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A very international British education

13 September 2018

The Council of British International Schools (COBIS) has grown to 290 member and accredited member schools in 80 countries since its foundation over 30 years ago.

Data from the latest COBIS annual survey reveals that these schools educate around 140,000 pupils and employ more than 30,000 teachers and support staff. The curriculum most commonly taught by responding COBIS schools worldwide is the UK curriculum, at 89 per cent. The examinations most commonly taken in the previous academic year were International GCSE (67 per cent of schools), A Level (43 per cent of schools) and AS Level (36 per cent of schools).

The International GCSE (IGCSE) is a globally recognised qualification. Though it is at the same level as the GCSE, it is intended to have a broader approach to learning, and greater international transferability, than traditional UK-based qualifications. According to the University of Cambridge Assessment International Examinations (CIE) examining board, the main awarding body of the IGCSE to UK schools, the IGCSE has become well established on the international education scene and is taught in more than 2,600 schools worldwide.

Michael O’Sullivan, chief executive of the CIE, believes that the IGCSE helps students to gain a global perspective on their learning. “The desire to learn by looking beyond our own society is more evident than ever,” he says, “with more than a million pupils taking Cambridge examinations around the world. These students want to maximise their potential by having an education with international characteristics. This allows them to gain globally recognised qualifications, and to look beyond their own country in their education. “For pupils and their parents, education is the key to achieving personal goals, such as improved employment and higher-education prospects. Increasingly, those goals have a global perspective, and pupils want access to the world’s leading universities wherever they are. They see an international education as a means to achieve this.”

Benefiting the UK economy

Access to international higher education is becoming increasingly important for families across the globe, and many are looking to an education based on the UK curriculum to help their children acquire the qualifications necessary to gain entry into the top higher-education institutions.

Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and former Minister of State for Universities, Science and Cities, believes that education is an important enabler of UK economic growth and one of the country’s most successful exports.

“Education is global,” said Mr Clark. “In recognition of this, the government published its International Education Strategy, setting out the case and strategy for a step change in the way government supports the education sector to grow internationally.”

Alongside the publication of the International Education Strategy, the government department UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) established an education unit to support UK education and training organisations to win business overseas, with the aim of helping the sector to secure £3 billion of new business by 2020 as part of its 2020 Export Drive.

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