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Int’l schools reach 8,000 worldwide, China and UAE lead growth

The number of English-medium international schools around the world has reached 8,000, according to new data from ISC Research, with China and the UAE displaying the fastest growth.

Wellington College International Tianjin. China now has 526 English-medium international school.
Photo: International School ConsultancyWellington College International Tianjin. China now has 526 English-medium international school. Photo: International School Consultancy

ISC predicts that in ten years from now, there will be at least 15,000 English-medium international schools

ISC Research, part of the International School Consultancy, has also found that the number of students taught at international schools worldwide now totals 4.26 million.

“There is insatiable demand by Chinese nationals for English-medium education in China”

As a result of this rapid growth, ISC predicts that in ten years, there will be at least 15,000 English-medium international schools with over eight million students enrolled.

China has the most English-medium international schools, 526. It has also seen the biggest growth in the number of institutions, increasing by 218 in the four years from September 2011, according to ISC Research.

“There is insatiable demand by Chinese nationals for English-medium education in China and, with such an enormous number of Chinese families able to afford high private school fees, even the current downturn in China’s economy will do little to curb that desire,” Richard Gaskell, director for international schools at ISC Research, told The PIE News.

He also pointed out that the rapid growth in the international schools market in China is not being driven by expatriate demand, but rather by local demand, as Chinese-owned international schools are now emerging.

Current policy in China does not allow domestic students to attend international schools for expatriates.

“Wealthier local families are sending their children to these new schools to give them a pathway into American, UK or Australian higher education,” said Gaskell.

The UAE has also seen rapid growth in the market. Currently home to 513 international schools, it has seen an increase of 143 since September 2011.

In the next two years, 21 new international schools are expected to open in Dubai alone, according to ISC Research.

Worldwide demand for international schools comes from expatriate families who wish to “ensure continuity of language, curriculum, examinations or orientation”, said Gaskell.

“Wealthier local families are sending their children to these new schools to give them a pathway into American, UK or Australian higher education”

“Secondly, and most significantly, an increasing number of wealthy local families seek out places for their children at international schools to give them an English-medium education with a learning approach and qualifications that provide the best opportunities for gaining and sustaining a place in a Western university,” he added.

After China and the UAE, Pakistan is the country with the third largest number of international schools, 436. India also has 401 English-medium international schools, and Saudi Arabia has the next highest number with 245.

ISC Research also found that the market in Brazil is growing, increasing by 109 schools from September 2011 to 182 this year.

The data predicts further growth for other countries in Latin America as well as Malaysia and Qatar. Still, in some countries demand exceeds supply, specifically in Qatar, UAE and Hong Kong, said ISC.

Gaskill said he expects developments and school expansions will respond to this shortage, however.

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