The UAE continues to be the leading country in the world for English-medium K-12 international schools. In terms of the number of international schools, the UAE is currently competing in a very tight race with China, but in terms of student enrolment, the UAE leads the world decisively. The data has been published in the newMarket Intelligence Report for International Schools in the United Arab Emirates by ISC Research. Anne Keeling reports.
UAE schools continue to grow
According to the new ISC Market Intelligence Report there are 548 English-medium international schools in the UAE, just three ahead of China. The two emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi dominate with 260 schools in Dubai and 191 in Abu Dhabi. More schools are under construction with 14 due to open during 2016 including GEMS International School in Mudon, Canadian International School in Dubai, and Sunmarke School in Jumeirah Village. Several more schools are in various phases of development.
The total number of students aged between 3 and 18 attending English-medium international schools in the UAE is 545,074. This is the highest enrolment of any country in the world by a significant margin (Saudi Arabia follows with 260,989). 36% of all international schools in the UAE have over 1,000 students.
There are several reasons why student enrolment is so high at international schools in the UAE. Major factors include the wealth of the country, an extensive expatriate population, demand for high quality, English-medium education by both expatriates and wealthy locals, plus the fact that the governments of Dubai and Abu Dhabi allow unlimited enrolment of local children at international schools. According to the ISC Market Intelligence Report, Emirati students comprise the single largest student nationality (25%) with the exception of Dubai, where they are outnumbered by Indian children (29%). However, in no emirate do local children exceed 50% of the student population.
The report states that, with Dubai’s population projected to grow by 13% within the next two years, and further expansion in Abu Dhabi, demand for international school places in these two emirates will continue to increase substantially. The report also suggests that the Northern Emirates, which currently have 29 international schools, represent a potential growth market for the UAE where new developments have been emerging over the past two years.
Fees at some international schools in the UAE are being impacted by the recent oil crisis, and the report evaluates the impact of this on demand and income. Another issue raised by the report is the increasing concern about access to enough qualified teachers with skills and experience from the UK. 47% of the international schools in the UAE follow a British curriculum and 73% offer IGCSE, GCE AS and/or GCE A levels. The report cites less competitive teacher salaries in the UAE than many other countries, plus a drop in the number of people applying to enrol for teacher qualifications in the UK for this concern. If the number of qualified teachers from the UK begins to dwindle, says the report, some schools could find it difficult to expand.
A total of 41,422 full-time staff are currently employed in international schools in the UAE. Almost half (49%) of teachers at the leading international schools in the UAE today are British and Irish. North Americans, Australians and New Zealanders are also popular nationalities amongst the premium international schools.
The ISC Research UAE Market Intelligence Report, which contains detailed data analysis and crucial information relevant for school expansion, new developments and education suppliers wishing to understand the UAE market in depth, states that the international schools market in the UAE is flourishing. “Further growth is inevitable, spurred by increasing demand from both the expatriate community and from local families,” it concludes.
For the first time, the report includes a detailed focus on Sharjah and the Northern Emirates where development is underway and growth potential exists. The 160 page report includes detailed research and analysis on tuition fees, student and staff nationalities, capacity utilisation, fee income, salary ranges, new developments, market outlook and more.
Anne Keeling – Media Relations and Marketing, ISC: The International School Consultancy
Further information about the world’s international schools, is available from The International School Consultancy at www.iscresearch.com