UAE ‘has highest number of international school students’

The Middle East’s United Arab Emirates leads the world by number of students enrolled in English-medium international schools, recently published data suggests. Relocate Global explores the reasons.

UAE ‘has highest number of international school students’
With the popularity of English-medium schools in the Middle East growing and student enrolment rising dramatically, research has revealed that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) can claim the world’s highest number of students enrolled in premium English-medium international schools, with 602,800.Saudi Arabia, with 288,300, has the second-highest number. The figures come from ISC Research, which provides data and market intelligence on English-medium international schools worldwide.“This development shows how increasingly important education has become in the Middle East, with governments across the region providing the right infrastructure and support for international schools to thrive,” said Rhona Greenhill, co-founder of the International and Private Schools Education Forum,(IPSEF), ahead of whose Middle East conference in Dubai the data was released.According to ISC, Dubai is the world’s leading city for international schools, with 281 – well ahead of second-placed Abu Dhabi, which has 151. The UAE overall has 596 English-medium international schools. This places it second only to China, which leads the global market with 620.

Meeting growing demand for international schools

International-school operators are looking to the Middle East for future growth. The region’s school-age population is expected to reach 15 million by 2020, and more than 50,000 schools will be needed to meet demand.
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While new provision will come largely from state-funded and operated schools, international schools will play a significant role, “not just in filling a small part of the need, but more importantly in providing a world-class education that will hopefully yield competitive future university graduates who will provide manpower that is much needed in the region’s still-developing economies,” said Rhona Greenhill.

International curricula and English-language skills are highly valued

Studies have shown that both local and expatriate populations in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are willing to bear the high cost of education at international schools. One study, conducted by Saudi Arabia’s Umm Al-Qura University, suggests that more than two-thirds of the Kingdom’s population preferred to enrol their children at international schools offering international curricula, English-language skills, and modern teaching practices.In the UAE, there is a general preference for the British and American curricula, along with Indian curricula. International Baccalaureate (IB) schools are also extremely popular.
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From January 2016 to 2017, 85 new international schools and international-school campuses were set up, with more expected in the next few years.Dr Warren Fox, head of higher education at the Dubai government’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), has noted Dubai’s increasingly important role as a regional education hub. Dubai has witnessed an average growth of over 10 per cent in student enrolment in the last decade. Over 40 per cent of its students currently study at international campuses, which reflects its appeal as a higher-education destination. Dubai is also home to the largest number of international campuses in the world.
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