Int’l schools convene on global challenges

Published 15/05/2024

The leaders of global international schools explored wellbeing, leadership and sustainability as part of the 42nd annual COBIS conference, as the sector celebrates five years of growth.

The Council of British International Schools conference took place from May 11-13 in London, welcoming heads, governors, proprietors and senior and middle leaders from schools around the world, as well as education businesses and suppliers.

The conference was notably popular with newcomers this year, Margaret Garrard, COBIS CCO, shared with The PIE News.

The conference theme was “Louder than words”, an idea chosen with a view of challenging participants to explore and commit to meaningful action and practical steps to move the sector forward on education redesign, wellbeing, sustainability and more.

As part of this, international sustainability organisation Forum for the Future challenged delegates to consider their role as key enablers of transformation, as well as the current goals of the education system in creating a just and regenerative future.

“One of the bright sparks you have is that there is a generation coming through for which this agenda is critical,” Sally Uren, chief executive at Forum for the Future, addressed the the audience.

“There is a generation coming through for which this agenda is critical”

“Hold on to the positives,” she reminded educators in the room – many of whom were vocal throughout the conference about their ambitions to drive change and shift mindsets of those they teach and lead.

The conference was an opportunity for international school leaders to come together to discuss the challenges they face both professionally and personally, and share solutions with one another.

Work life balance proved the top personal challenge according to recent research shared by the Council of International Schools.

Meanwhile, the pandemic was signalled to be the biggest professional challenge for international school leaders.

Delegates shared pain points not included in the research’s findings, highlighting evolving and increasing demands and expectations of students’ parents, as well as staff retention and recruitment.

On day three of the conference, Leigh Webb, CEO, ISC Research, presented data collected from senior leaders at international schools, giving insight into five years of growth for international schools, as openings and enrolments continue to increase.

Source: ISC Research

In the last five years, the number of international schools has increased by 8.5%, and the number of students enrolments has grown by 10% – equating to a rise in fee income of over $9 billion USD globally.

South East Asia has seen the largest number of new schools open their doors, which could be attributed in large part to many openings in Vietnam.

Webb noted there aren’t many industries that perform like the international school sector, noting its “resilience” and ability to “bounce back”.

“There aren’t many industries that perform like that”

The topic of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice was another prominent theme throughout both the conference’s sessions and informal discussions had by delegates.

In one session, DSB International School presented lessons from a multi-year initiative on sustained DEIJ transformation for the Mumbai school, and invited fellow educators to join its “impactful journey towards meaningful DEIJ integration in education”.

“DEI is not just a buzzword,” said Aanchal Jain, the school’s DEIJ Consultant, who has been working to “move beyond tokenistic actions to embed principles DEIJ across the very fabric of the school’s functioning”.

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