According to ISC Research (an international school consultancy firm specialising in worldwide market trends and growth), there are over 11,000 international schools teaching almost six million students on every continent. Almost half of these offer the UK national curriculum or at least some derivation of it and are completely taught in English. Many schools also offer the IPC (International Primary Curriculum) and the IB (International Baccalaureate) in tandem with the UK-based syllabus. This is the most popular curriculum for international schools due to several key factors.
Reputation: British education has a long history with many countries deriving their national curriculums from it. This, coupled with the tradition of many students aspiring to study at British universities, has enhanced the reputation of the English national curriculum.
Broad curriculum: Commonly described as having a broad and balanced curriculum, the academic programme aims to teach a wide range of subjects for as long as possible. This means that students can fully grasp all the subjects taught and ensures that they are inspired, interested and keen to learn.
Seamless transition into the UK education system: According to the UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs), there were nearly 320,000 international higher education students in the UK in 2018. Malaysia regularly features in the top 10 countries that send students, which explains why many families choose a British curriculum international school.
Pastoral care: A vital aspect of international schools is the provision of pastoral care. A student’s academic success has as much to do with emotional, physical and mental wellbeing. They need (and parents demand it) to feel happy, safe and inspired to perform to the best of their ability. From guidance counsellors and special education teachers to house parents (boarding) and school nurses, these staff ensure students are properly looked after.
Extracurricular activities (ECAs): A UK-based curriculum always emphasises ECAs as these allow students to explore other interests and are usually not part of the academic curriculum. A major advantage of an international school is the vast range of ECAs on offer from competitive sports and IT-based activities to language clubs, MUN (Model United Nations) and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Participating in ECAs has many advantages from helping with university applications to improving athletic performance and learning new life skills.
UK-based curriculum international schools are accredited by and affiliated with several associations and government bodies including the British government’s Department of Education, COBIS (Council of British International Schools) and FOBISIA (Federation of British International Schools in Asia). This means that standards are upheld, and the education received is similar to independent schools in the UK.
As an exam-based curriculum, the syllabus is taught so that termly / annual assessments can be made. SATs (Standard Attainment Tests) are usually taken at the ages of seven, 11 and 14, while the Cambridge Primary Checkpoint is done during the final year of primary school. The GCSE / IGCSE course is taken in Years 10 and 11 and culminates in exams for an average of 10 subjects covering English, maths, the sciences, modern foreign language, arts, humanities and business studies.
A two-year A Level or IB course follows where students reduce their number of subjects and specialise and learn according to what they will study at university. These qualifications are accepted at universities worldwide, which is the determining factor when parents choose a UK-based curriculum.