School kids in Dubai. Picture for illustrative purpose only Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE will need 150 more schools by 2022 to accommodate the growing school-going population in the country, which is expected to reach 1.5 million in the next four years, according to the GCC Education Industry Report unveiled on Tuesday.

Published by Dubai-based research firm Alpen Capital, the report provides an outlook of the GCC Education sector until 2022 covering pre-primary, primary, secondary, tertiary and vocational segments across all GCC nations.

According to the study, mirroring the increasing focus on education in the region, student enrolment in the country is set to grow at 3.4 per cent, from 1.3 million to an estimated 1.5 million.

The study, carried out over the last two years, says that the UAE continues to lead the region in terms of quality of education supported by government’s efforts in developing a diversified knowledge-based economy.

A classroom at Al Najah International school (arabic) in Mussaffah Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

The government’s continuous focus on education is reflected in budget allocation for 2018, which reached Dh10.4 billion, approximately 20.2 per cent of its total expenditure, ranking the UAE higher in comparison to other developed nations such as the UK and Germany.

The report profiles some of the prominent education providers in the region and analyses the growth drivers, trends and challenges faced by the sector.

“The GCC education sector is continuing to grow on account of a rising population coupled with the growing preference for private education. Despite a slowdown in economic growth, regional governments have continued to allocate sizeable portions of their budgets to the education sector,” said Sameena Ahmad, Managing Director, Alpen Capital (ME) Limited.

The report, published every two years, said the UAE is among the leading providers of education services in the GCC. The private education sector has evolved in the country with the influx of international institutions, with a greater demand for various curricula.

The report further elaborates that the population diversity within the expatriate community in the UAE has pushed the private sector to offer a diversified range of curricula.

In the 2017-2018 Global Competitiveness Report, UAE ranked 12th and 16th, respectively, based on the parameters of quality of its higher education and training, and primary education.

The expansion and integration of e-learning programmes has enabled the country to rank 13th for the provision of internet access at schools.

With around 80 per cent expatriate population, the K-12 education segment in the UAE is dominated by the private sector.

Unlike in Saudi Arabia and Oman, where nearly 80 per cent of education is provided by government institutions, approximately 90 per cent of Dubai and Sharjah students and 65 per cent of Abu Dhabi students are currently enrolled in private schools.

According to the report, the number of students attending private schools across the K-12 education system increased by 7.0 per cent between 2011 and 2016, faster than those attending public schools during the same period.

“With growing per capita income and the perception among parents that private schools provide better education than the government schools even many Emiratis are now enrolling their children in private schools,” said Mahboob Murshed, Managing Director, Alpen Capital (ME) Limited.

Growing demand and ease of setting up schools continue to attract private school operators to the country.

The country has 624 English-medium international schools, the second highest in the world, with Dubai leading the rankings for international schools by city with 281, followed by Abu Dhabi with 151 schools.

Overall, the number of private schools in the UAE have grown at 3.5 per cent between 2011 and 2016, the report revealed.

However, the influx of international institutions and oversupply of local education providers has led to increasing competition among private operators, leading to pricing pressures and margin erosion.

At a glance

  • UAE Ranking — Quality of Education Parameters Rank (2017-2018)
  • Quality of primary education — 16
  • Quality of the education system (higher education and training) — 12
  • Quality of math and science education — 13
  • Quality of management schools — 15
  • Internet access in schools — 13
  • Availability of specialised training services — 24
  • Extent of staff training — 15

Source: The Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018 — WEF

Note: 140 countries were considered for this assessment