International schooling continues to gain a reputation for preparing international children, for English-speaking higher education opportunities throughout the world.
Ten years ago, the chance of finding an international school in your residential area in the city was, at best, rare. But not anymore in Uganda; with more international schools cropping up, one in at least every after a couple of years.
But now, just on one hill, stand two international schools; International School of Uganda and Galaxy International School; a sign of the growing demand for international schools in the country.
These are just a handful of several other children in international schools. Currently, other international schools in Uganda include; Kampala International School of Uganda, Kabojja International School, Rainbow International School and Heritage International School.
Others are Ambrosoli International School, Lohana Academy and Aga Khan High School.
Like Kampala, today, most major cities have at least one good international school, if not several. Most international schools cater to a healthy mixture of expatriate and local children.
In Uganda, there is an estimated 3,000 students studying in international schools.
All over the world, in 2000, there were 2,584 international schools teaching close to 1 million students – mainly expats.
Today that number stands at 5,676 international schools teaching over 2.5 million students, and by 2020 the prediction is for over 11,000 international schools with over five million students.
The growing desire to send local children to international schools is based on the quality of teaching and learning; coupled with the recognition by local wealthier families of the value of an English-medium education.
These figures and trends are all tracked by ISC Research–the only independent organisation dedicated to mapping the world's international schools and analysing developments in the market. They predict continued opportunities for parents wishing to provide an international education for their children wherever they may be living in the world.
So why is this growth in local children attending international schools? It is mostly been fuelled by a significant increase in the wealth of local families, according to a number of educationists. Does it mean that there is a problem with the traditional education system where students sit for Uganda National Examinations Board papers?
“As parents, we always want to give our children the best education. If the local curriculum is creating jobless graduates, why keep with it. It is the reason we have decided to get our children to international schools,” says Michel Mugisa, a guardian at Galaxy International School.
But not all parents agree with Mugisa, over the reasons of having their children in international schools. Others say that it is their children’s desire and for others it is because they want their children to tap into international scholarships easily.
“Times have changed. We are not educating our children for Uganda’s market only. We need to prepare them to face the international market and schooling,” Annet Akugizibwe, a mother of two says.
Margaret Bell, who sits on Galaxy International School’s advisory board says: “The UNEB examinations are excellent. There is no need for people to shun Uganda’s education system. But, there are several other opportunities which come with international schooling.”
Bell, who has been in Uganda for close to 24 years, teaching in international schools, agrees that there is a continuous growth of desire for parents to take their children to international schools. During her time of active service, she headed Lincoln International School, Kampala International School, and also worked at Aga Kahn School.
“Uganda is no longer inward looking. It is outward looking. There is an increasing number of expatriates who are coming to the country and they need their children to continue in the same system of education,” explains Cristina McConnell. She has been teaching and administering at the International School of Uganda for the last 34 years.
McConnell believes that the future if international schooling in Uganda is bright, and that as the country grows, more international schools will be opened up.
“The world is a global and there is need for uniform education in certain instances,” explains Hakki Aydim, who is the principal of Galaxy International School. “Uganda is receiving an increasing number of foreigners who may want their children to continue in the same education system back home.”
He adds that a number of parents in Uganda are increasing seeking schools which can easily open opportunities for their children in higher education abroad; a reason why they send their children to international schools.
Asia (including the Middle East which is Western Asia) has dominated the growth since January 2006 and with 3,000 schools, accounts for 53 percent of all international schools worldwide.
It is now widely accepted that opportunities for students after international school are tremendous with the top universities the world over consistently competing for the best students.
Many local families want this opportunity for their children and most schools see this as an enormous benefit for their expatriate intake; providing immediate and direct links with the local community that they're living in."
Although some international schools employ a small percentage of local teachers, the vast majority of teaching staff in international schools come from English-speaking countries around the world where education training and the teaching profession is revered. This includes teachers from the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, America and South Africa.
Currently there are 350,000 fully qualified teachers working in international schools and that number is anticipated to rise to 500,000 by 2020, to meet the demand from increased student intake and additional new schools.
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International schools: A growing choice