New Shifts in the World’s International Schools Market

Dec 20, 2020

There are notable shifts in the international schools market as new trends are emerging, according to the latest research by ISC Research.

New Shifts in the World’s International Schools Market

Dec 20, 2020 | Data & Trends

There are notable shifts in the international schools market as new trends are emerging, according to the latest research by ISC Research. There is increase in demand towards mid-market schools where fees are affordable for more people but standards are good. There is a continued shift in student demographics to more enrolment by local nationals and expatriates originating from Asia, and away from Western expatriates. Bilingual provision has also increased in many international schools. And many international schools have proved themselves to be resilient and adaptable throughout COVID-19 with teaching and learning practices expected to adapt in the long-term for some international schools.

Global figures

Data and trends within the report show that the world’s international schools market has continued to expand. There are now over 12,000 international schools globally, all delivering an international curriculum in English, or partly in English, to children between the ages of 3 and 18. Most of these schools are located in countries where English is not one of the official languages but where demand for an international education in English is high. Most of this demand for school places now comes from local families and in some locations, particularly in East and South-East Asia, competition is very high. 6.7 million children are now learning in international schools.

As the market expands, so education models are emerging. According to ISC Research data, most international schools remain day schools, 13% of the market offer boarding. 1.15% of the international schools market are sister schools of foreign independent schools or affiliated with a foreign independent school brand through a management or service agreement. 33% of international schools are bilingual, offering English as one of the main languages of learning. And 14% are accredited by an independent third-party.

International education increasing in demand throughout Asia

Asia leads the world for the number of international schools and students enrolled in international education. According to ISC Research trends, enrolment throughout the Asia region has continually increased. In Western Asia (the Middle East) where 1.715 million children were attending international schools this July, enrolment has grown by 20.6% since 2015. In South-Eastern Asia, enrolment has increased 31.5% in the same period to 563,500. And in Eastern Asia, it is up 33.3% to 627,200. Most notable growth has been in Southern Asia where enrolment has increased by 64.6% to 763,900.

International school fees vary notably from country to country and by school type. The average annual tuition fee based on all international schools globally is $8,623 (USD). In Malaysia current average fees are $6,318 (USD) compared to $16,340 in China, and $3,195 in India.

Impact of COVID-19 on the market

Many international schools have extended their blended learning provision or introduced distance learning to accomplish learning outcomes during campus closures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Some international schools have been used as standards of excellence by governments to raise the quality of online learning provision across more schools within their countries.

Future market growth

Affordable fee levels will drive the majority of growth within the global international schools market which will enable accessibility for a much larger population to international education and, as a result, increase admissions competition and a more diverse student population. However, there remains significant demand for the most exclusive, premium international education, often linked to prestigious independent school brands with a western heritage. British independent schools continue to lead this sector of the market.

Detailed intelligence, data and trends on the global international schools market are published in the annual ISC Research Global Opportunities Report which provides important market understanding for organisations or individuals developing or acquiring international schools, as well as companies supporting the international schools market.

ISC Research has tracked the world’s international schools market, gathering and supplying intelligence and data on global, regional and local market developments, trends and shifts, for 26 years.


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