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International schools witness growth in Middle East and Africa

  • UAE leads the world, while Pakistan and India follow closely at 3rd and 4th on the list

  • Three other countries from the region in the Top 15 – Saudi (5th), Egypt (9th) and Qatar (14th)

Dubai, United Arab Emirates; 17 August 2015 – International schools are still on a growth trajectory in the MENA and South Asia regions, according to the latest data on the growth of the international schools market published by ISC Research, part of The International Schools Consultancy (ISC).

The report shows that Asia, to which the Middle East and South Asia belong as a geographical region, has the highest number of English-medium international schools by geography, with a total of 4,346

By country, the UAE leads the world with 511 international schools, with Pakistan (439) and India (411) following closely at 3rd and 4th. Three other countries from the region figured prominently in the Top 15, with Saudi (245 schools), Egypt (183) and Qatar (152) landing in 5th, 9th and 14th respectively.

“The education landscape in the Middle East and South Asia is changing very rapidly. Only last February, there were 505 schools in the UAE, and that number has increased by 6. This kind of commitment to developing the education sector is prevalent in the region, where economic progress in recent years have put the spotlight on education as a key factor for future progress,” said Rhona Greenhill, Co-Founder, International and Private Schools Education Forum (IPSEF), which will take place in Dubai on 29 September – 1 October 2015 at the Dubai Knowledge Village Auditorium.

The forum gathers leading education experts from around the world to share key insights on the international and private school education sector in the region. In a presentation entitled “The growth and development in the international schools market, both globally and in the region”, Richard Gaskell, Director, ISC Research, will share the drivers fueling the growth of English-medium international schools throughout the world, especially the MENA region, and what other market forces are at work that could spur this development.

English-medium international schools now provide education for over 4 million students around the world. This number has risen dramatically in recent years. Just 15 years ago there were fewer than 1 million students, and 5 years ago there were 2.75 million. Demand for places at international schools in many countries is growing at pace, driven by the desire to prepare children in the best possible way for higher education.

Long known as the leading global forum for the international and private education sector, IPSEF has this year included keynote presentations on Africa and India, seen by experts as similar to the Middle East as providing the next key markets for international and private education development.

Highlights of a comprehensive survey of parents on what they think is ‘The State of Education in the UAE Today’ will also be presented by WhichSchoolAdvisor’s James Mullan, Managing Partner, Insight Consultancy. The survey hopes to present key issues that parents think should be addressed by schools administrators as well as education policy makers in the UAE, covering both the academic and non-academic aspects of children enrolled in private schools in the Emirates.

Qatar also takes the spotlight at this year’s edition of IPSEF in Dubai with a presentation on “The New Lusail City and Education Strategy – Making It Real: The Opportunity to Deliver Diversity and Excellence in International Education in a Brand New Environment” by Simon Lucas, Head of Education, EC Harris, who will share the origin of the vision for education provision in Lusail City, how the strategy evolved and how education in the city will work in the long term.

IPSEF is being held in partnership with Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) and The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA); it is also supported by Oxford University Press, The Parthenon Group, GL Education, and the Council of British International Schools (COBIS); in association with ISC and UK Trade & Investment. Programme highlights and registration information are available at

Top 15 countries with the highest number of English-medium international schools*

Rank Country Number of English-medium International Schools
1 United Arab Emirates 511
2 China 480
3 Pakistan 439
4 India 411
5 Saudi Arabia 245
6 Japan 233
7 Spain 203
8 Indonesia 190
9 Egypt 188
10 Hong Kong 176
11 Thailand 172
12 Germany 169
13 Argentina 160
14 Qatar 152
15 Netherlands 151


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* Data provided by ISC Research, July 2015. Full details to be presented at IPSEF Dubai on September 28 – October 1 at the Dubai Knowledge Village Auditorium