International schools in MENA optimistic on future as sector posts growth in 2021

UAE remains country with highest number of English-premium international schools; and Dubai with the biggest student enrolment in the world


The premium, English-medium international schools’ market in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) posted a compound annual growth rate of 20% over a six-year period, according to a report prepared by ISC Research for GESS Dubai, the region’s leading education exhibition and conference.

Titled The International Schools Market in the MENA Region, the report tracked the growth of English-medium international schools over a six period, beginning 2015 until January of 2021.

From just 1,885 six years ago, there are now 2,264 international schools throughout the region, with the UAE leading all countries with 725 followed by Saudi Arabia with 292. Egypt and Qatar each has 279 and 207 international schools, respectively.

It is also worth mentioning that the UAE has the world’s highest number of students enrolled in international schools at 689,000 ahead of China with 419,000 and India with 316,000 students. Dubai also has the highest concentration of international schools in a city anywhere in the world with 333.

“The continuing growth of the international schools’ market in MENA is a good sign that the education sector overall is showing resiliency, despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic. Looking ahead, we believe growth remains on the agenda, as this region will continue experience population increase as well as economic development, factors that will provide the impetus for the expansion of the education market moving forward,” said Matt Thompson, Project Director, Tarsus, organisers of GESS Dubai, scheduled on November 14-16, 2021 at the Dubai World Trade Center (Zabeel Halls 4 to 6).

ISC Research tracks the world’s international schools market and is the recognised source of data and intelligence on developments, trends and shifts within the English-medium, independent international K-12 schools sector.

In addition to the increase in the number of international schools, the ISC Research report also showed double-digit growth across several key indicators in international schools in MENA from 2015-2021, with student enrolment increasing by a CAGR of 19.5%, and with it a CAGR of 21% increase in the number of teaching staff.

The report was presented at a webinar hosted by GESS Dubai, participated in by Diane Glass, Commercial Director and Nalini Cook, Head of Research-EMEA of ISC Research; George DeBakey, President, DeBakey International; Jim Stearns, Deputy Principal, Victoria International School of Sharjah; and Steve Whitley, Founder, EdTech Consulting.

Dubbed The MENA Education Sector: A Blueprint for Success, the virtual conference discussed the post-pandemic prospects of the education sector in the region, as most schools return to face-to-face learning or some form of hybrid learning. It also featured discussions on how education suppliers from around the world can tap in to the growing international schools market in the Middle East.

Organised in partnership with the Ministry of Education, GESS Dubai has been the focal point for education in the Middle East and beyond for 14 years.  The exhibition provides educators access to the products and solutions that meet the needs of the modern classroom and transform the way students learn. Alongside the exhibition runs an extensive conference programme and awards ceremony, making GESS Dubai the complete event for the education industry.