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What is the cost of International Education?

Having just read an article on international education, this is a personal reflection, with a bit of professional promotion.

For many families, enrolling their children into an international school is the only option. When I began my career in international education way back in 1991, in Bangkok, my Year 6 class was mainly made up of expatriate families. Out of 20 students, 2 had Thai mothers, the remaining students were truly international, and the international school system was the only option for them. These families had all come to Bangkok because of employment and employers sending Dad or Mum overseas to work. The companies, without exception, paid the school fees for all children, along with housing, health and other benefits. None of these costs came from the base salary, the cost of an international education was of very little interest or concern to the parents. Almost 30 years later, things have changed and very few companies provide all these benefits on top of the base salary. When parents now come into school with a view to enrolling their children, the fees are coming from their salary, and this is now of great interest and concern to families. Needless to say, expatriate families have no or limited options but to enroll in international schools. When the fees are added up, for many, there is no financial benefit anymore living overseas, especially when the home countries provide excellent state education which is free.

The challenge is finding an international school that can provide an excellent international education at an affordable cost.

As a father of four children who have all now left the school and university, the two main outcomes I would look for are academic qualifications and holistic experiences. With regard to this, my own children have done very well academically and holistically. Five of their year school years were spent in Al Khor, Qatar and in addition to the excellent education programme offered by the school, the experience of living overseas, going to school with children from other countries and cultures is priceless and you could not buy that. Luckily, the fees, housing, flights was all part of my benefits, otherwise, I would not have been able to afford that, and living back in the UK would have been the only option for me.

Now as I approach the end of my career, I ask, how can we make an international education affordable for families, who want to give their children a more global outlook on life, and take up posts overseas and be able to bring their families with them?

The biggest cost for any school is staffing. Recruiting and hiring staff from overseas comes at a high cost which is passed on to the tuition fees. To reduce this cost, the only option would be to recruit and hire local staff that does not require the benefits or high salaries, teachers from Ireland, UK, New Zealand, Canada, USA and Australia would be expecting. The big question is, can schools provide an excellent international education without expatriate teachers? The answer is, no, but yes to a hybrid version.

As long as the school has excellent leadership throughout the school, with teachers of the right ‘international’ mindset, excellent and affordable international education can be guaranteed. Leadership is not limited to strategic planning and administrative tasks, but to day to day teaching with a clear focus on teaching and learning.

In my current school, for an example, students leave at the end of Year 11 with excellent IGCSE results; holistic experiences culminating in the Duke of Edinburgh International Award plus the experience of being with local and international students. Next year we will be extending our programme to include post 16 education by offering A Levels as part of an effective holistic programme.

We are a non-selective school, so not every student is expected to achieve Grade A or above in all subjects. Never the less, we have Growth Mindset and expect every student to exceed their expected grade based on their CAT4 forecasted grade. This is achieved through effective day to day teaching plus rigorous assessment and tracking by teachers and senior leadership; syllabus is covered by February of exam year which allows time for exam technique and practice; we pay for an external company who will provide a full day preparation on exam technique and focusing what the examination is specifically looking for.

As a school we compare very favourably alongside the more expensive schools in KL but more importantly all of our students achieve and exceed their expected grades.

The benchmark for IGCSE is Grade C and above. In the UK the GCSE equivalent is 79% and BNIS is 96%

BNIS Overall Results

A* – A*= 36%

A* – A = 60%

A* – B = 83%

A* – C = 96%



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Having carried out some crude research out various school websites, I have a comparison of the cost of Year 10 and 11 fees against IGCSE results. Its eye opening what the cost is in some schools.

You can draw your own conclusions but In terms of comparing cost against IGCSE Results, BNIS provides excellent value for money.

This year we are adding to Senior Leadership Team, who will continue to focus on educational matters and I predict our academic and non-academic outcomes will continually to develop.

If anyone is in a position where finances are tight but you want an excellent holistic international education for your children, consider schools like the Beaconhouse Newlands and Sri Inai International School in Kuala Lumpur where we prepare students not only to excel in exams but to excel in life.

At the end of the day, there is no cost to education, only investment.

By Mr Jarlath Daniel Madine, Principal of Beaconhouse Newlands International School