Talking about the growth of international education in a disrupted world
In the May 2023 edition of the ITM Podcast, Nalini Cook of ISC Research and Mansoor Ahmed of Colliers International , two of the most respected observers of the international school scene talk to Andy Homden about the post-pandemic world of international education and the changes already shaping its future.
Nalini Cook and Mansoor Ahmed agree – this hasn’t been an easy time for international education. Having dealt with the pandemic – largely very effectively – international schools have been faced with the spectre of inflation and the consequences of the terrible war in Ukraine. Tension across the Straits of Taiwan and other global hotspots seem to be further indications of a new and uncertain world order. Not the kind of stability you need for starting or growing new schools.
However, grow they do.
The kids next door and the returnees
Why? The insight Cook and Ahmed provide is fascinating. Underlying everything is the continuing demand for international style education, now enhanced by what many families have seen ‘on the other side of the fence.’ During the pandemic the host-national parents whose next door neighbours had children at international schools which dealt with lockdowns so well, while their own children struggled are now enrolling their own. Moreover, a new generation of internationally educated professionals are returning home to China, Saudi Arabia and Asia and will not accept anything other than the educational standards for their own children that they had grown used to overseas in a K-12 school.
The digital nomads
And then there are the ‘digital nomads’. Constrained by lockdown, they are now breaking out to travel, not just to ‘see the world’ but to work overseas from a new front room. They have been encouraged by liberalised visa programmes of enlightened governments in the Middle East, Europe and Asia, who want to attract the best young entrepreneurial talent. Some of these nomads are already settling in their adopted countries and they are having children . . . who will need to be educated, probably in English, probably at an international school.
Mega projects and economic growth
Mansoor Ahmed in particular looks at where economic growth is taking off. International education has always followed patterns of development. Where governments want to attract international investment, you will find international schools. As economies grow, higher standards of living enjoyed by more people will stimulate the local demand for international education. And some of these projects are conceived on an enormous scale. The UAE continues to reinvent itself and now others want to match and exceed the example of Dubai. In the short-term there will be a need for more expats to service these projects – whether they are from the UK, the US, or China. In the long term, this growth will support the rise of a newly aspirational national middle class, whose children will attend international schools in growing numbers.
As they end their conversation, Mansoor and Nalini agree: although international schools have faced real challenges in the early 2020s, a new paradigm for international education is emerging from a badly disrupted world and this paradigm is charged for growth.
Nalini Cook and Mansoor Ahmed were talking to Andy Homden for the May 2023 ITM Podcast Talking about international education in a disrupted world.
Nalini Cook is the Head of Global Research at ISC Research, and heads the team analysing and commenting on the growth of the international schools market worldwide.
Mansoor Ahmed is the Executive Director (Middle East and Africa) at Colliers International. Based in Dubai, he is the Head of Development Solutions in the areas of Real Estate, Education, Healthcare and Public Private Projects.
Andy Homden is the CEO of Consilium Education, publishers of International Teacher Magazine.
The ITM Podcast ‘Talking About . . .’ is produced by Jason Lasky of Honey to your Ears.