Daily Archives: March 18, 2023

Diversity in International Schools

If you have the desire and ability to send your children to an international school, what kind of school would you send them to?

I guess many international schools we have come across are from the west, like from the United Kingdom, the States, Canada, Australia etc. And often when you look at the leadership teams of the school, you find that they are mostly white people, which is understandable, because of, I guess, the country of origin of these schools. But the thing is, these schools are now very commonly seen in everywhere else in the world. According to the international school database, there are 65 of them in Singapore, an Asian country, the map of where those schools located on the island looks something like that:

Screenshot from https://www.international-schools-database.com/in/singapore

And there are 180 international schools in Malaysia, 48 in Tokyo, Japan, more than 200 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Some of these schools have been there for half a decade, yes maybe around or more than 50 years. Go look at their leaderships and teachers, what do you see?

I want to discuss diversity today, it’s my intention starting this writing. I want to see more diversity in those international schools, not all mostly white and/or European, in those schools. There is nothing wrong with them as individuals, they are probably all great at their job (, and it’s arguably why they are all still there).

But if you look at the students’ nationality, they are so diverse. Many of these schools have more than 80 or even 100 of students from different countries, speaking more than 60 or even 80 different languages at home! Then you look at the teachers and leaders, I can easily find like 65% of them from the UK, maybe another 15% from Australia, 10% from the US, and maybe 10% of local AND other nationalities. I made up these numbers, no school is so comfortable stating all these on their websites, they will tell you they have staff from 80 different nationals too, but the top tiers are mostly white, “and as it ‘goes down’ (to admins, cleaning staff etc), their skins get darker” – quoting a teacher I came across. Mind you, he is White. I noticed that, but was never comfortable pointing that out openly. Now I do that. I do that often, in front of other staff and students too.

Next week I’m involved in a recruitment of a boarding houseparent positions. All final shortlisted candidates are white except one, and the only exception is a European. I see the problems, I see that those who are able to present themselves so well are mostly the people from the same regions, at the same time have English as their first language, and are very familiar with what we are looking for. It’s hard for many others to be seen and get into it in the first place. But my point is not that, because that takes time to change, IF changes are wanted.

My point is, going back to my first question, is this a supply demand phenomenon? Is it because those parents who send their kids, and those kids who get to choose their schools (yes, many of them do), want their teachers to be from those regions, White, presenting themselves that way? Are parents more likely to send their kids to those schools? Are kids more likely to select those schools, than say, a school with all Asian in their leadership and teaching community?

If the answer is positive, why so?

What are the other deciding factors?