x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Private school sector in Gulf region set to grow quickly

The Gulf's private school market is one of the world's largest, but it is set to get a lot bigger as parents seek higher quality education for their children.

The private school sector in the Gulf is is already one of the world's largest, with US$5.2 billion (Dh19.1bn) paid in annual tuition fees. Rich-Joseph Facun / The National
The private school sector in the Gulf is is already one of the world's largest, with US$5.2 billion (Dh19.1bn) paid in annual tuition fees. Rich-Joseph Facun / The National

The private school sector in the Gulf will grow three fold over the next decade as parents seek better education for their children.

The market is already one of the world's largest, with US$5.2 billion (Dh19.1bn) paid in annual tuition fees.

However, that is expected to expand to almost $17bn by 2020, according to a study by Booz & Company, which surveyed more than 1,000 parents across the region.

Three factors will drive the growth, according to the consulting company.

The first is the region's rapidly expanding population, predicted to increase by a third to 53 million people by 2020, the majority of whom will be under 25.

Booz & Company called the second factor the "flight to quality", the creeping realisation by Gulf nationals that the standard of education across the region could be better and that private schools tend to perform the best.

A US study in 2007, called Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, which was carried out in Dubai, indicated the emirate beat Kuwait and Qatar and was on a par with the South Caucasus state of Georgia in year-4 mathematics.

"The second thing is that these international tests seem to indicate that private schools are on average better than public schools," said Leila Hoteit, a principal with Booz & Company.

"Already people are becoming aware that OK, there's a problem in the region, so I need to make sure that I send my kid to the best of what's out there because clearly the overall level is low," she said.

The Booz & Company survey also revealed parents were willing to pay more for their children's education.

"Obviously we're not talking about every single income level, but we're saying as they realise the importance of education and as they realise that the education in the region is at a low level, they are willing to pay more to get their kids a good education," said Ms Hoteit.

Saudi Arabia has the greatest potential for growth, as just 14 per cent of students currently attend private school, 11 per cent of whom are nationals. This compares to 88 per cent of students at private schools in Dubai, of whom 55 per cent are nationals.

gduncan@thenational.ae

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