What does the future hold for international schools?
Global trends like digitalization, climate change, and advances in artificial intelligence, to name just three, pose fundamental challenges to the goals, methods, and future of education.
Across the globe, students and teachers are starting to go back to school, either fully or in a blended educational model. Many continue to teach their students remotely.
With talks of further waves and variants of Covid-19, nationwide closures have impacted hundreds of millions of students. This is set to continue for some time, and the fallout has undoubtedly changed the landscape of education, including the way students learn and interact.
International intakes are on the rise
What does this mean for international schools? As a trend, student numbers at international schools globally continued to climb in 2020, while student demographics are continuing to shift to local nationals and expatriates in Asia, an ISC Research report has suggested. As the number of international schools continues to grow, a preference among families is emerging for honoring local cultural norms and practices in education.
The report indicates that more schools are beginning to deliver bilingual and bi-cultural curricula. They suggest that in China and Vietnam, there is a strong demand from parents to allow their children to benefit from an international education with local practices and teaching.
The report also found that international schools have proved to be resilient and adaptable to change in the face of the global pandemic. However, teaching and learning practices are expected to change in the long term for some. Many schools quickly extended blended learning provision or introduced distance learning to accomplish learning outcomes, the report showed.
The capacity to provide a reliable education route during times of crisis “is a recurring characteristic of the market which is likely to be recognized by more families in the future”, it noted.
However, the report explained that affordable fee levels will drive most of the growth.
“As families seek more affordable education options, and as schools feel the pressures of operating in an increasingly competitive market, growth will be driven by schools’ capacity to provide quality, affordable education using multiple learning options and platforms.”
Research conducted by School Management Plus states that international school headteachers are confirming that, as the pandemic has continued, they are experiencing a significant increase in inquiries from parents who are posing very specific questions. The topics range from distance learning provision to top-up teaching and student wellbeing support.
Will we see more Hybrid learning?
The hybrid learning educational model allows a mix of some students to attend class in-person, while others join the class virtually from home. Educators teach remote and in-person students simultaneously using tools like video conferencing, and EdTech hardware and software.
This style of learning enables students to go back into their classrooms in smaller groups to allow for social distancing and receive face-to-face time in a classroom setting. This has been implemented in schools in Dubai for example, where educators are teaching the remote and in-classroom students at the same time, on a rotation basis. This may also be a benefit for some students to gain social interaction with their fellow classmates.
This model of learning enables a chance to future-proof education delivery, and encourages social mobility, by opening educational opportunities for a wider student audience. Some international schools have lowered their fees to encourage a greater number of students to have a more achievable level of access to them. For example, The English Schools Foundation, which runs more than 20 international schools in Hong Kong, lowered its fees by 45% in June 2020. Many will have been hit by some level of financial burden throughout the pandemic, which schools will need to take into consideration. With these factors combined, we predict they will influence some decision-makers at schools, and this will have a knock-on effect across school communities, with parents driving this change further.
There are challenges to hybrid models that do need to be considered. For instance, the master schedule will need to be revised, ensuring there are enough teachers to handle multiple sections of the same classes. This may have to be done more frequently and will of course be more time-consuming to develop. Some of the adaptations will be costly, and workloads may increase, particularly for educators. Continuity of instruction, for example, between in-person and remote learning, could be difficult for some students and educators.
Given the overall general success and use many schools have had with hybrid learning models over this past year, it will confidently continue to be of use. Particularly as schools iron out any problems that may occur along the way.
What are the benefits of EdTech resources?
As time goes on, we are seeing a much greater focus on Education Technology, which has of course been propelled by the pandemic. There are many benefits to schools implementing automated programs. One of the key ones being that they save the teacher time, which enables them to shift their focus onto each child more individually. It also enables a greater level of flexibility and accessibility, allowing personalized learning and individual learning paths.
As well as bringing a level of consistency, sustained exposure to EdTech products supports students’ digital literacy, which will be a crucial skill for the future.
Focusing on the learner and using AI
The OCED suggests that the idea of what it means to be successful in society has changed over the years to surround much more than purely economic and material success. Mental well-being is a widely shared goal across much of the world, and the focus on this will only continue in the future. We are seeing a shift that primarily focusing on children’s academic achievement is not enough. To help students reach their full potential, we must support them in strengthening their capabilities from a social and emotional standpoint. While focusing on this alone will not resolve all of the current needs within our education system, it will play an integral role in helping prepare children to adapt and grow during these unusual times.
Through AI solutions, schools can gain a greater understanding of the individual learner, and their curriculum can be aligned automatically to their academic level. This includes allowing additional resources to enable a focus on such learnings. Supporting children’s social and emotional skills will all play a vital role in their recovery from the pandemic.
This will further lead to encouraging students to develop learner agency. This is the ability of students to navigate through a complex and uncertain world, using their initiative, helping them inside and outside the classroom. This focus involves both the building of a solid academic foundation and an approach to personalized learning. Addressing these means students are more likely to be confident and well-rounded students.
Looking to the future of international education
During this time of an unusual level of change, it is difficult to predict exactly where the future of individual international schools will fall in each of the areas covered.
Over the past few months, we have seen the adoption of different learning models that will undoubtedly lead and propel more classroom (virtual or otherwise) innovation. Schools will have to continue to be adaptable and agile, but having already risen to the challenge successfully, we feel they will be able to take this in their stride. Globally, schools do appear to be listening to the parents and communities more by having open discussions surrounding wellbeing support and financial flexibility during these challenging times.