Comment Topic Highlight

Student Populations at International Schools: Are they Increasing or Declining?

June 27, 2021


It is a catch 22. If the student population is increasing, then you might have one or more of the following: the maximum number of students (or even a few more) allowed in each classroom, the need to build a new school building (which can take years and a lot of headaches), the school gets more money to pay for teachers and other things, etc…

If the student population is declining, then these things might happen: teachers might be made redundant, the school stops funding certain programs and decreases various budgets, maybe a better education for students as the student-to-teacher ratio might be lower, etc…

But this is the life of an international school and they should be prepared to adjust to the different waves of their student population.

Many of these waves are caused by outside forces, most recently the COVID 19 pandemic. The pandemic caused many families to relocate due to lost jobs or many companies to close their sites in the country.

So international school teachers need to be aware of these waves and be prepared when they go up and down.

When you first arrive at the school, they might be in a wave of increasing student population. Things are going great. Budgets for teachers are ample and ready to use. PD opportunities off-campus are available for teachers to apply for. And most importantly, teachers are getting paid and on time.

After a few years at this school, the student population could easily be declining and teachers could be experiencing quite a different situation.

Before taking a job at an international school, it might be a good idea to ask about the predictions about the future of their student population.

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Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of maternity benefits. In this comment topic, our members can share what their experience has been working at various international schools around the world. There are a total of 538 comments (June 2021) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers on this specific comment topic (one out of the 66 in total) called – “Is the student population declining, staying the same or increasing? Give details why.”

Here are a few of those submitted comments:

“Our population has been relatively consistent over the past few years. We did not lose as many students as we had anticipated during the height of the Corona pandemic…” – International School of Zanzibar (Zanzibar City, Tanzania) – 67 Total Comments

“Student enrollment has slightly increased over the past few years. The reputation of the school in the community for the past 40 years combined with its connection with ARAMCO has helped maintain its enrollment numbers…” – Dhahran Ahliyya Schools (Dhahran, Saudi Arabia) – 103 Comments

“Increasing! Due to covid-19 border closures and the simple fact that Vietnam is much safer than, say, the US or Canada. There has been ample effort to market the school as per the HoS’s partner designs. There is no waiting list and the doors are opened to any and all that are able to come…” – American International School (Vietnam) (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) – 212 Total Comments

“Growth has been slight but steady for a number of years. Enrollment is dependent also on the oil, gas and mineral industries, and they can fluctuate. There were expectations of rapid, high growth recently, but that all changed with the pandemic. In the summer of 2020 the school lost 45% of its enrollment. Some of that has come back as of December, but we’re still down 33% from where we expected to be…” – American International School of Mozambique(Maputo, Mozambique) – 45 Comments

“Student population increased significantly since the school moved to their own building. However, since March 2020, the student population has declined because of Covid-19 situation. Mostly, the parents of the preprimary students are reluctant to attend online classes and seemed to have decided to take a year break and see how things go in 2021…” – Australian International School (Dhaka) (Dhaka, Bangladesh) – 25 Comments

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Discussion Topics

International Schools With Money Problems

May 11, 2018


Working at an international school that is currently having money problems is not fun for all stake holders. Let’s face it, international schools of all types can encounter a financial crunch: Tier one schools, big and small schools, Profit or non-profit ones, etc. During these difficult times, a lot can change or just stop completely for things that are on the school’s budget.

Money Problems

Teachers get nervous. The parents get nervous. The school board and admin are nervous. Even the students might get nervous.

There are both reasons that are outside of the school’s power and inside the school’s power that might get the school into money problems.

One obvious cause that is somewhat out of the school’s power is because of declining students numbers. We all know that international school families are the ones bringing in the money to the school.  Some international schools in certain countries get money from the state for various reasons, but those monies do not cover all that a school needs to run smoothly. The majority of the school’s income comes from fee-paying parents or actually fee-paying companies that the parents work at.

But what then causes parents to take their child out of your international school? Maybe there are now a few other international schools in the community (cheaper ones) that are convincing families to change schools. Another reason that causes families to not re-enroll is also related to how the big-named companies are doing in the area. If they are not doing so well, then they need to cut employees. It’s pretty certain that some of their employees have families with children that go to your school. If a lot of people get fired at these big companies, then families tend to be forced to leave the country, and the obvious result is that they also stop sending their children to your school.

Companies are also starting to limit or stop completely the tuition benefit that they offer to their expat employees. Even expat parents with nice jobs will reconsider how they spend their personal money when the tuition at the international school they are sending their children to is getting on the expensive side.

Another cause of international schools with money problems stems from the mismanagement of the school’s income.  There are a fair amount of international schools that have business departments that are a mystery to staff as a whole. Typically the business is staffed with all locals. If you don’t know the local language and the local system of doing things, it is hard for a general staff member to know how they are doing and if they are doing things in the correct manner. For international schools, this mismanagement can result in drastic outcomes, from embezzlement to money flow problems.

Most for-profit international schools, even in times of having money problems, pay their staff on time and for the correct amounts. However, some teachers at these for-profit schools have experienced not getting their monthly salaries paid on time; sometimes 2-3 weeks late! How can staff focus on their job when they are not getting paid on time so that they can pay their rent? An international school that isn’t paying their staff on time surely has major money problems and cash flow. The worst outcome, of course, is that the school just has no other choice but to completely close down due to lack of money to run itself. It would be interesting to see how many international schools close their doors in this manner.

The most important thing to think about when your international school is experiencing money problem is your job security. International schools with money problems is the perfect condition for some teachers to be let go. Paying the teachers’ salaries and benefits are for sure the biggest expense that a school has. Combined with declining students numbers, there are clear reasons that a school simply just needs to downsize its staff.

Money Problems

When you know you might be let go because of a reason that has nothing to do with you or your job performance, it does not feel good.  Even more complicated, some teachers get let go, but they decide to keep you. The staff really needs to be supportive of each other when this kind of situation occurs.

There are many other factors that come into play when an international schools has money problems, and it is certain that the situation is not a welcomed one for any stakeholder. Luckily, many of the international schools around the world are thriving out there. It has been well documented that new international schools are popping up around the world all the time, especially in the Middle East and Asia. Let’s hope that these new international schools will learn from the unfortunate circumstances of the past ones, so that they can thrive and make it less likely they will experience money problems.

This article was submitted anonymously by an ISC member guest author.

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