Report reveals rapid rise in international schools

Posted on 23rd Jun 2016 in International Schools

A new report on the international education sector has indicated that the number of international schools in many countries is rising rapidly.

The new 2016 Global Report on the English-medium K-12 international schools market published by The International School Consultancy (ISC Research) states the number of English-medium K-12 schools (which includes British and American schools overseas, and British independent schools abroad) has increased by 41.5% in the past five years to a current total of 8,257. 

The number of students attending international schools is now over 4.3 million; a 45.9% growth in just five years. Asia (including Western Asia; the Middle East) has seen the greatest increase in students during this time with a 55.7% growth. Asia now has 54% of all international schools (4,448) and 60% of all students (2.55 million).

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and China lead the world in terms of number of schools; UAE has 548 schools and China has 547. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have the highest number of students; 564,200 students and 265,400 respectively.

The number of students studying at international schools in their home countries continues to increase. This means that more families are selecting a fee-paying international school in preference to the local national school. The main reasons for this choice are to enable children to learn in the language of English, to obtain globally recognised qualifications (predominantly A levels, International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme or America’s SATs, ACT or Advanced Placement), and to follow a Western-style of learning. This education experience provides the most reliable pathway to gaining a place at a reputable university.

In several countries where government policies restricting local children from attending international schools have been relaxed or removed altogether, this has resulted in a dramatic increase in demand for school places. This has been particularly notable in Vietnam, Malaysia and South Korea. In Malaysia, where some schools are currently experiencing a significant loss of expatriate children because of the oil and gas crisis, high demand from local families for international school places has helped to keep enrolment high.

In China where, by law, local children are not allowed to attend foreign-owned international schools, new types of international schools are now emerging catering specifically for Chinese nationals. Current international school growth in China is being fuelled entirely by the local market and this is producing an unprecedented increase in the number of Chinese-owned private bilingual schools.

Enrolment in Latin America is also on the rise, led by Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. Many schools are adopting a bilingual approach (where English is one of the languages of learning) and offering an international curriculum (most often the International Baccalaureate) in response to demand from local families.

An average annual tuition fee at international schools globally has dropped for the fourth year in succession to $9,330. According to the Global Report this is 0.2% lower than in 2011. However, total annual fee income for the K-12 international schools market has increased by 45.9% over the last five years to $39 billion as a result of the huge market expansion.

The future continues to look extremely good for the international school sector and for future investment within the market. ISC Research forecasts that by 2026 the K-12 international schools market will reach 16,000 schools teaching 8.75 million students, generating a total fee income of $89 billion. The biggest challenge will be the ability of international schools to recruit enough qualified, Western-trained teachers; a key selection criteria for many parents. ISC Research predicts that the number of teachers required within ten years will be 780,000; double the current number of full-time staff employed in the sector.

Nicholas Brummitt, Chairman of The International School Consultancy, says: “Looking to the future, the most significant concern for international schools will be the sourcing and hiring of enough suitably qualified teachers and leaders. No one really knows where they are going to come from. One thing is certain; demand by parents for places at international schools with predominantly Western teachers who have respected Western qualifications, is unlikely to be satisfied.”