Who Are the Biggest Players in the International Private School Market?

Contributing Writer

International private school chains have experienced explosive growth in the last five years, and some education brands are emerging as global market leaders in what has become a booming sector for U.S. ed-tech vendors, according to a new report. 

United Kingdom-based ISC Research, which provides data and intelligence on international schools around the world, recently released a white paper focused on international private school chains, a rapidly-growing subset of the broader international private school market. 

It shows which chains have become major players as the private international school market continues to expand and investment opportunities grow. 

The report has implications for education companies from the United States that have found a market selling their products to the vast network of international private schools, which serve nearly 6 million students on some 12,000 campuses in countries across the world. 

Not all international private schools are part of a chain, or what ISC Research refers to as a “school group.” Many operate as single entities. 

However, the segment that includes international private school chains has been growing rapidly, almost doubling in size since 2017 in terms of total chains, number of schools, and student enrollment, per the ISC report. 

According to ISC Research, there are at least 616 international private school chains, or “school groups,” that collectively operate almost 4,900 schools with a total enrollment of about 2.2 million — a significant portion of the total international private school market. 

Overall, enrollment at international private school chains tracked by ISC has grown by 70 percent in the last five years, according to the report, and revenue generated from fees is up almost 63 percent to $22.3 billion. 

International ‘School Group’ Market Leaders

The ISC report also highlights which international private school chains have become the biggest globally, based on the total number of schools they own or manage, and based on total student enrollment.

Total No. of International Schools:

Total Student Enrollment in International Schools:

Anne Keeling, the communications director for ISC Research, said enrollment varies greatly from school to school, so while Canadian-based Maple Bear Global Schools operates the highest number of individual schools, it does so with a “relatively low number of students per school,” compared with some other school groups.

On the other hand, Keeling noted that “some schools have very large enrollments but have fewer schools within the group,” such as GEMS, which ranks first for private international school chains in terms of combined student enrollment but is 7th on the list of total schools with 54.

More Growth on the Horizon

ISC Research says there’s no sign that international private school chains are planning to slow down their rapid growth in the near future.

The report notes that international private school chains are aggressively expanding, either by building new schools and campuses or through acquisitions. 

Of the 377 future international schools and campuses that ISC Research is tracking, 238 are known to be part of a school chain, with 92 of those planned to open this year. That includes 16 in Sweden, 12 in China, 7 in the United Arab Emirates, and 6 in India.

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