The rapid growth of international schools in the Middle East

As education becomes an increasing focus in the Middle East, parents are choosing international schools with an English-speaking education for their children latest data reveals.

The rapid growth of international schools in the Middle East
Latest data from International Schools Consultancy (ISC) Research has revealed the upward trend in international schooling in the Middle East. The UAE takes the global top spot for the number of students studying at premium, English international schools with 602,800 enrolees. With 288,300 students, Saudi Arabia is in second place.The data was released by ISC Research, ahead of the International and Private Schools Education Forum (IPSEF) Middle East.“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, IPSEF 

Top 5 countries with the highest number of international schools in Middle East

RankCountryTotal Schools Student enrolment
2Saudi Arabia240288,300

Top 5 countries with the highest number of students in international schools in Middle East

RankCountryStudent enrolmentSchools
2Saudi Arabia288,300240
Drilling down to the cities with the highest number of international schools, the Middle East also takes the top spots with Dubai at 281 international schools, followed by Abu Dhabi with 151.

Top 10 cities with the highest number of international schools in Middle East

RankCityTotal Schools
2Abu Dhabi151
8Al Ain48
10Kuwait City45
Dr. Warren Fox, chief of higher education at Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) noted Dubai’s increasingly important role as a leading regional education hub. Over 40 per cent of all students in Dubai currently study at international campuses and average student enrolment has grown over 10 per cent in the last decade.

A growing international schools market

International school operators are looking to the Middle East for future growth, with school population expected to reach 15 million by 2020. More than 50,000 schools will be needed to address the gap, which will be met largely by state-funded and operated schools. A study conducted by Umm Al-Qura University in Saudi Arabia showed more than two-thirds of parents in the Kingdom preferred to enrol their children at international schools that offer international curricula, English language skills, and modern teaching practices. In the UAE, there is a general preference for the British and American curriculum, along with the International Baccalaureate and Indian curricula.School search and education advice - connect with our in-country experts“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,” explained Ms Greenhill.
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From January 2016–2017, 85 new international schools and international school campuses were launched, and this number is likely to grow in the next few years as international school operators aggressively take advantage of the opportunities offered in by the region’s growing education market.

Examining international school trends in the Middle East 

New international school development opportunities for the Middle East will be the subject of a presentation by Nalini Cook, head of Middle East Research, ISC Research where she will present the latest data on the English-medium K-12 international schools market in the region along with highlights of some of the development opportunities and challenges confronting the education sector in this part of the world.IPSEF Middle East will also host a discussion of the market trends in education in the Gulf, taking a perspective on the impact of megatrends on education regionally. The presentation by Roland Hancock, director-education, PwC will cover nurseries, K-12, higher education and vocational training and will provide insights on what is changing from a policy, operator and investor perspective and how each can react to the drivers of change.IPSEF will also be featuring a new conference programme focusing on the higher education market in the region and will address key stakeholder groups involved in the higher education sector – such as colleges and universities who are looking to set-up branches or a new campus in the region, operators of existing higher education institutions, regulators as well as the supplier community that provides products, services and solutions for the higher education sector.IPSEF Middle East scheduled will take place from 3–5 October at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. For more information visit IPSEF.netFor related news and features, visit our Education & Schools section.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centre

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