“There is evermore interest from local families selecting an international school in their neighbourhood in preference to a local state or independent school, growth of expatriate families originating from a wide range of countries, declining benefits packages that include education fees for dependents, and Covid-19 has also impacted the incomes of some families,” said ISC Research in a statement.
“There is evermore interest from local families selecting an international school in their neighbourhood”
It said that “a growing number of international schools are being established, or are adapting their fees with the purpose of meeting the needs of this sector”, but emphasised that “the fee sectors do not convey any presumption of school or educational quality”.
“A premium fee international school may charge higher fees because it occupies a prime location in an expensive city.
“A mid-market fee international school may be able to charge mid-range fees because it has very favourable lease terms on its premises, or is run on a not-for-profit basis. These two hypothetical schools could offer a very similar quality of education and very similar facilities.”
Using six countries as case studies – the UAE, Qatar, China, Japan, Malaysia and Germany – the white paper did however find some variance in demand across countries.
In Qatar for example, where there are around 60,400 students studying at mid-market fee schools compared to 31,400 students at premium fee schools, “the premium fee sector of the international schools market in Qatar is near saturation and notable demand has shifted to the mid-market fee schools, several of which are full and have large waiting lists”.
Meanwhile in the UAE, enrolments in both types of schools have grown steadily since 2016, with 167,900 students attending premium fee schools and 173,300 students at mid-market fee schools.
“Many new schools that are coming into Dubai at this point are mid-market [fee]” explained Ataullah Parker, principal of Dubai’s International School of Creative Science.
“It is very much about volume on campus and scaling up. The challenge is maintaining standards as the student volume grows. Reputation plays a key part; word of mouth reputation counts for a lot.”