Everyone is talking education these days. Education for the very youngest of our children. Secondary education. Higher education, and adult learning. International education is an important subset of all of these discussions. For international families in the business, NGO, military, and diplomatic sectors, international primary and secondary education is not just important, it is essential. As these “nomadic professionals” circle the globe with little time spent (as little as one or two years) in any one location, they desperately search out consistency for their children’s education: an International School. The presence of such a school thus becomes a critical asset for any country that wants to play on the international economic and politial scene and attract the players that play on there.
An truly international school offers offers kindergarden through high school education of an international standard that transfers easily from country to country and continent to continent. The International Baccelaureate (IB) offers this universal standard with some 900,000 IB students in 140 countries around the world. An international school has an international faculty, uses English as the primary common language of instruction, and offers wide flexibility for students to enter and leave school at other than standard starting and completion points. For students not yet ready to function in English, support programs quickly bring them up to speed. Finally, international schools must be fully adaptive to accomodate students at all levels of learning ability, including students with special needs. In other words, international schools do not have the luxury of simply picking the best and letting “the system” take care of those less capable. There is no other “system” for nomadic professionals.
So what’s the problem? Well, international schools are expensive to run. Unless a host government helps finance such international education, tuition costs become prohibitive for professionals whose organizations, companies, or governments do not pick up the tab. As an American “diplomatic nomad” for the past 35 years, I have faced the challenge, if not the cost, of international education for my children around the world. I was always fortunate that my government covered the cost of our extraordinary education needs. And I found that the countries that offered the best international education were also the best centers of foreign direct investment and important platforms for international diplomacy and civic society activity. Estonia has one truly comprehensive, but small international school, and ongoing ambitions in global business, government, and civic endeavors. Twenty years into Estonia’s amazing growth as a free, independent, prosperous, and highly modern nation, now is the time to decide whether the country is interested in supporting and sustaining its unique international education platform for the long-term.