International schools have experienced exponential growth over the past two decades, with the number of schools offering primary and secondary education in English tripling and the number of pupils increasing six-fold to nearly 6 million (ISC Research). According to Stephane Ruz, Director of the American International School of Vilnius (AISV), international schools help attract foreign investment and top international talent.
Trends in international education and the opportunities it creates for business were explored at the discussion “Education – the Most Powerful Investment” for education experts and business professionals organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in Lithuania. Živilė Sabaliauskaitė, Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Lithuania, noted that for foreign businesses, making long-term investment decisions, the educational conditions in a particular location could become a significant deciding factor.
“The importance and benefits of international education are unquestionable not only for the local community but also for potential investors in Lithuania. Furthermore, schools based on the principles of international education make a significant contribution to the education and training of future leaders and high value-added professionals, which is essential for the country’s progress and attractiveness in a global context. Therefore, it is important to promote this and to make it as widely available to society as possible,” says Živilė Sabaliauskaitė.
Stephane Ruz, Director of the AISV, the first and longest-running international school in Lithuania, notes that international schools help attract international talent.
“Progressive cities are investing in international schools. Dubai, for example, has hundreds of them to meet the needs of different nationalities. Some employers pay for the education of their staff’s children at international schools to attract and retain the best in their field,” says Mr Ruz.
Lithuania has an important but untapped advantage in an increasingly globalised labour market:
“In Vilnius, it is incomparably easier for children of foreign professionals to get into the best international schools than in New York, London, or Hong Kong, where it is practically impossible to get into the top schools because the competition there is much higher than in our country,” Mr Ruz explains.
International schools were originally created to meet the educational needs of diplomats’ families, most of them non-profit organisations, set up by parent-led groups. Today the situation is different.
Robert Landau, an international school consultant and Head of Maui Prep, Western Academy of Beijing and Prague, says that international schools have started to be created and run by businesses over the past decade.
“Some companies have over 50 or more international schools in different countries around the world and manage their infrastructure and finances in a similar way to their other businesses. This means that these schools operate very efficiently,” says Mr Landau.
In China alone, he says, some 200-300 international schools have been built in the last decade. Therefore, the global trend of growth of international schools will continue.
International schools are not only for foreign families but also for local families
Today international schools are chosen not only by expatriates but also by local families.
“Parents choose international schools because of the opportunities to learn English and other languages, the open approach to cultural diversity, and the curricula that meet global standards, which enable them to enter the world’s top universities after graduation,” says the Director of the AISV.
International education instils in students a holistic view of the world and encourages them to be active and engaged citizens, who are prepared for the challenges of a dynamic labour market.
“International schools bring together both staff and students from different countries. But that’s not what makes a school international – from an early age, children are exposed to different cultures, ethnicities, religions, languages, and nationalities. In this way, pupils not only build strong bonds but also learn to accept other points of view and ideas,” says Sheryl Salem, Deputy Director of the AISV.
Recognised by the world’s top universities
One of the distinctive features an international school can offer is the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. It is an education system that meets international standards and focuses on the comprehensive development of the child. The International Baccalaureate Diploma is recognised and valued by the world’s top universities.
“IB students care about much more than just their results – it opens more doors for them in life. Through creativity, proactiveness, and other elements, young people improve not only their intellectual but also their emotional knowledge. This holistic approach has been shown to give students confidence and foster continuous exploration and interest. In addition, they acquire the critical thinking and time management that is so necessary today,” says Stephane Ruz.
The IB program teaches children the skills required by today’s job market – not only data and technological literacy but also negotiation, creativity, continuous learning, and leadership.
“Both current and future employers will demand what is increasingly difficult to learn at later stages of human development. By this, I mean that communication skills, problem-solving, and adapting to tricky situations are the tools that will help a young person to get on at university and at work. These skills need to be developed from birth and honed throughout the later years of school. International education is what will help you navigate this path,” says Živilė Sabaliauskaitė, Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Lithuania.
The bottom line is that education, business, and government relationships are all fundamental components of a community’s development and growth. A strategic partnership between these three sectors benefits the local and national community and economy. Any capital city seeking to expand its community’s ability to hire and retain highly qualified employees would do well to develop partnerships with quality international schools in the city.