Prominent names in British and North American education open schools in Asia
Recent openings include Harrow in Hong Kong and Marlborough College in Malaysia
They want to tap into the region's growing elite education market
Asia’s affluent middle classes have long been eager to enroll their kids in the West’s elite schools but now they no longer need to travel as far to do so.
Some of the most notable names in British and North American education are establishing campuses across Asia as they seek to tap into the region’s multi-billion dollar international school market.
On Monday, Winston Churchill’s alma mater, Harrow, opened its doors to 750 students in Hong Kong. The 500-year old British fee-paying school already has outposts in Bangkok and Beijing.
Last week, some 350 children began their schooling at Marlborough College in Malaysia. The $50,000-a year boarding school in the rural British county of Wiltshire boasts Kate Middleton as a former pupil.
Other prominent schools targeting Asia include Wellington College and Dulwich College in China, Branksome Hall in and Dwight School in South Korea, Epsom College in Malaysia, and Haileybury in Kazakhstan.
According to ISC Research, international schools are no longer the preserve of expatriate kids.
Around 80% of pupils come from the wealthy local population seeking an English-language education. This compares with 20% three decades ago.
“International schools are now big business and there are many well-funded groups buying and building schools,” ISC said.
“The proportion of schools run for profit is increasing significantly.”
Asia dominates the market, with 53% of all international schools.
“Based on fee income alone, the present value of the market is £18.9 billion ($30 billion). Within 10 years we predict that to increase to £30 billion,” said Nicholas Brummitt, ISC Research’s managing director.
Governments in Malaysia, Thailand and South Korea have been actively promoting themselves as education hubs.
Bob Pick, master of Marlborough College Malaysia, said the school would appeal to those who wanted to experience a UK education but remain close to home and family.
He also said that Marlborough offered a “holistic approach” to education.
“Our curriculum inculcates in pupils an appreciation of the arts, sports and the natural environment, as well as social responsibility and moral values,” he said.
Fees are not cheap but long waiting lists for international schools in places like Hong Kong and Singapore suggest that demand is strong.
At Harrow International School in Hong Kong annual fees go up to HK$160,000 ($21,000).
Parents or their employers also have to make a payment of between HK$600,000 ($77,000) to HK$3 million ($385,000) to secure a place.
In Hong Kong, an influx of expatriate workers in recent years, combined with international schools’ growing popularity among locals, has lead to a severe shortage of places.
Many parents put their child’s name on waiting lists at birth and business groups have warned the situation is deterring companies from hiring expatriate staff with school-aged children.
The Hong Kong government extended a HK$273 million interest-free construction loan to Harrow but critics said the move was too generous and more support should have been given to local schools.