Demand for places at international schools has grown steadily over the past decade. The International Schools Consultancy Group has estimated that by the end of 2015 there will be 7,200 international schools teaching over 3.7 million students with English as the primary language of instruction. By 2024 those figures are expected to have grown to 11,000 and 6.3 million respectively.
Transition economies have achieved phenomenal rates of income growth. The international schools in these countries traditionally derived admissions from expatriate communities. They have recently seen up to 80% of applications come from local families. These economies have displayed robust fundamentals and they are enjoying demographic transition. This combination of factors indicates sustainable growth, not only for national income, but also for the number of affluent middle class families. Indeed, more than 80% of global middle class consumer demand is expected to come from Asia. Particularly in Southeast Asia, quality of education is viewed as being of utmost importance. Parents are thus prepared to pay a premium to ensure their children receive the best education available. In the past this involved sending children abroad to benefit, in particular, from British boarding schools. The landscape is now changing.
A number of branded international schools currently operate in key emerging markets, but their capacity limits have been met. In many cases capacity has been exceeded as overwhelming demand necessitates waiting lists. Non-branded premium international schools have similarly been overwhelmed as the burgeoning middle class seeks high-quality education. From Kuala Lumpur to Sao Paolo, the best international schools are being flooded by applications, caused by a trend that is set to continue.
Populations in these markets are growing fast. By itself, the Asia-Pacific region’s middle class population will grow from 525 million people in 2010 to 1.7 billion by 2030. Growing populations combined with growing affluence have produced secular growth in student numbers that will necessitate the need for more school places in these markets. Parents have identified the growing importance of an international education as proficiency in the English language has become vital for career success.