Right blend

The international teaching shortage and blended learning

With the growing global demand for an international style of education surging, on-line curriculum specialist Paul Daniell sees blended learning as a vital way of providing affordable, high quality teaching in the growing number of international schools.

Growth of international education, 2000 – 2019

The international schools’ market has developed significantly over recent years. An increasing number of both expat and local families wanting their children to receive a western-style education taught in the English language, is fuelling demand, with the engine of this demand largely generated locally rather than  by expatriates. According to ISC research there were 2,584 international schools around the world catering for fewer that 1 million students in 2000. There are now over 11,000 schools, providing an education for 5.7 million. And the growth curve is getting steeper.

The example of China

Taking China as an example, some of the latest data from ISC Research, shows that between 2014 and 2019 there has been a 35.3% growth in the number of international schools, which have risen in number from 629 to 857. Most are located in the Tier 1 cities, such as Beijing (with 151 schools catering for 56,584 students) and Shanghai (174 schools with 83,281.). Many of these schools want teachers of the British curriculum to give them the positive reputation they need to attract students. The growth largely arises from the fact that families recognise the value that an international education has for their children’s future prospects and higher education opportunities.


Growth in demand for teachers

But with this growth comes the demand for teachers of the British international curriculum: IGCSEs and A Level courses.

Recruiting English teachers to schools in the major cities such as Shanghai and Beijing is less of a challenge, but those located in the smaller provincial capitals struggle to attract the necessary teaching staff across all areas of the curriculum. In many post conflict areas of Africa and Asia, the shortage of teachers qualified to deliver the British curriculum is acute. In subject areas such as maths, computer science and science recruitment, there are even more problems for International schools to find qualified staff.

Blended learning: a possible solution for a global teacher shortage?

This is why, and where, blended learning is increasingly being used as a solution, with some teaching staff delivering face to face learning in schools with support from remote online learning delivered by teachers based in the UK.

Let’s take the International A Level in science as an example. This exam doesn’t require any practical experiments. The students simply study online simulations, video clips of experiments, interactive software and take additional papers testing their appreciation of science experiments how to do them and what outcomes to expect. For this subject in particular, online learning becomes a very viable solution.

One school in China is already using a blended approach to deliver its computer science A Level course under the Cambridge examination board and for many schools, blended learning will comprise of a classroom-based teacher at the school delivering some parts of the curriculum with online learning providing the other areas which, for whatever reason, the on-site teaching staff are not able to fully deliver.


IGCSE and A Level

Some subjects within the IGCSE and A Level curriculum that can use blended learning are possibly more surprising. Discussions are taking place for example to teach A Level Art using a blended learning approach at an international school in China; it’s actually easier than you may think and provides an ideal example of defining how blended learning can work. For this programme of study, the physically created course work has to be authenticated and therefore, needs to be done in class. However, a large part of the course, is based on the technical side of art, an area where qualified teachers are in high demand and is ideal for an online tutor to deliver very effectively.


In Africa, the adoption of blended learning approaches is growing. Because Africa missed out on the early years of Wi-Fi technology it has now leapt straight to 4G connectivity, removing the need for cables in schools. Several schools are therefore able to provide British qualifications delivered by English teachers by broadcasting the lesson on a large screen to 40-50 pupils at any one time.


Blended learning is therefore offering international schools flexibility to solve a variety of problems. Whether it’s a shortage of teachers to deliver the English curriculum or small class sizes that don’t economically justify a full-time teacher, a blend of face to face teaching with live lessons delivered online can provide a range of solutions and is set to grow in popularity in the future.


Paul Daniell,

is Head of Curriculum and Research at UK-based online learning provider, InterHigh Education




FEATURE IMAGE: Image by Ceeline from Pixabay

Support Images: Geralt, KRiemer, Engin_Akyurt & jeffstatecollege  – Pixabay