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Top destinations for international schools in the Middle East revealed
Source: Design Unlimited Partners for GESS Dubai , Author: Posted by BI-ME staff
Posted: Tue February 27, 2018 2:17 pm

UAE. The market for English-medium, K-12 international schools in the Middle East continues to grow, with total number of schools reaching 1,597 with a little over 1.1 million students.

“The international schools market is not yet saturated as some believe; there remains a great opportunity especially in the mid-market, more affordable education sector; as well as for schools offering specialisations as SEN, sports or bilingual learning,” said Sarah Palmer, Marketing and Conference Director, Tarsus F&E LLC Middle East, organisers of GESS Dubai, which will host a briefing on the challenges and opportunities associated with teacher recruitment vis-à-vis the expected growth in numbers of international schools in the region.

Held in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Education and under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, GESS Dubai begins today and will run until 1 March 2018 at the Sheikh Saeed Halls of the Dubai World Trade Centre. Registration is free for education professionals who will be given CPD certificates for attending.

According to the latest data from ISC Research, the leading provider of market intelligence on international schools, the top destinations in the Middle East for English-language, K-12 international schools are UAE (627), Saudi Arabia (257), Qatar (166) and Turkey (118).

In the UAE, the number of international schools has grown by 6.3% since 2013, while enrolment has grown 9.2% over the same period. Income generated from school fees has also breached the $4.7 billion mark, making this sector a sunshine industry for the Emirates.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is expected to see tremendous growth in the future once the law allowing 100% foreign ownership of education comes into effect, opening a pathway for future investors to enter the market.

This year, GESS Dubai welcomes the biggest Saudi presence to date with the participation of the Ministry of Saudi Arabia, QIYAS (Education Evaluation Commission), Colleges of Excellence and other key companies.

Addressing the full spectrum of the education sector, the Middle East’s leading education show will also highlight the ongoing globalisation of the higher education sector with Abhishek Sharma, founder and CEO of Foundation Holdings, offerings insights on improving college affordability, increasing graduation rates and paving the way for a digital higher education in the future.

In addition, vocation education will be a key focus at the show with the participation of the biggest German and UK pavilions offering a range of vocational and higher education products.

Over 200 presentations and inspirational talks by leading education, technology, leadership experts as well as innovators and business leaders will take place at GESS Dubai 2018 in different categories such as Neuroscience in Education, Future Learning, Innovation stage, Leadership Stream, Education in Action and GESS Talks Arena.

Photo: For illustrative purposes only (File photo)

The international schools market in some key countries in the Middle East


Number of schools 

Number of students 

Key intelligence 




55% of the student population in international schools in Bahrain are Bahraini and 51% of the international schools in Bahrain follow a UK curriculum  




86% of the students attending international schools in Egypt are Egyptian. 64% of the schools are following an American style of curriculum 




64% of all students at international schools in Kuwait are local Kuwaiti children. 11% are Egyptian. A UK curriculum is the most widely offered curriculum at international schools in Kuwait, offered by 40% of them. 




52% of the student population in Oman are local Omani children. 53% of international schools in the country follow a UK curriculum. 




38% of the students attending international schools in Qatar are Qatari. British and Egyptian children make up a further 8% of the student population. A UK curriculum is the most widely offered curriculum by 46% of all international schools in Qatar. 

Saudi Arabia 



Saudi children make up 39% of the student population at international schools in Saudi Arabia. Another 9% are Egyptian. An American style of curriculum is the most widely offered, by 57% of the international schools there. 



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