International evolution

2017 – 18: an evolving market

The growth in international education in 2017 – 2018 has, once again, been fast moving and substantial. Many new international schools opened and student enrolment increased globally by 7%. Several countries and sub-regions are experiencing notable change right now. Continued growth brings new opportunities for teachers, investors and schools looking to build international partnerships, writes Richard Gaskell of ISC Research

The expansion of international schools in China

China has seen significant development over the last twelve months, almost entirely in the sector of international schools accessible to Chinese nationals. No longer is this trend centred on Beijing and Shanghai. Now, many of China’s cities have at least one international school accessible to local children. These schools are bilingual and hire a mix of qualified English-speaking expatriate teachers trained in Western pedagogy, as well as skilled Chinese teachers.

The ISC Research Global Report, which will be published in September, highlights 18 new international schools that will open in China this coming academic year including three in Hangzhou, two in Shenzhen, and two in Shanghai. Amongst these new schools are nine independent school brands, including three directly affiliated with Britain’s Wellington College: Huili School in Shanghai, Huili School in Hangzhou (both of which are bilingual schools for Chinese children), and Wellington College International Hangzhou.

The US Charter School organisation, BASIS, will open two schools in China; in Hangzhou and Huizhou. New to the international scene and also opening in China are Britain’s Sedbergh School, Merchiston Castle School and Kings College School, Wimbledon, which is opening two schools in Wuxi and Hangzhou.

New developments in South East Asia

The improving condition of economies in several South East Asian countries has enabled local families with more disposable income to look for alternatives to the, often poor, state education. For parents who want the options of global higher education and career opportunities for their children, they are tending to seek out the international schools in their neighbourhoods. Families in Bangkok, for example, now have 115 international schools to choose from.

According to the Global Report, Thailand will see five new international schools open their doors this academic year including another brand-new school for Wellington College and a new city campus for Shrewsbury International School, both in Bangkok. Five new international schools will also open in Vietnam, and 12 in Malaysia including King Henry VIII College, a sister school to Britain’s Christ College Brecon, in Selangor, and US independent school, Shattuck-St Mary’s in Johor.

New potential for Europe

International schools in mainland Europe are experiencing notable increased demand for the first time in many years, in large part due to the impact of the United Kingdom’s impending withdrawal from the European Union. This has prompted several multi-nationals and London-based banks to plan for relocation which requires family infrastructure and, with that, the demand for school places. The cities currently experiencing most demand for international school places are Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Paris.

New international school, Kings College Frankfurt, opens this September to respond to the increased demand as a result of Brexit relocations. More new school development is likely in order to respond to these new opportunities in a market that is already close to capacity.

Market adaption in the Middle East

It has been another challenging year for some international schools in the Middle East, in particular, those that were dependent on Western expatriates with generous benefits packages that included the expense of international schooling for dependents. Many expatriates working in the oil and gas sector have returned to their home countries, and some remaining have moved their children to more affordable international schools. Most enrolment demand is now focused on the mid-price international schools that are accessible to the majority of professional expatriates funding their own children’s education, and more affluent local families.

Regardless of the challenges, the ISC Global Report indicates that overall enrolment at international schools in the Middle East has increased over the past year; Dubai growing by 6.5%, Riyadh by 14.8%, and Jeddah by 12.5%. 17 new international schools are scheduled for opening in the United Arab Emirates during the coming academic year including Fairgreen International School, Brighton College, Dunecrest American School, Dwight School, and GEMS Founders Mizhar School; five of 12 new schools in Dubai. New international schools are also opening in Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Bahrain.

The increasing need for teachers

The ISC Global Report for 2017-2018 provides a detailed analysis of the international school year and the market influences that will be impacting supply and demand in the near future. The report states that 466,600 teachers are currently employed by international schools around the world and the demand for teachers will increase to 589,000 within just five years, if market growth continues as projected.

More information about the new Global Report and a more detailed free summary is available from


Richard Gaskell is Schools Director at ISC Research, the leading provider of intelligence and data on the world’s English-medium K-12 international schools.







Feature Image: Shattuck-St Mary’s, Johor, Malaysia





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