The 70+ international school heads and board members attending all or part of our two-day course in governance at the EARCOS Leadership Conference in Kuala Lumpur represented an astounding variety of school types and board configurations.
- Size of board: from two to 127.
- Number of overlapping and interlocking boards: from one to five.
- Corporate form: from nonprofit to corporate to family business to one school that is a joint venture between a host country government and a toy manufacturer.
- Some heads of school attend board meetings ex officio but do not vote (the norm in U.S. private, independent schools) while other heads do vote and some heads do not always attend board meetings.
- Some countries require a high degree of supervision of the board (e.g., the statutory auditors in Japan or the tri-level board system in Indonesia) while others mandate less, but almost all expect closer board oversight of management than is typical in North America;
- Some boards were self-perpetuating while others were fully parent-elected and others were hybrids; some boards were all members of the same family and others were appointed by sponsoring religious organizations.
We have been at EARCOS (and other regional association) meetings for years, but this year marks the largest range of schools and boards in our memory. But, it is just the continuation of a trend reaching back more than a decade, ever since the numbers of Anglophone expats began dropping in most parts of the world.
While we are just beginning to digest the data and consider implications for our work with schools, we can make a few observations worth sharing with your boards and administrative teams:
- Market fragmentation is accelerating almost everywhere (more options with more types of schools);
- Everyone is offering the same IB or AP or GSCE product and is accredited by the same handful of agencies (mostly CIS);
- One-size-fits-all governance training is so 2015–we need new models appropriate for family businesses, corporately-owned schools, and those with different degrees of governmental supervision;
- Parents are less likely to be the Anglophone expat of yesteryear–and so are less likely to have themselves experienced anything like the program the school has on offer; and
- When viewed through the customer’s eyes, the education market must look confusing at best and chaotic at worst, never a good thing when people are already anxious about their choice of school.
More later, but some things to think about in the meantime.