Growth of private and international schools in the Middle East

Growth of private and international schools in the Middle East prompting demand for greater quality

  • UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman have priciest schools in the Middle East
  • Overwhelming majority of parents in UAE are demanding higher academic standards from schools
  • Renewed focus on early education as part of long-term aims to improve future success

Dubai, United Arab Emirates; 4 October 2017 – Structural reforms are underway in the education sector in the GCC, as the region grapples with changing market demands and outcomes.

Speaking to delegates at the ongoing IPSEF Middle East Forum in Dubai, Roland Hancock, Director-Education, PwC, says five key changes are happening in the education sector in the region, among them “consolidation of key ministries aimed at delivering linked up services and a division of accountability between provision and regulation; and putting a renewed focus on early education in recognition of the importance of this segment on future student outcomes.”

According to Hancock, the GCC is also embracing increasing private sector participation including potential public-private partnerships as a way to deliver higher academic standards that are increasingly being demanded throughout the region, especially in the UAE where parents, according to a recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) Survey of Principals, are as demanding of higher academic standards as parents in the US.

This increasing focus on quality has resulted in part due to the massive growth of private and international schools throughout the Middle East.

Nalini Cook, Head of Middle East Research, ISC Research shared the very latest data on the expansion of premium, English-medium international schools in Western Asia (The Middle East), showing the UAE leading the region in the number of international schools by country, followed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Kuwait in the top five.

(Top countries by count of international schools in Western Asia. Data from chart provided by ISC Research accurate as of July 2017)

The UAE also tops the region in terms of student enrolment, with over half a million students registered in various premium, English-language international schools.

(International enrolment in top countries in Western Asia. Data from chart provided by ISC Research accurate as of July 2017)

“Despite school fees being some of the highest in the world, the rise of international schools in the region will continue as revenues reached over US$10.62bn across the territory,” added Cook.

Average annual school fees in international schools in the region hover around US$8,000. In the UAE, the average school fees per year, is US$7,747 while in Saudi Arabia parents have to pay a little bit less at US$6,325.

Fees are higher in Kuwait where average annual fees in international schools is US$8,069 and go further north in Qatar where fees stand at an annual average of US$9,235.

“The dynamics of the private and international schools market in the GCC is becoming more complex, with many crucial factors coming into play – from regulatory frameworks to quality standards, as well as teacher recruitment and student assessment. We are delighted to have had such a great lineup of speakers this year. More significant issues will be discussed during the second day, where we hope to welcome more decision-makers and delegates,” said Rhona Greenhill, co-founder, IPSEF.

The discussions on the second day of the conference will focus on the higher education market, a new programme focus being introduced by IPSEF this year.


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