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More Parents Want an International Education for Their Children

By Anne Keeling
More Parents Want an  International Education for Their Children

An increasing number of parents in many countries of the world are choosing to pay for their child’s education rather than send them to their national school. Local English-medium international schools are proving to be the popular option. For parents, selecting an international school means that their child can learn in English, follow a globally respected curriculum, and work towards internationally recognized qualifications in preparation for university and careers. Today, according to data from ISC Research, 5.6 million children between the ages of 3 and 18 are attending English-medium international schools around the world. Nearly two decades ago, in the year 2000, there were just 969,000 children learning in these schools. The number of international schools has increased more than fourfold in that time, from 2,584 to 10,937. The 2019 ISC Research Global Opportunities Report on the world’s international schools market, which has just been released, shows current demand, supply, and local fluctuations. School fees vary significantly by country. In China, the average annual fees for a child to attend an international school are currently US$15,726, compared to US$8,073 in the UAE, and US$6,395 in Malaysia. In some cities today, the choice of international schools is extensive. In Dubai, there are now 309 international schools, Shanghai has 168, Abu Dhabi has 164, Beijing has 151, and Doha has 144. The growing number of schools means greater visibility, more choice for parents and students, and more competition among the schools. At the very top end of the international schools market are a number of western independent school brands that have established sister schools overseas. British independent schools currently dominate this sector of the market. As the 2018–2019 academic year came to a close, 75 British independent school brands were enrolling a total of 44,000 students aged between 3 and 18 outside the United Kingdom. From school fee income alone, this group of schools generated US$1 billion in the 2018–2019 academic year. U.S. and Australian independent schools have been slow to expand globally, but there is evidence that engagement in market potential and overseas development is now increasing. Demand for international education is particularly high in Asia, where it has become an aspiration for a large number of wealthier families. In the four years between January 2015 and 2019, Eastern Asia has experienced an average annual student enrollment growth rate of 7.4 percent, increasing from 452,400 students to 600,900. Southeastern Asia has seen a 5.7 percent average growth rate, from 394,100 students in 2015 to 492,300 this year. And enrollment in Western Asia (the Middle East, including Egypt) has grown from 1,334,100 in 2015 to 1,597,200 today. A total of 22 new international schools have opened in the United Arab Emirates in the past two years, and most of the recent development has been in the mid-market sector where annual school fees are more affordable to a wider range of parents. In China, where international schools accessible to expatriate children are segmented from those that Chinese nationals can attend, it is the schools for local Chinese children that have experienced the most growth. Today, 359,300 children in China attend the 884 international schools and 66 percent of them are Chinese nationals. As more parents realize the international school options accessible to them, so demand will continue to rise. According to ISC Research, several countries are expected to see significant new international school development in the near future. These include: • Saudi Arabia, where education is an emerging sector for foreign investment. • Qatar, which is likely to attract new international school development in the coming years stimulated by its National Vision for 2030. • Malaysia, where several areas are experiencing industrial and residential growth, and which are currently limited in international school provision. • Vietnam which, as a result of legislation change (the enrollment cap for local students at international schools has been increased), will be able to admit more local children into international schools. • Japan, where new immigration laws and market confidence are encouraging an influx of expatriates. As a result, many of the international schools in Japan are experiencing excellent enrollment growth and more school development is likely. Details of market potential and latest trends within the sector are included in the new Global Opportunities Report on the international schools market just released by ISC Research. The report, which informs schools, suppliers, universities, and investors of the current state of the world’s international schools sector, analyzes market trends by key regions, sub-regions, and countries. The data, combined with the very latest market intelligence, identifies gaps in the market, making it particularly important for development planning. Looking to the future, the Global Opportunities Report projects that Eastern Asia will almost double its number of international schools in the next ten years and increase its student enrollment to 1,225,000. By 2029, Southeast Asia is projected to reach 851,000 students attending international schools, and 2.5 million students in Western Asia.

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