Growing demand

International Schools Market continues to grow

Presentations at the ISC Research conference in January 2018 highlighted data from across the globe which indicate a significant increase in the demand for international education. Anne Keeling reports.

Latest data

International education delivered in the language of English is becoming increasingly accessible to families around the world and, as a result, demand is increasing and the market is going from strength to strength. At the ISC Conference in January, field researchers shared some of the very latest intelligence and data gathered this academic year about developments within the international schools market.

A welcome option

“The chance to choose between different school types close to home has changed the way many parents approach their child’s education,” said ISC Schools Director, Richard Gaskell. “As more international schools have opened around the world and incomes have increased, so parents in many countries have become increasingly aware that the two traditional solutions; either their country’s state education or a foreign boarding school thousands of miles away from home, are no longer the only two options available for their child.

International schools, which offer a Western-style of teaching and learning in the language of English, and international curricula working towards globally-respected qualifications, have become the preferred route for an increasing number of local, as well as expatriate families.” He indicated that well over 80% of all students now attending international schools are the children of local aspirational parents seeking out for them a reliable pathway to some of the best undergraduate degrees in the world.

Latest news from the regions


ISC Head of Asia Research, Sami Yosef shared the news that Japan is now investing in more English-medium education. “With the economy improving, wages increasing, and the number of expatriates expanding significantly, opportunities for international school development in Japan now look very good,” he said.

Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia

In Thailand, he pointed out that “International schools offering a Mandarin and English bilingual programme are those most favoured by the local parents, influenced by the strong trading route that exists between their country and China.” And in Vietnam, Sami said that “Current government regulations restricting the number of Vietnamese students attending foreign-owned international schools looks set to change. Although a hoped-for removal of the cap is unlikely, a reduction on the cap is anticipated. However, the law is yet to be passed,” he added

ISC Field Researcher in South East Asia, Sam Fraser said “the mid-fee international schools sector has development potential throughout the region but, to date, has remained relatively untapped. Because of the increasing number of expatriates with trimmed benefits packages, and the growing number of local families seeking out international education options, there’s a real need for such schools that more people can afford from their own salaries.” Sam noted that “In Johor state, which links Malaysia to Singapore, a significant number of new international schools are predicted to open as a result of extensive development of oil and gas projects, plus a new high-speed rail network which will connect the two countries.”


ISC Research Consultant for China, Grace Shi talked about developments in China. “Growth is occurring, at a huge pace, in the international schools that are accessible to local Chinese children,” she said. “Waiting lists are extensive at all good international schools and much more school development is expected. Several schools are due to open including the British independent school brands of King’s College School and Lucton School in September 2018, Uppingham School in 2019, and Westminster School in 2020; all of which will be set up to accept Chinese children.”

Arlo Kipfer who advises on international school development in Asia Pacific and who has expertise on the legal framework for foreign school investment in China, provided reassurance for future investors and developers. “Recent increased clarity in China’s private education law has been a big benefit for investment,” he said. “Certain school entities can now legally receive dividends.”

However, he added: “There have been some epic disasters with investor partners in China. You really need to know the investor that you’re dealing with and the market you are reaching out to,” he warned.

Middle East

Head of Middle East Research, Nalini Cook, highlighted the latest news that, as of 1st January 2018, Saudi Arabia and the UAE introduced 5% VAT, with other GCC member countries set to follow suit in the coming years. She clarified that nurseries and schools are currently 0% rated, leaving room for the rate to be increased in the future.

In other news from the Middle East, Nalini confirmed that the UAE international schools market is not yet saturated as some believe. “Particularly in the mid-market, more affordable education sector, and schools offering specialist provision such as SEN, sports, and bilingual learning,” she said. Nalini also mentioned likely future potential in Saudi Arabia. “If the law allowing 100% foreign ownership of education comes into effect, there will be huge opportunities for investors in Saudi Arabia in the near future,” she explained.


Latin America Consultant, Janet Wolpert highlighted the significant expansion of international school groups in Mexico, Peru and Colombia including Semper Altius, Innova and Redcol.

“School accreditation is increasingly important to parents as a way of ensuring quality education for their children,” she added.



News from Europe came from Head of Field Research, Susan Krumrei. “In some cities impacted by current geo-political factors, demand for international schools is higher than it has been for years,” she said. “Several schools in Frankfurt have seen a rise in enrolment demand of up to 40% as companies, planning on relocation as a result of Brexit, are blocking places for their families.” 


The conference ended with a presentation on the international schools market in India which looks set to expand significantly in forthcoming years.


Anne Keeling Media Relations and Marketing, ISC Research, one of the world’s leading providers of global data and market research about the growth of international education. 

A selection of presentation slides from the ISC conference is available from


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