Establishing an international school

Monday 23 October 2017

I have just finished co-editing a book on how to establish a new international school from the start. It covers all the main aspects from vision, values and curriculum through to finances, governance and accreditation. The book contains articles from experts in their field as well as case studies from international schools around the globe. Here is a recommendation of the book from the Chief Executive of ECIS.

"Whether you are involved or are about to be involved with the establishment of an international school, whether you have been in the past, or whether you count yourself a curious bystander of this growth phenomenon in the first two decades of the twenty-first century, Establishing an international school: getting it right from the start deserves your careful attention. It is almost breath-taking in its scale, covering the topics of discussion that seem to dominate our vibrant sector. From foundational elements in the legal and operational spheres to vision and values to curriculum, leadership, professional capital, governance, inspection, and accreditation, the items included in this tome are sure to strike a chord.

Of immense practicality is the inclusion of fifteen case studies, meant to illuminate and underscore the overall content; if you are seeking examples of ‘how we did it’ or ‘what to think about,’ you will find food for thought here.

One thing we do know, which this publication aims to accentuate, is that establishing an international school is not as easy as reading a few studies and duplicating them in a location of interest. To the contrary, culture is the core design principle around which everything is constructed (literally and figuratively), irrespective of location. Happily, the reader will benefit from the experience, expertise, and insights of those international torchbearers who share their wisdom in easily digestible form, revealing paths of thought and consideration for those who eye this remarkable market, contemplating how best to create impact through international education in ways that are culturally appropriate and celebratory. It would be no small thing to suggest that the future of our planet depends on it." (Kevin J Ruth,  Chief Executive, ECIS)

The book is divided thematically. Check below for an introduction to each.

Click the link here to access the book.

An introductory section providing contextual background.

  • The world of international schools describes how and why the international market has been transormed in the last decade. It is written by Nick Brummitt, Chairman ISC Research.
  • The educational landscape in the USA and Canada introduces you to schooling in North America.
  • The educational landscape in SE Asia and India provides an introduction to schooling in a part of Asia Pacific region that is showing exponential growth in the international school market.
  • In Taking a brand abroad Richard Gaskell describes how to take your school brand abroad step by step in a project management way.

How do you create and promote with confidence a mission and vision of education that will attract and meet the aspirations of students and their parents often in highly competitive environments?

  • Where does international education fit into global issues? In this thought-provoking opening article experienced international educator and author Martin Skelton addresses fundamental questions of identity: what is international? do international schools really engage with global issues? what about international curriculums? what might be possible?
  • International Schools - 3rd culture schools argues that sustained growth of international education has led to a fragmentation of its cause and a dilution of its brand. The authors go on to present a future hope of how international schools have the potential to become a powerful creative community with a cause.
  • Be agents of educational reform challenges international schools to expand their mission to serve students who are not lucky enough to afford the fees of fee paying schools.
  • Case Study: Keystone Academy, Beijing shows how a school can devise a compelling mission which blends distinctive traditions in easter, western and international education creating a new world school.
  • Case Study: International School of Helsinki shows how one school effectively uses cultural research models to build communication between a culturally diverse student and staff community.
  • Case Study: Opening a United World College (UWC) introduces the reader to the distinctive unifying vision of the UWC movement and shows how this is applied to their schools in Mostar and Thailand.
  • Case Study: International Partnership: US and China describes how one school in the US looked outwards to China to create sustainability and growth.

How do you recruit the best leader for a school that does not yet exist? What qualities and skills do they need to meet the demands of the job and to thrive in a different land and culture and how do school boards, owners or managers ensure the school leader’s values align with the school in order to ensure success?

  • The importance of local and national culture in establishing international schools explores why it is important for all (Board, Leadership, Teachers) to have a good understanding of the different social cultures in which they work.
  • International schools - a window on the world describes how an international school could and should be a beacon of hope shining brightly, challenging ignorance, celebrating diversity and promoting intertionalism.
  • Case Study The ISF Academy, Hong Kong explores how a bilingual, bicultural school in Hong Kong combines traditional Chinese core values with the western liberal ideals of the International Baccalaureate.
  • Case Study: Bombay International School, India considers the importance of values from the perspective of a Head of School. What do I want to be remembered for? Will I touch lives? Will I change a school in a meaningful way?

Which curriculum will you chose which will be appropriate to the needs of the pupils? How can you offer a full, broad and balanced curriculum when you only have small number of pupils and, therefore, a small budget and a small number of teachers?

  • Getting the learning right addresses four key areas: Defining Learning - What is learning and how do we do it? Designing Learning - What's worth learning and how does it all fit together? Delivering Learning - How do we teach for learning and create learning cultures? Demonstrating Learning - How will learners demonstrate what they have learned, to themselves and other learning stakeholders?
  • International Baccalaureate - an introduction to how to become an IB school and the four IB programmes.
  • A Cambridge Education - an introduction to the Cambridge suite of curriculum programmes: Cambridge Primary and Secondary, O-Levels, IGCSEs, International AS & A Levels.
  • International curriculum programmes - an introduction to the international early Years Curriculum (IEYC), International Primary Curriculum (IPC), International Middle Years Curriculum (IMYC).
  • Case Study - Cebu International School,Philippines describes how they went about designing and constructing their own curriculum to meet the learning needs of their students.
  • Education outside the classroom encourages all schools to consider the valuable learning opportunities that happen outside the classroom and to construct a formal programme to support this. Good top tips.

Are there specific qualities and skills that school leaders in international schools require in order to thrive in diverse contexts?

  • What does market research tell us? RSAcademics undertook research involving over 100 international school leaders in Asia and the Gulf region. They identified the particular and additional challenges of leading an international school and the personal leadership qualities needed for success.
  • IB leadership: internationally minded leaders - an introduction to the IB Leadership Programme including a description of the seven leadership intelligences.
  • Hiring a Head for your new international school. This article is written by the Director of Teachers' International Consultancy which is a recruitment firm. It considers the process of hiring a new Head, from designing the selection team, reviewing the candidate pool, the selection and recruitment process.
  • Case Study - Leading in a time of political change: an Egyptian Story explores some of the complexities facing the day to day life of an international school leader.
  • Diary of a head in a new international school provides some key messages for a leader considering a new post: understand the context, the student mix and the parents; plan the curriculum carefully; recruit staff carefully; and articulate and manage expectations.

Where do you recruit teachers from? What skills and qualities do they need to possess in order to thrive abroad? How do you recruit and professionally develop teachers from the host country who may have varied exposures to ‘western style’ education?

  • Recruiting international staff. A recruitment expert considers the often unexpected complications of hiring teachers for international schools.
  • The importance of context in teacher recruitment and development considers key aspects to consider when recruitig teachers: understand your context; contextualize your curriculum; carefully articulate one's pedagogy; and don't forget that teacher recruitment and induction are key.
  • What is effective professional development? In this article the Director for the Teacher Development Trust challenges the reader to consider getting professional development right as one of the most important things you do as a school leader, and suggests ways of making it happen.
  • Using host country teachers in international schools explores the implications of recruiting host teachers and meeting their professional development needs.
  • International schools as hubs for professional development considers the work of a school that became a hub and accredited provider for regional, national and global professional development, and recommends that other international schools consier going down the same route.
  • Case Study - The KAUST School, Saudi Arabia provides a fascinating account of how an internatonal school geographically separate from many other schools revised its professional development and appraisal systems to focus on developing professional capital throygh getting teacher recruitment, orientation, development and appriasal right.
  • Case Study - Dubai provides top tips on recruitment, induction, development and remuneration.

How can you build the best governing body for a school that does not yet exist?

  • Effective governance in international schools provides an overview of the work of governors in international schools throgh considering: roles and responsibilities, fiduciary obligations, the need to sustain both the board and the head through being strategists and visionaries, and holding people to account for performance.
  • Governance and management - getting the relationship right teases out the approrpiate balance between governance and management.
  • The pitfalls of working in some single ownership international schools is the account of ne Head's at times unfortunate experience of working in schools that are governed by a single owner or family.

How can you plan your budget and structures when you do not know how many pupils will walk through the doors on day one? How do you find the resources you need – be they furniture, text books or laboratory equipment? How can you build effective networks and relationships with other schools, community groups and external agencies which are all essential before the school is even open?

  • Finding the right partner explores how a school might find the right international partner throygh considering the nature and qualities of effective educational partnerships.
  • Getting the legal framework right aims to highlight the legal and related issues that schools with international aspirations need to focus on and introduces you to the regulatory environment in those markets which may offer the greatest opportunity.
  • Getting the finances right explains why it is important for the success of the project that a rigorous financial model is created when establishing a new international school.
  • Case Study - Alice Smith School, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia argues that it is essential to fully align financial planning with the school's vision and strategic plan, and illustrates how one school survived financial turbulance.
  • Getting information systems right explores how implementing a student performance tracking system involved changing the cultural mindset and expectations of the parents and community.
  • Getting marketing right: six point guide to successful marketing in schools, written by a marketing specialist working with schools in India.
  • Getting resourcing right - everything from buildins to textbooks.
  • The importance of community building as seen from the viewpoint of a school group that has global reach who schools are experienced in responding to the needs and expectations of a transient community..

What accreditations would strengthen the school and how can they be implemented?

  • Getting accreditation and inspection right provides an introduction to both accreditation and inspection: what's the difference between the two and how do you prepare for either?
  • CIS international accreditation. CIS is a membership community of internatonal educators in over 725 schoolsin 112 countries. This is an introduction to their accreditation process.
  • International school accreditation: an overview of the work of the New England Association of Schools and Ciolleges (NEASC).
  • IB Authorization: How to become an IB World School written by the Head of IB Authorization.
  • IB World Schools Evaluation written by the Head of IB World Schools Evaluation.

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