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Demand for international schools soars in Asia, MENA

Demand for international schools places is soaring with Hong Kong, South Korea, Indonesia, Qatar, Malaysia and Singapore offering the best investment opportunities for foreign providers, new research has claimed.

Harrow International School, Hong Kong.

ISC Research, which has been tracking the market for over thirty years, claims the market has grown rapidly in the last ten years, with global fee revenue estimated at £20.8 billion and expected to rise. In a series of reports, it claims demand is being driven particularly by the rising number of local families, as opposed to expatriates, seeking international education for their children.

“Enrolment is now increasingly dominated by the richest five per cent of non-English-speaking parents looking for places at international schools in their own countries,” Anne keeling, ISC’s media relations representative, told The PIE News.

“Enrolment is now increasingly dominated by the richest five per cent of non-English-speaking parents”

An example is Hong Kong, where there are currently 169 international schools, an increase from 70 schools in 2000. According to ISC, most schools in Hong Kong are now full, with local families as well as expatriates competing for admission and waiting lists commonplace.

In Qatar the number of international schools has climbed from just 21 in 2000 to 119 today. All of the highlighted countries have seen similar leaps and are at, or near, capacity for places.

ISC suggests a number of factors are behind the growth. Government-backed education initiatives, such as the Doha Educational City in Qatar, and the rapid recovery from the global recession experienced by some emerging markets have helped. Quotas on how many local children can attend international schools have also been scrapped, as happened in Malaysia in 2012.

However, the biggest driver is the growing prosperity of local families in emerging markets—many of whom can now afford to educate their offspring in English in preparation for top universities abroad.

“As their income increases, an English-medium, international school education becomes high on the list of priorities for many families,” said Keeling, also highlighting the quality of an international school education.

“The result of this is that today, local children fill 80% of international school places; a complete reversal of 30 years ago when 80% were filled by expatriate children.”

The trend could yield good investment opportunities, says ISC. Companies already responding to the trend include Nord Anglia, which has schools in Abu Dhabi, China and Europe and is expanding in the Middle East, Asia and Europe. It has also just acquired the WCL Group which has schools in Qatar, the US and Europe.

“Local children fill 80% of international school places, a complete reversal of 30 years ago”

Nicholas Brummitt, chairman of the International School Consultancy Group which includes ISC Research, said the market was in a period of “vast expansion”.

“In several countries demand for international school places exceeds supply. This all points to significant development in the foreseeable future.”

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4 Responses to Demand for international schools soars in Asia, MENA

  1. Although I applaud and welcome these changes, as an international educator I am also cautious. The schools are privately funded and thus are beholden to the market viewpoint. As teachers we need to understand how this affects our involvement in all issues around education. At the same time, businesspeople and investors need to learn about education and the important and complex task of educating children.

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