The international schools market has seen a notable growth in demand for schools at a fee point affordable by more families. ISC Research which produces data and intelligence on the world’s English-medium international schools market, says that several factors have impacted the expansion of this sector. There is evermore interest from local families selecting an international school in their neighbourhood in preference to a local state or independent school, growth of expatriate families originating from a wide range of countries, declining benefits packages that include education fees for dependents, and COVID-19 has also impacted the incomes of some families. A growing number of international schools are being established, or are adapting their fees with the purpose of meeting the needs of this sector.
A recent white paper released by ISC Research exploring the growth in demand of mid-market fee schools states that average fees vary considerably from country to country as does the level of demand. It highlights dramatic growth of the sector in Qatar as a direct result of the impact of COVID-19. “The premium fee sector of the international schools market in Qatar is near saturation and notable demand has shifted to the mid-market fee schools, several of which are full and have large waiting lists,” says the paper. According to ISC Research data, there are currently 60,400 students studying at mid-market fee schools in Qatar compared to 31,400 students at premium fee schools. In nearby UAE, demand is quite different. Enrolments at both the country’s premium fee and mid-market fee schools have grown steadily since 2016, with 167,900 students attending schools in the premium fee sector and 173,300 in the mid-market fee sector.
“Many new schools that are coming into Dubai at this point are mid-market [fee]” says Principal of Dubai’s International School of Creative Science, Ataullah Parker in the white paper. “It is very much about volume on campus and scaling up. The challenge is maintaining standards as the student volume grows. Reputation plays a key part; word of mouth reputation counts for a lot.”
ISC Research warns that the fee sectors do not convey any presumption of school or educational quality. “A premium fee international school may charge higher fees because it occupies a prime location in an expensive city. A mid-market fee international school may be able to charge mid-range fees because it has very favourable lease terms on its premises, or is run on a not-for-profit basis. These two hypothetical schools could offer a very similar quality of education and very similar facilities,” it says.
The global English-medium international schools market, which is currently educating over 5.6 million students between the ages of 3 and 18, is never static says the white paper: “As demand for international school education grows, as legislation and other factors impacting accessibility adapt, and as socio-economics fluctuate, so enrolment shifts between price points.”
The white paper is free to download here. ISC Research supplies a range of products and services to meet various needs for data and understanding about the international schools market.