Create Australian national approach to gain global K12 growth, says IEAA report

Globally the international school sector has demonstrated significant growth over the past decade, with the number of international schools rising to 11,451 by early 2020. International schools are present in more than 200 countries with enrolments exceeding 5.8 million students and an estimated fee income of US$54.8 billion.

ISC Research has previously forecasted international schools will host almost seven million students by 2023.

Australia is a comparatively small-scale exporter of school curriculum, with only 103 of the world’s international schools teaching Australian curriculum, however there has been solid growth over the past four years.

“Our federal model, which often pits states and territories against each other, is hampering our ability to compete at scale”

Some 28% more offshore schools offering Australian curriculum since the first IEAA report in 2016. IEAA estimates that in 2020, 5,500 students were studying Australian school curriculum offshore across 19 countries.

Australian Schools Curriculum Offshore: Opportunities for Growth, written by Peter Burgess and Christopher Ziguras, notes a lack of coordination between Australia’s state and territory curriculum authorities as one of the key challenges in the growth of the sector.

It says Australia’s federal system poses challenges for offshore provision because while there is an established national framework that sets out the Australian Curriculum from Foundation to Year 10 and aligned Australian Certificates of Education at Years 11 and 12, each state and territory is responsible for setting its own curriculum and assessment.

Only six of Australian eight states and territories licence their curriculum for offshore delivery. The report states there is little coordination between these authorities in relation to offshore delivery, with each operating independently.

Author and executive director of EdBiz, Peter Burgess said that is one thing that needs to change.

“Our federal model, which often pits states and territories against each other, is hampering our ability to compete at scale.

“While recognising that states and territory curriculum authorities will continue to be central, a step-change is required in order to grow market share. A national strategy that promotes a coordinated and cooperative approach is needed,” Burgess noted.

He believes this could be achieved through “common branding” of existing state and territory certificates as “Australian Certificates of Education” that could be awarded to students in addition to their state or territory certificate.

Burgess has previously called for Australia’s international schools to form a representative body to help grow the sector.

Another challenge for the sector is the deteriorating political relationship between Australia and China, with China accounting for more than half of the total schools that offer the Australian curriculum. In early May, China said it had ‘indefinitely’ suspended key economic dialogue with Australia.

The report said the deteriorating relationship, coupled with increasing levels of state control of international businesses, is expected to result in significantly less appetite for expansion by Australian providers until the situation improves, even though demand for international schooling in China remains strong.

The report also assesses opportunities for growth in 12 key Asia Pacific countries with each country scored according to three factors: student mobility to Australia, policy and regulation consideration, and market opportunity.

“There is little doubt that the experience of Covid-19 will reshape international education demand”

China and India are the top countries for potential growth, with Vietnam, Malaysia, Nepal and Sri Lanka also considered to be very good.

“There is little doubt that the experience of Covid-19 will reshape international education demand and patterns of provision,” concluded the report.

“Post Covid-19, Australia’s curriculum providers, together with 103 offshore partner schools across Asia and further afield, will implement strategies that fine-tune or adjust management practices, delivery modes and curriculum offerings. This is likely to occur to best address risks related to recruitment, attrition, finance, technology, and staffing.”

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