About the International Schools Market

Since the year 2000, the number of international schools around the world has more than trebled

Thirty years ago, the chance of finding an international school was, at best, sporadic. Today, well over 2,000 cities have at least one good international school, and several leading cities have 100 or more.

Many international schools cater for a healthy mix of expatriate and local children, and international schools continue to gain a reputation for preparing children well for higher education and career opportunities throughout the world.

How has the international schools market changed?

In the year 2000, there were 2,584 English-medium international schools around the world meeting the learning needs of children aged between 3 and 18. In total they educated fewer than 1 million students, most of who were expatriates.

The market has transformed since then. ISC Research data indicates there are now (January 2021) over 12,000 international schools teaching over 6 million students. Although international schools remain a preferred choice of many expatriates, the vast majority of enrolments (approximately 80%) are now children of local families attending an international school in their native country.

Why is there such demand for international schools by local families?

When economies improve and incomes rise, so more families aspire to better education standards for their children. This includes gaining a place at a reputable university, most of which are currently located in western countries and deliver their learning in the language of English. This is considered by many families to be a ‘passport’ to global career opportunities and prosperity.

As the number of degree-seeking students has escalated globally in recent years, and, as students have faced increasingly tough competition to gain the university places they choose, so many families have come to recognise their child needs more than just good grades from their local national school.

This is why so many families are turning to a local English-medium international school in their home country as their preferred choice of K-12 education.

What does ISC consider to be an international school?

For the purposes of market intelligence, analysis and data collection, ISC Research includes an international school if the school delivers a curriculum to any combination of pre-school, primary or secondary students, wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country, or, if a school is in a country where English is one of the official languages, it offers an English-medium curriculum other than the country’s national curriculum and the school is international in its orientation.


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The image at the top of this page shows The International School of Kuala Lumpur