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Dubai: International curriculum schools in Dubai generated around $1.5 billion (Dh5.51 billion) in revenue in 2015, which appears to be the highest globally, suggests new research presented at a school conference in Dubai.

The data was shared at the International Private Schools Education Forum (IPSEF) during a session on Growth Opportunities Across the GCC on Tuesday.

It shows the market revenue of schools by city for 2015, for 15 cities that experienced a three-year CAGR [Compound Annual Growth Rate] of under five per cent to over 15 per cent.

Dubai’s revenue figure is the highest, at $1.5 billion. Abu Dhabi comes in third, at $860 million (around Dh3.15 billion). Singapore is in second place, at $881 million (around Dh3.23 billion).

Separately, the IPSEF also heard that Dubai has the most private English-medium international schools in the world, with 276 such schools, according to The International Schools Consultancy. Abu Dhabi comes in third place globally, with 154 schools.

‘Healthy growth’

Abu Dhabi and Dubai also lead in terms of student enrolment, which has risen 18 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively, between 2013 and 2016 in “premium” international schools, according to IPSEF’s Tuesday presentation. Hong Kong is in third place with a comparatively low enrolment growth rate of only 10 per cent.

“The UAE is showing healthy growth in the school market. We’re expecting Saudi Arabia to follow suit,” said Arfan Esmail, educational consultant, Quality Education Holding Company.

“This is because of greater focus by parents on the quality of education — they feel the private sector is better placed to offer this.”

Esmail added that despite rising school fees compounded with a cautious economic climate, “parents’ value for education will see them willing to spend a greater proportion of their disposable income on schooling, as they view education as a long-term investment”.

In the UAE, mid-market schools are the “sweet spot” in the prevailing investment trend, said James Mullan, editor, Which School Advisor. He added that schools charging Dh30,000 to Dh45,000 per year appear to be attracting the most students.

Future trend

Speaking on Wednesday at IPSEF, Dr Abdullah Al Karam, director-general, Knowledge and Human Development Authority, said that a future trend could see Dubai schools outsourcing some aspects, such as sports, to individuals and companies. He added that similar concepts were discussed during a recent meeting about the Dubai Future Accelerators programme, which is developing ground-breaking ideas and solutions in seven key areas, including education.

Dr Al Karam said it was time to focus on radical “micro-level” solutions and services in education, starting at the classroom level, shifting the prevailing emphasis from “macro-level” developments.

“We don’t have to wait for the future to come to us. We can pull the future to here, to now, to Dubai,” he said.