Middle East: UAE enrolment growth stimulates demand for schools

The Middle East schools market continues to skyrocket, with at least 17 new schools set to open across Abu Dhabi and Dubai this year. What does this mean for expat families? Ledetta Asfa-Wossen provides an overview ahead of the IPSEF Middle East conference in Dubai on September 21-23.

IPSEF International and Private Schools Education Forum Middle East Conference
By 2020, 175,000 additional school seats could be required in the UAE alone, according to a PWC Middle East education report – 90 per cent of which will come from private schools. With an influx of expats and a growing population it is no wonder the Middle East is seeing a sharp rise in international schools.In the 2017 report, Dubai was forecasted to require 74,500 additional seats in 50 new private schools by 2020. While 62,000 additional seats in 52 new private schools in the same period were estimated for Abu Dhabi.Setting the scene on the demand for international schools, Ashwin Assomull, partner at LEK Consulting’s global education practice, explains, “In terms of enrolment growth, Dubai is growing at a faster rate than Singapore and Hong Kong.”

The premium trend for schools in the middle east

Mr Assomull describes some of the key trends in the schools’ market, including a growth in super premium and premium schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for instance, and what that could mean for expats relocating with their families.He adds, “The premium Dubai K12 market has grown at about 14% in revenue terms over the last three years. Part of that is enrolment, part of that is fees and part of it is mixed – for example, migration to high price point schools.”With the Middle East, in particular the UAE, highly dedicated to providing wider access to education for all nationalities and price points, Mr Assomull suggests that a rise in demand and a flurry of new schools is good news for parents.

More school choice for all

“The UAE has become extremely focused on providing access to good quality education. Whatever your level of income or occupation. Whether you are enrolling as an Indian student, a Chinese, American or British student, there are relevant education options. We are now looking at a very open market, with a lot more availability of choice,” he says.While the growth of schools in the UAE is clear, he is keen to mention other countries that are becoming more fertile ground for good schools in the Gulf region, such as Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Qatar.

Schools with a USP

With increased market competition comes the need for internationals schools to better differentiate themselves in order to draw in expats. From an institutional focus on STEM, as offered by some schools under the GEMS umbrella, to a strong track record in the performing arts such as Hartland International School. Or, an inherent ethos for supporting vulnerable children as demonstrated by The Riverston Group.At this year’s IPSEF Middle East conference, sessions will explore innovations across schools in the region. Imagining the classroom of the future to smarter, personalised learning environments, along with live debates from schools aiming to create work ready students. From the teaching of entrepreneurship to promoting mindfulness and wellbeing.This year’s education highlights will include a talk from David Quick, principal at the recently opened Riverston School Dubai on the importance of performing arts in schools for “happiness, confidence and leadership”, and Fairgreen International School who discuss a more unique education and why they decided to put sustainability at the core of their education offering.On the following days, the event will also uniquely explore what areas to consider when employing staff in the UAE. From the latest immigration and employment rules to education HR issues in the region.

Dubai school openings

  • Al Mawakeb School Al Khawaneej (US)
  • Bright Riders (CBSE)
  • Brighton College Dubai (UK)
  • Dubai International Academy Al Barsha (IB)
  • Dunecrest American School (US)
  • Dwight School Dubai (IB)
  • Fairgreen International School (IB)
  • GEMS Founders School Mizhar (UK)
  • Ignite School (US)
  • Riverston School Dubai (UK)
  • Southview School (UK)
  • The Aquila School (UK with BTEC, IB)
  • The Arbor School (UK)
(Source: Gulf News)
As IPSEF media sponsors, Relocate Global will be providing full coverage of the event in the Winter 2018 print issue. In the meantime, don’t miss our highlights of the event online, visit relocateglobal.comIPSEF Middle East kicks off on Friday 21 September. For more information on the day and a preview of the full programme, visit: https://ipsef.netAshwin Assomull, partner at LEK consulting, who are platinum sponsors for the event, will be discussing his latest insights on the UAE K12 education landscape on the Friday.

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