UAE leads growth of private K-12 education sector in the Middle East


Experts at IPSEF to also highlight promising prospects of the early years sector

Dubai, United Arab Emirates; 20 September 2018 – The UAE has led the Middle East’s private K-12 growth. Dubai and Abu Dhabi account for 60% of the private K-12 market.


This data was released by L.E.K. Consulting, a leading global management consulting firm, ahead of the IPSEF Middle East conference taking place in Dubai this weekend.

According to the report, The Private K-12 Opportunity in the Middle East, the private K-12 market in the region has grown three times faster on average than GDP in the last three years alone, and is even larger than the higher education market that is valued at $3.7b.

“A favourable regulatory environment, consumer willingness to pay, and promising demographics in both the local and expatriate populations make the region’s K-12 opportunity highly attractive,” said Ashwin Assomull, Partner, L.E.K. Consulting, who will present the full details of the report at IPSEF Dubai.

According to Assomull, the Middle East has benefited from the entry of large global chains such as Nord Anglia as well as prestigious independent school brands (e.g. NLCS, Brighton College), alongside the growth of homegrown private operators such as GEMS and Taaleem.

“Private K-12 in the UAE has been at the forefront of growth in the region and continues to experience unparalleled market expansion, with close to 24k seats added in the most expensive schools in the market over the last 3 years,” he added.

The UAE has historically led the wave of growth in the region’s education sector and still represents an attractive market opportunity. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are among the largest and have been popular with investors. These markets widely focus on expat students since they tend to offer international K-12 options across all price points (ranging from USD 1,000 to USD 25,000). They are different from markets such as Singapore and Hong Kong, which tend to cater to primarily wealthy expats. The availability of options in the UAE enables parents to move across price segments as household income changes. This broad coverage has given rise to strong, high-quality mid-priced and premium K-12 markets, contributing to the UAE’s higher overall tuition revenue.

Meanwhile, early years education will also be in the spotlight at IPSEF Dubai, as experts see growth prospects within this segment. Courteney Donaldson, Managing Director – Childcare & Education, Christie & Co said, “The fragmented nature of ‘for-profit’ provision in the UAE, along with other factors, including economic, infrastructure and accessibility, and as a regulated sector,  has meant that the UAE has become increasingly attractive to a number of international day nursery groups that are keen acquire high calibre early years businesses across the UAE, and additionally seek partners to facilitate organic growth and development of new early years ventures.”

Donaldson’s presentation at IPSEF will look at the different reasons as to why ‘for-profit’ trade buyers are ‘going global’ – buying and investing overseas – as well as other issues such as the establishment of international partnerships and acquisitions that can lead to the development of early years education.