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The latest announcements on the international schools market from ISC Research


More parents want an international education for their child
More parents want an international education for their child

An increasing number of parents in many countries of the world are choosing to pay for their child's education in preference to sending 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 globally respected curriculum, and work towards internationally recognised qualifications in preparation for university and careers.

Today, according to data from ISC Research, 5.6 million children aged between 3 and 18 are attending English-medium international schools around the world. 19 years 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 USD $15,726, compared to $8,073 in the UAE, and $6,395 in Malaysia.

In some cities today, the choice of international schools for families is extensive. In Dubai there are now 309 international schools, Shanghai has 168 international schools, Abu Dhabi has 164 international schools, Beijing has 151 international schools and Doha has 144 international schools. The growing number of schools means more visibility of their existence to more families, more choice for parents, and more competition between the schools.

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 from January 2015 to 2019, Eastern Asia has experienced an average annual student enrolment growth rate of 7.4%, increasing from 452,400 students to 600,900. South-Eastern Asia has seen a 5.7% average growth rate, from 394,100 students in 2015 to 492,300 this year. And enrolment in Western Asia (the Middle East including Egypt) has grown from 1,334,100 in 2015 to 1,597,200 today.

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 most growth. Today 359,300 children in China attend the 884 international schools there and 66% of them are Chinese nationals.

As more parents realise 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 enrolment 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 enrolment 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, analyses 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 enrolment to 1,225,000. By 2029, South-Eastern Asia is projected to reach 851,000 students attending international schools, and 2.5 million students in Western Asia.

ISC Research has been producing data and providing trends, intelligence and expertise on the world's English-medium international schools market for 25 years. More information about the market is available at

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