cantonese as official languages and officially at least, English is an important component of government run schools, the reality is different. Even if you are a parent who would like your child to experience a “local” education in this city, a recent survey by the Native English Speaking Teacher’s Association in HK found that even though government policy allows public schools that teach in Cantonese to accept English-only speaking children, they do not.

In addition to demand, several other factors are putting upward pressure on international school fees in Hong Kong. The 20 schools that are operated by the ESF have lost their subsidy established under the original 1967 government ordinance. Starting with the students entering kindergarten in 2014, the subsidy has been eliminated. In the past year ESF has already raised their fees more than 5%.

At the same time its education bureau is trying to expand educational options by making a handful of development sites and two empty schools available by bid to interested international schools. Among the interested schools is the prestigious British boarding school, Malvern which is looking to open a campus catering to elementary level education. They plan to reserve 90% of their available placements for students that hold foreign passports. While private international schools do not receive subsidies from the Hong Kong government, they are offered preferential lease terms and access to a designated green space.

Still, the lack of space in the city makes it extremely difficult to open new international schools so the demand for spots at the existing schools continues to grow. The Hong Kong education bureau estimates waiting lists for most international schools are several years long forcing parents to consider other options.

Zurich

In 2011 the education department for canton Zurich moved to bar permanent residents from attending international schools in the area. Residents of Zurich must put their children in German speaking public school unless they can prove they are only temporary residents or that their child will complete their education in a non-German speaking jurisdiction. Widely viewed as a regressive policy, the stated aim was to better integrate foreigners living in Zurich permanently or over the long term into the local community. So far this has been the only Swiss canton to implement this kind of policy but the move highlights some of the difficulties surrounding the availability of an international curriculum with English language instruction.

While it would seem that this move would increase the number of spots open to temporary expats it also puts the responsibility on parents putting their children in school for the first time to prove that they intend to move at some point in the future or that their children will complete their schooling elsewhere. The rule does not distinguish based on the passport that a child holds or their mother tongue.

Competition Spawns an Industry

The complexity of finding an appropriate school and increased competition for spots at English language schools has even spawned its own consultancy industry. People like Ruth Benny head of Top Schools Hong Kong amongst other, have leveraged their personal experience as expat parents and professional experience as educators to assist other parents struggling with finding the right school for their children. These professionals offer one on one consulting for expat parents struggling to find the right solution for their school age children in a hyper competitive environment.

Xpatulator provides school fee data for comparable schools in more than 700 cities worldwide. In Hong Kong, they collect enrollment fee data from schools such as the Hong Kong International, American International and King George V Schools and in Zurich from the Zurich International and Swiss International School.

Seven International Educational Qualifications That Matter

The Internationalization of Education has meant that even in the more remote regions of the World, Students can take an internationally recognized Test. A Test that allows them to qualify and compete on an equal level, with other students, Internationally.As the World gets smaller with online educational tools and testing, this trend should continue, standardizing an International Education for anyone, no matter were they live.

1. CIPAT
 
CIPAT is a Primary Education program launched by Cambridge from the UK. This program Internationalizes basic primary qualifications in the Sciences, English and Mathematics. Cambridge in recent years are continually expanding their testing centers to many Countries outside the UK.
 
2. CHECKPOINT

CHECKPOINT is a secondary Educational program launched by Cambridge for Secondary students. CHECKPOINT primarily offers an International qualification in the Sciences, English, Mathematics and other subjects.
 
3.  IELTS

IELTS is one of the more popular English programs for Students who want to study in an English speaking Country at College level. IELTS covers standard, ongoing subjects that Students in a College may have to cover in their studies. IELTS does not offer a passing grade, only a score based on a Test conducted in your home Country. This score is often a compulsory requirement to enter certain Colleges, and Universities around the world.
 
4.  TOEFL iBT

TOEFL iBT is an International Test that American based Educational Institutes recognize, which is score based. TOEFL iBT Test Centers are located throughout the World, and the Test itself is online. In recent years students prefer IELTS, citing more Countries recognize it as an International qualification.
 
5   IFB Courses

In many cases students outside English speaking Countries who are accepted into an English speaking College or University, still have to take a compulsory Foundation course before they start their first year at University. Many internationally recognized IFB courses are available in their home countries, as many Colleges and Universities expand Internationally.
 
6. TAFE

Australia is one of the more popular Countries for qualified Immigrants. TAFE is an Australian based Trade rather than academic qualification. TAFE courses have expanded outside Australia, and qualify skilled people for non- academic jobs.
 
7. GMAT

In order to qualify to take an MBA in some Countries, Students need to take a GMAT course to ‘qualify’ for entrance to a traditional University or College. GMAT is score based, and the score determines what College could accept you.Many of these International qualifications have expanded through the years to become net based, and even based in emerging Countries around the World.  Education has globalized, and with these qualifications creates an International standard in Education.

A standard that allows students in emerging Countries to qualify on the same footing as students in more developed Countries, creating an emerging Internationalization of traditional Education once only based on local Education, rather than internationally.

International Schools – The Right Grounding Place For Your Child

Children are the building blocks of every society, and for every society to flourish and thrive, it is essential that its children receive the right guidance from their parents and education from its schools. This helps the children build a secure future for them along with strengthening the pillars of society. In today’s modern world, schools provide the initiative to provide decent education to children, and amongst the galaxy of schools with varied missions and goals, international schools are slowly stealing the limelight.

International Schools usually offer the IB/ICSE curriculum that was once the forte of the children of diplomats and ambassadors posted in different countries as part of their job. As international schools make their mark in India, they now offer the best possible educational programs that combine international methodologies along with a touch of localized essence.

With the advent of globalization and increased awareness of the world, children are now exposed to a world of myriad opportunities. The world boundaries are now shrinking and there are now distinct possibilities for younger children. International schools function on the maxim that children are the future of the world. As children experience the world of international education, international schools in India root their foundation in time tested core Indian values. The focus is on a world of knowledge, competence, and opportunity.

Today, most international schools in India imbibe an international approach with a global curriculum and an emphasis on skills and knowledge that have a worldwide appeal. Children today deserve the best of core values as well as international education as well as grounding in values and culture. For this reason, the schools are burdened with the task of igniting young minds as well as providing them with attention within as well as outside the classroom. With education in the right direction, children become courageous and develop their integrity as well as excellence. Parents can thus see their children evolve into a confident and mature child.

International schooling is centered on the belief that one goes to school to learn and simultaneously develop new relationships with their peers and faculty. The principal aim of the teachers and the rest of the staff are to develop a strong bond between the children and the institution of learning and mould them into responsible and global citizens. Most international schools in the country converge interactive teaching along with learning practices that covers a broad curriculum policy. This caters to a multifaceted development of all learners across the school. The result is an all round development of the child’s social, emotional, intellectual, as well as physical development.

Children get motivated to achieve higher academic standards, where they nurture the skills to become global citizens by imbibing a sense of national pride along with national understanding. With the aim of nurturing responsible citizens of the future, international schools of today pool in their experience and confidence to create a committed, responsible, and understanding child.