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UK exports: why British education is big business

24 January 2019

With the popularity of the UK curriculum around the world at an all time high, London’s International and Private Schools Education Forum (IPSEF) revealed the potential opportunities for UK schools looking to open abroad… as long as they understand their marketplace.

Exporting UK education

This reputation has seen increasing numbers of British school brands exporting themselves overseas. According to recent statistics from ISC Research, who provide data and intelligence on the international schools market, the UK curriculum is still the most popular in the world, having been adopted by 3,586 international schools globally.

This is something that Geoff Gladding, senior lead of the education team at the UK government’s Department for International Trade (DIT), was keen to elaborate on.

“UK education has never been more in demand or more highly spoken of around the world,” he said. “From Early Years provision, schools and universities to the UK’s role in Edtech, our offering across the whole sector is doing really well.

“Internationally the UK education system is seen as the gold standard.”

According to Mr Gladding, DIT is currently working with 120 UK schools that are either in the process of expanding overseas or are considering their options. The future looks bright for British education and for investors looking to move into new markets. It is also very good news for families who are relocating overseas and looking for continuity of education within the UK system.

How has the international private schools market changed in the past 40 years? Leigh Webb, CEO of ISC Research shared some of the latest trends in the international schools market.

“Gone are the days of just a US or UK curriculum,” he said. “Around 50% of international schools use the US or UK curriculum but 45% of the market now uses the IB programme.”

One of the most recent trends is the growth in bilingual programmes globally. The number of schools offering bilingual programmes has grown by nearly 30% in the past four years to 3056 schools, even surpassing the growth in the IB programme (24%).

“However, one of the largest shifts that we have seen,” explained Mr Webb, “is that of the number of expatriates vs locals enrolled in the schools. “In 1997, three quarters of those enrolled were expatriates and a quarter locals, but today that has shifted to three quarters locals.” Schools that were once dominated by expatriates have seen increasing numbers of local children enrolling as local incomes increase in emerging markets and governments relax prohibitive rules surrounding international education within their countries.

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