Still growing

Despite the uncertainty of 2020 – 22, the demand for international education is still growing and more schools have been opening, as Sam Fraser reports.

The latest data

How has the international schools market fared from the impact of the pandemic? New data released by ISC Research based on 1st July 2022 indicates there are now 13,180 English-Medium international schools around the world enrolling 5.8 million students aged between 3 and 18, employing 571,000 teaching staff.

Compared to ISC Research market data from five years ago, this suggests a growth rate of 17% in the number of international schools, a 14% growth rate in the number of students enrolled, and an 18% increase in the number of full-time teaching staff employed by international schools. The sector emerged from the pandemic stronger than ever and is now generating over US$53.8 billion in annual tuition fees; a 27% growth rate in five years.

Demand for international schools across the world

ISC Research is recording student enrolment increases over the last five years for all regions excluding Oceania.  Across Asia, there has been a 12.7% increase, with a 20% growth rate in Southern Asia and a 16% growth rate in South-Eastern Asia. Africa has experienced a 17% growth. Some of the enrolment growth has come about as a result of parents moving their child from a government-funded or domestic independent school to an international school as a result of the perception of better provision during COVID’s campus closures.

Lower cost and ‘premium’ schools

This is just one of the reasons why more local families are selecting an international school in their vicinity for their child. As demand from host nation families as well as from expatriates requiring affordable education options continues, so more international schools are being established or are adapting their fees to respond to the need. This is resulting in the expansion of mid-market fee international schools.

However, this does not mean that premium fee international schools are experiencing a decline in student enrolments. Mid-market fee international schools have seen a 19% growth rate over the past five years compared to an 18% growth rate for the premium fee schools.

Most popular international curricula

UK A and International A Levels remain the most popular exit qualifications in international schools. 32% of international schools serving senior students offer A or International A levels, while 27% offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma, and 15% offer Advanced Placement.

Today a growing number of international schools combine various strands of international and national curricula such as some programmes from Cambridge International or the International Baccalaureate, some elements or programmes from the UK or US (and increasingly from countries such as Canada, Australia or India), plus some elements from the national curriculum of the host nation (often to comply with government regulations).

Language learning in international schools

As international schools have become the domain for many more host nation children, language learning has shifted from English-only to bilingual provision and, in some cases, multilingual offerings.

36% of international schools now offer learning in the language of English and at least one other language, compared to 29% just five years ago.

Emerging trends

Understanding the latest growth and changes impacting regional or country-specific markets is helping many schools, suppliers, and developers to make more informed decisions about school planning, improvement and development. Some of the other trends occurring within the international schools market include the growth in the presence of online international schools, shifts in staffing demographics,  and the movement of school brands and groups into Japan and India.

ISC Research is the leading producer of data and intelligence on the international schools market at a global and a local level and we are able to guide schools and school partners to the data and data solutions that will address specific needs.


Former Head of Field Research, Sam Fraser is now the Development Director at ISC Research and can be contacted at





Feature Image: by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Support Images: by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay