Demand for international schools in Asia continues

Recent data from ISC Research has shown that the demand for international schools in Asia is exceeding supply as local parents increasingly look for an English-speaking education for their children.

The demand for international schools in Asia continues
Demand for international schools in South East Asia is increasingly coming from local families, not expatriates, says Sami Yosef, head of South East Asia Research at The International School Consultancy (ISC) ResearchThe demand for international schools throughout several countries in South East Asia has been gathering momentum over recent years and this looks set to gain further pace as a number of countries, including Myanmar and Vietnam, take big steps forward.Several countries are welcoming investment and development. Even while the region continues to bear the brunt of the slump in the oil and gas market, which has seen the departure of many expatriate families, the vast majority of international schools throughout the region have reported growth of student enrolment this year.School search and education advice - connect with our in-country expertsAcross the region, the number of students attending international schools increased by 10.1 per cent from September 2015 to September 2016.Looking for the right international school? Relocate Magazine's Guide to International Education and Schools is an invaluable resource and look out for the Guide to Education and Schools in Asia Pacific, coming Autumn 2017.


The latest data from ISC Research (January 2017) identifies 1,003 English-medium international schools for children aged between three and 18 in South East Asia teaching over 371,500 students. Six countries in the region now have over 100 international schools each: Indonesia,Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Singapore.No longer is student enrolment at international schools in South East Asia dominated by expatriates. An increasing demand for international school places is coming from local families who want an English-medium education with globally recognised qualifications for their children.This demand from local families has been particularly important for many international schools since suffering the impact of the oil and gas industry. Malaysia and Indonesia, two countries hit hard, have seen their international school numbers buoyed by local families eager to fill places that have become available by departing expatriates. In Singapore, demand has softened at the premium end of the market, however overall enrolment in Singapore has continued to grow, increasing 0.7 per cent between 2015 and 2017.In countries where the oil and gas market is not so dominant, the international school market is enjoying healthy growth.

Vietnam: significant international school growth forecast

Vietnam is predicted to see significant growth of international schools in the next few years if a new draft policy that is replacing the government’s Decree 73 comes into place.Foreign-owned international schools in Vietnam have, until now, faced restrictions on the number of Vietnamese students they have been able to enrol (a cap of 10 per cent in the primary years and 20 per cent in secondary). Some international schools providing bilingual learning have avoided this cap but many others that are directly impacted by the current restrictions have long waiting lists of local Vietnamese families hoping for a place for their child.The draft policy, which proposes a potential removal of this cap, would create significant opportunities for school expansion and new school development.

How regulation changes will affect international schooling


In 2012, the Malaysian government removed the 40 per cent cap on Malaysian children who were able to attend international schools. Today, international schools in Malaysia are legally entitled to enrol entirely Malaysian nationals if they so choose. Most of the leading schools aim for a 50:50 ratio of local and expatriate children.As a result of the removal of restrictions, the number of international schools in Malaysia has increased from 108 in 2012 to 170 today, and the number of students attending international schools in the country has grown by almost 30,000 to 71,500. Kuala Lumpur is the leading city with 36 international schools and many schools there are seeing significant demand from local families. The most significant growth has been in the international schools charging midrange fees such as Taylor’s International Schools, HELP International School and Tenby International School where many of the students are from local Malaysian families.

Cambodia and Myanmar

Cambodia has been expanding its international schools steadily over the past few years. Since 2010, over 20 new international schools have opened in the capital, Phnom Penh. Demand is at its strongest in the mid-market sector.Myanmar too is experiencing international school growth as it sits on the cusp of major economic expansion. Infrastructure within the country, which has been in desperate need of modernisation, is now in progress, particularly in leading cities such as Yangon and Mandalay where new road networks are being created, telecommunications transformed, energy supplies improved and global banking provision is being established. It is early days and there is still no education policy or regulations for international schools, but the future looks promising.
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Three years ago, the enrolment at international schools in Myanmar was predominantly by local students. Today the schools are seeing increasing demand from expatriates who are coming in to the country to support the economic development and from more local families with high aspirations for their children who can afford the school fees. Several international schools including The British International School Yangon, Horizon International School and Yangon Academy are seeing healthy growth, with waiting lists for some age groups.
Watch our video interview with Brian Christian, principal of The British School in Tokyo, as he discusses transitioning children into a new school and APAC region's approach to STEM.

Links to British independent schools

The first international school in Myanmar with a direct link to a British independent school is Dulwich College, which opened a campus in Pun Hlaing this academic year, and a second campus is due to open in 2017-2018.Another independent school brand recently established in South East Asia is Brighton College, which opened a school in Bangkok in September 2016.

New openings

  • Rugby School Thailand is due to open in Chonburi, Thailand, September 2017
  • King Henry VIII College Malaysia, a sister school to Christ College Brecon, will open in Cyberjaya, Malaysia, in September 2018
  • North London Collegiate plans to open a school in Singapore in September 2019
  • Wellington College is opening Wellington College Bangkok, which will be its fifth international school
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