When presented with the idea of international boarding school, parents are likely to baulk at the prospect of emptying their bank accounts to send their darlings to live a life permeated by blackboards, bunk beds and Bovril. Children, conversely, will either share their parents’ fear of being sent to fend for themselves or feel overjoyed at the prospect of signing up for a- literally- fantastic life at Hogwarts. Such misconceptions neatly miss the point of international boarding education, sidestepping its capacity to lay solid foundations for students’ academic and professional success in today’s increasingly global society.
Parents, understandably, require justification for investing a considerable amount of money in their offspring’s education. Their offspring, on the other hand, should be made aware of the huge number of opportunities provided by boarding school life. A recent ISC Global report predicts growth in student enrolment of 8.4% per annum, meaning that there will be 7.26 million students studying at English-medium international schools by 2024; clearly, boarding establishments must be doing something right.
The time has come for parents and students alike to banish their notions of St. Trinians and Severus Snape and discover the unique, intellectually challenging experiences offered by international boarding schools worldwide.
1. Achieve academically
Pupils enrolled at international boarding establishments are able to reap the benefits of an educational system with a global perspective, which celebrates diversity and promotes the understanding and assimilation of a broad spectrum of languages. The combination of extensive, modern facilities and, often, stunning surroundings, provides a peerless learning environment.
International boarding schools’ high standards tend to be driven, in part, by their exemplary global reputations, meaning that that their criteria for suitable teaching staff are extremely demanding. Consequently, staff bodies are populated by experienced individuals who are dedicated to their profession and able to provide students with stimulating, informed academic instruction.
2. Gain confidence- but not arrogance
Yet another popular misconception which shrouds boarding institutions centres on such establishments’ encouragement of superiority and snobbery. Times have changed. Gone are the days in which boarding school education was reserved for the children of the landed gentry; today, there are increasing numbers of both national and global outreach programmes, which seek to make boarding school education accessible and appealing to students of all backgrounds and origins.
Far from training students to become supercilious and unpleasant, the rigorous education and countless new experiences available at boarding school enable each individual to become accustomed to facing and overcoming new challenges. Confidence is fundamental to students’ success and progression, not only through boarding school but also through employment and later life; intensive academic tuition, testing extra-curricular activities and, quite simply, the act of living away from home all contribute to its development.
In an interview with the Telegraph, the headmaster of the holistically-minded Aiglon College, Richard MacDonald, stated that he baulked at the idea of his school being deemed elite, or his pupils spoilt or over-privileged, and said that humility and community service form part of the school’s guiding principles.
Confidence and arrogance are categorically different traits. The former is encouraged and developed at boarding school; the latter, in modern educational models, is no longer welcome.
3. Become independent
Flying the nest, a process dreaded by parents and, often misguidedly, longed for by children, is seldom easy. No matter how desperately parents may wish to keep their ‘babies’ under their protective wings, it cannot be denied that the sooner young people develop independence and self-sufficiency, the better.
Boarding school life not only inspires students to apply themselves academically, but also requires them to take responsibility for their own time management, belongings and personal wellbeing. From being able to get out of bed and make it to lessons on time to managing workload and maintaining emotional stability, boarding allows young adults to hone invaluable skills which are fundamental not only to their day to day existence but also to their employability following graduation.
Elizabeth Cunningham, Head of English at the Chorister School, Durham, the city’s Cathedral boarding school, comments that “students are encouraged to take responsibility for themselves- not only for their studies, but also for their own actions, organisation and health. Staff and elder pupils are always willing to help students who are worried or unsure, meaning that they are free to develop into assured, independent individuals at their own pace.”
4. Kick-start a prolific career
Few means of paving the way to a successful international career compare to boarding school education. Not only are employers attracted to applicants who have developed independence and self-sufficiency at an early age; the high standards maintained by such establishments are recognised by businesses in virtually every discipline across the world.
English-speaking establishments enable students to immerse themselves completely in the country’s influential language and culture. English remains the ‘language of business’, and has been adopted by corporations around the world as their principle language. Among the leading global companies who have made English their official language are Audi and Lenovo.
5. Form lasting, global friendships
Living, learning and adapting to life at boarding school in the company of peers allows students to form bonds of friendship stronger than could ever be possible at a day school. Students are brought together virtually 24/7 though lessons, extra-curricular activities and social excursions, which results in the formation of cohesive, familial communities.
Mr. McDonald, from Aiglon College, believes that boarding “allows international pupils to form long-lasting friendships and engenders intercultural understanding within the student community.”
Admittedly, the cost of international boarding can be significant. However, given the promise of academic excellence, globally-orientated education and improved career prospects, there can be little doubt that the results achieved by boarding establishments more than outweigh the cost.