English-Speaking Private Schools Market Experiencing Rapid Global Growth

Associate Editor


The English-speaking private schools market around the world is growing fast, increasing 18 percent in one year to a value of $45 billion, based on tuition paid in 2015, according to ISC Research Ltd.

A snapshot of that growth was presented today by Diane Glass, who heads business development for the U.K.-based international schools consultancy, at a breakfast here hosted by the SIIA’s Education Technology Information Network. The meeting occurred as part of BETT 2016, the world’s largest ed-tech show.

“Each of these schools makes independent buying decisions,” Glass told the audience of more than 40 business attendees. “Most important, you can deal in English with international schools, which makes them a prime target market for many education companies.”

The Middle East is the fastest-growing region for English-speaking private schools, followed by South America, and then Eastern Asia, according to Glass. “Of the 145 future schools listed in the ISC database, 58 of them are in the Middle East,” said Glass.

The ISC conducts research in schools that provide instruction in English globally.

While the percentage of Emirati students attending English-speaking private schools in the United Arab Emirates has increased to 19 percent, “most students still come from expatriate families, as foreign investment continues to boom in the area,” said Glass. Most schools being built are large, with up to 5,000 students, and they are built for profit, “often with resources unheard of in the west,” she said.

The picture in South America is quite different. Here, most schools added to the ISC database qualified as “new” because they were existing schools that recently added an international curriculum to their programs with bilingual teaching. In these schools, tuition fees tend not to be high, she said.

In Eastern Asia, China dominates the growth story. Increasing demand by Chinese families for a western-style education taught in English has meant that new types of international schools are emerging. “These are schools that involve partnerships between a Chinese owner and a foreign school, as well as bilingual schools with an international focus on teaching and learning,” she said.

Among other stats Glass shared from the company’s recent research:

  • The number of English-speaking international schools grew 12 percent, to 8,203 schools, over the past year.
  • Teaching staff has increased 33 percent, from 256,000 to 340,000 in that time.
  • The number of students has grown to 4.3 million, up 16 percent since the end of 2014.

“It is now the new norm for U.K. and U.S. independent or private schools to be at least investigating opening a new campus,” Glass said. “There are literally hundreds of these schools now running some sort of development project.”

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