When we hear the word ‘boarding school’, it is easy to think of schools in Europe of America. However, how many other boarding schools are there in total?
Of the tens of thousands of high schools worldwide, there are only 258 English-speaking, coeducational, IB-accredited schools with boarding accommodation. Other bodies like CIS and WASC also accredit a number of high schools, so even if we expand the definition a bit further, the number would still stand at around 600. With just below 200 countries around the globe, this works out at about 3 schools per country on average.
Having been educated in a boarding school and visited many more internationally, I regret to find that people sometimes receive biased information about the meaning and value of boarding school education, and that there are many misconceptions. In this article, I would like to discuss the significance of boarding schools from a variety of perspectives:
What is a boarding school like?
To begin with, boarding schools are places where the next generation of leaders are developed. In order to understand the true value of boarding schools, it is necessary to explore the many characteristics they have.
Domestic boarding schools
There are about 10 schools in Japan where students live on campus. Many of these teach the Japanese national curriculum, whereas the number of international schools with English as an official language is extremely limited.
What does the word ‘boarding’ mean?
Understood simply, boarding means ‘accommodation with meals’. This contrasts with ‘day schools’, where students live at home and commute to campus daily.
Living at a boarding school
‘Boarders’ refer to students who live at a boarding school. They are expected to live a disciplined academic life, adhering to certain rules and norms of group living. It is not an exaggeration to say that the interpersonal relations among the boarders define the character of their school.
Characteristics of students at boarding schools
Students are basically in charge of their own affairs, except for cooking. Living away from home for an extended period of time cultivates independence, and a diverse cohort of students and teachers helps to broaden their horizons. Boarding schools are usually located in rural areas where students can enjoy a safe environment, avoiding also the hustle and bustle of urban life. A team of dedicated staff would be on site to provide academic and pastoral care.
Characteristics of parents
Many aspiring parents who wish that their children would become future leaders choose to send them to boarding school. Given the full provision of accommodation, boarding schools are also convenient for parents who have to travel frequently for work, for example diplomats. Besides, international boarding schools also accept ‘returnee children’ who had lived abroad and received schooling in another country’s education system.
Boarding school curriculum
There are several variations; some schools teach the national curriculum but some offer an international qualification such as the International Baccalaureate.
The former type of schools teach classes in Japanese, and students would progress to universities in the same country. The latter have English as their official language, expanding students’ higher education options to the rest of the world. Different subjects may be on offer depending on the composition of the school community.
Boarding school fees
Both tuition and boarding costs are included in the school fees. In other words, living costs are largely included. As part of the accommodation package, students typically live under the guidance and support of a housemaster and mentors, as well as have access to a school nurse in case of healthcare needs.
Co-educational boarding schools
There are currently 206 IB-accredited boarding schools in the world, of which 7 are boys’ schools and 21 girls’ schools. There is a majority of 185 coeducational schools, which means that at 90% of internationally accredited boarding schools, students of both genders learn together.
Here is a list of interesting articles about international boarding schools.