United Arab Emirates Tops International K-12 Schools Market

Associate Editor

The United Arab Emirates continues to lead the world in the number of students enrolled in K-12 international schools where the curriculum is taught in English, according to a new study released by ISC Research.

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The United Arab Emirates continues to lead the world in the number of students enrolled in K-12 international schools where the curriculum is taught in English, according to a new study released by ISC Research.

In fact, the U.A.E. has been leading student enrollment in these schools since ISC Research, which is part of the International School Consultancy, started tracking this market 20 years ago.

Just over 545,000 students aged 3 to 18 attend attend so-called “English-medium” schools, which means that the English language is the medium of instruction, but it is not necessarily the first language of the students who are enrolled, the U.K.-based consultancy said.

The chart above depicts the fast enrollment growth in recent years. Even during the four-month period between January and April 2016, there’s been a 5 percent growth, according to the company.

The number of U.A.E.-based students enrolled is just over double the number as in Saudi Arabia, the country with the second highest enrollment, at nearly 261,000.

In terms of the number of schools, China is a close second to the front-runner, also the U.A.E. The U.A.E. has 548 English-medium international schools—just three more than China—with 14 new schools set to open in the Middle Eastern nation this year, according to the ISC Market Intelligence Report.

Ed-Tech Outlook in the Middle East

Those who have examined education in the United Arab Emirates say there are several factors driving the growth of educational technology in its English-medium schools.

“The use of instructional technology within most international schools throughout the Middle East is still fairly new but gathering momentum, particularly in the U.A.E.,” said Diane Glass, head of business development at The International School Consultancy, in an email interview.

“Most of the international schools are very keen on good, quality ed-tech to support student learning and many have good resource budgets for this,” she added.

As is the case in the U.S., there’s also a “real demand–and need–for more teacher training and support for teachers to understand” how to maximize the use of technology, Glass said.

Another way the Middle East mirrors the U.S. is that the quality of tech infrastructure can vary rom school to school, she said. And “there are access restrictions to some curriculum content–but the opportunities for ed-tech suppliers in the U.A.E. are excellent,” Glass explained.

A Look at the U.A.E. Market

More than one-third of U.A.E-based international schools (36 percent) have more than 1,000 students, and the emirates of Dubai (with 260) and Abu Dhabi (with 191) have the most such schools.

The consultancy’s report cites several reasons that student enrollment is so high at international schools in the U.A.E., including:

  • The country’s wealth
  • An extensive expatriate population
  • Demand for high-quality, English-medium education by both expatriates and wealthy local residents.

The governments of Dubai and Abu Dhabi allow an unlimited enrollment of local children at international schools, unlike some countries where the government sets a limit on the number of local children who can attend international schools, and a few where they are not allowed to do so. All international schools  charge fees of varying amounts to parents of students, according to ISC Research.

Emirati students represent the single largest nationality of students, at 25 percent, except in Dubai, where there are more Indian children, 29 percent.

The downturn in oil prices is being felt in the emirates, the researchers found, as fees at the schools are impacted but still, ongoing growth is projected. The report also identifies lack of access to enough qualified teachers as a concer.

The 160-page ISC Research UAE Market Intelligence Report is available at this website. The release about it is available here.

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