6 July 2018

MIDDLE EAST: International school market update

Even with the oil crisis in the Middle East, which saw many expatriates move out of the region, international education is still in high demand.

United Arab Emirates

Reports have indicated that families (mostly western) are departing due to the decline in the oil industry. Those that are incoming seem to be skilled Arab and Indian Expatriates who are looking for affordable international schools for their children.

The most reputable schools remain at full capacity as many local families who can afford the fees are applying for places as they become available as expatriates depart.

However, some of the newer schools are struggling and are offering incentives such as free school uniforms to attract new admissions.  Even though the recent annual inspection results grant schools to raise their fees based on performance, many international schools are freezing their fees for the coming academic year.

International schools continue to open, such as GEMS Founders School Al Mizhar which is set to open in Dubai this September (2018) but are responding to the demand in the lower fee range.

A few schools are reporting lower than normal admission enquires for the coming academic year, however the overall demand for international school places remains relatively steady.

International schools that are well-established and have an excellent reputation (and even mid-range schools that cater primarily to local Qataris and Arab expatriates) are maintaining their enrolment numbers.  

Many international schools are reporting a high demand from local families due to the Qatar voucher scheme.  The voucher scheme was established to enable Qatari parents to enhance their children’s education by sending them to private schools with government financial aid.

Benefit packages are also being adapted to meet the demands of expatriate families.  Some companies offer lump sum packages to be used towards housing and education that allow expatriates the choice of school.

New schools are either opening or are in development as there is a lot of competition among international schools in Qatar and their success hinges on opening the right school in the right place to meet the market demand. 


Some schools have experienced a few difficult years due to the oil crisis which resulted in a decline in expatriates.  However the industry is starting to strengthen and the economy is improving, resulting in most international schools stabilizing or increasing in demand.  Benefit packages are being trimmed and therefore resulting in a new demand for mid-market international schools.  In addition, Omanis are looking for affordable options for international schools for their children as well. 


Kuwaiti families look to international schools as a route to Western education and international careers for their children.  With Government incentives to increase the national birth rate resulting in an expected rise in population, more schools are opening.


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