With more than 200 million expats worldwide, International and local schools may already have students from all around the world. Embracing this diversity can be a powerful marketing tool.
School Choice International helps expat families to select the right schools for their children. With a database of schools, curriculum, and some 100 consultants worldwide in 50 key locations, the company promises parents to find schools that fit their children’s needs.
Liz, why do people pay to access school information on your site and get advice from your counselors?
In a new location or even at home parents do not feel able to evaluate whether a school is good – and whether it will be a fit for their children. They are emotionally attached and fearful of making mistakes. At School Choice we understand the curriculum and school culture. We have specialized staff and consultants. Parents want their children to have the best education, and they are willing to pay to have peace of mind.
Why do expats need more support than other people?
Expats face a lot of time pressure and have other choices to make whilst relocating. Fifteen percent of all children have special needs. Imagine having a child with special needs. If struggling to find a school in your home country is not difficult enough, having to move abroad and repeat the process can be traumatizing.
How should schools position themselves specifically to the expat market?
I would say the main message a school must convey to families is ease of transition. This is a crucial aspect for relocating families.
They are looking for a community where they will find people like themselves. They want to make new friends and get to know new people, when the school is the centre of the community this helps tremendously.
Does this mean that expats are only interested in other expats?
Not at all. There are families who want their children to have the authentic cultural experience of their new home country.
How much influence does the school’s brand have?
A brand has a huge influence – for example, on word of mouth recommendations. A new colleague may mention a school just because they saw their advertising and they assume it is a good school. However, change and brand perception can lag behind reality, so brand alone should not be the determining factor.
Where do you see new opportunities for schools?
The expat market is changing tremendously! Companies are opening more and more offices in developing countries. In these places, expats feel especially insecure, so they respond very well to international schools that promise ease of relocation. We are able to assist families worldwide, and in developing countries families are more inclined to ask for assistance.
Companies also spend their money more selectively. Instead of entering relocating employee’s children to expensive international schools, they contact us to help the families find local schools which will fit their children needs. This opens new opportunities for local schools, and saves money for companies.
Can local schools build a brand to attract expat families?
Of course! They can add different language programs, international exchange programs, or they can hire international staff to enrich their international image.
Embrace the diversity you have in your school. So many schools have children from around the world with such diverse backgrounds, but they do not use this aspect to promote themselves to the international community.
Local schools can also teach with a global perspective. In many local schools, local kids are taught history from a local perspective. But what about the British, American or Chinese perspective?
Liz Perelstein is the President of School Choice International, a seasoned educator, former expatriate, and a successful entrepreneur. She was named as one of Fortune Magazine 10 most powerful woman entrepreneurs in 2010. In 2011, School Choice International was named as one of Inc. Magazine 500/500 fastest growing companies, and in 2012 was the recipient of an Enterprising Woman Award.