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GCC to get more schools by 2020

Ankita Chaturvedi
Filed on May 2, 2016

(Representative picture)

UAE ranked among top 15 globally on number of foreign schools.

The education sector in GCC countries is all set to witness an exciting transformation. Better teaching techniques and exposure to the western education system leads to the increase in demand of the international schools and universities.

According to a recent report of Alpen Capital, the total number of students in the GCC education sector is projected to reach 15 million in 2020 from 12.6 million students in 2015 with the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 3.6 per cent. The number of students at private schools is projected to grow at a 5.1 per cent rate. Especially the number of students in pre-primary (annual average of 4.5 per cent) and tertiary segment (annual average of 5.5 per cent) is anticipated to increase faster than other segments. However, students at primary and secondary segments will continue to form three fourth of the total students.

"The GCC education sector is witnessing a robust growth in student enrolments coupled with a steady expansion in related infrastructure. Population growth and rise in disposable income have supported the growth of the private education sector. Further, government measures to encourage private sector investments alongside an increasing preference for International Curricula among residents are also attracting renowned foreign education institutes to the region" said Sameena Ahmad, managing director, Alpen Capital Limited.

Rapid change in education system

International schools are getting more popular amongst expats as well as locals. Based on the number of foreign schools, the UAE ranked the highest among the top fifteen countries globally with its 511 schools and Saudi Arabia (245) and Qatar (152) also featured in the 5th and 14th positions, respectively. The governments are investing heavily towards modernizing the education system. The gradual spread of technology across the education institutions is likely to prepare the students for a future in an increasingly technology-oriented job market.

The UAE and Qatar are emerging as the hubs for higher education, with the presence of prominent international universities and educational institutions. Dubai has become a major education destination as it accommodates several overseas students, a large number of which are from the Arab region. The city's state-of-the-art infrastructure, easy visa policies, favorable investment climate, and strategic location have drawn reputed foreign education providers.

The demand for schools in the GCC region is expected to increase from 43,903 in 2015 to 50,978 in 2020. It signifies requirement of 7,000 schools in next five years, most of which are anticipated in Saudi Arabia. From an estimated 9.2 million in 2015, the total number of students in Saudi Arabia is projected to grow at an annualized rate of 3.5% to 11.0 million in 2020. In terms of annualized growth during 2015 to 2020, the number of students in Oman, Qatar and the UAE are expected to grow faster than the other member nations.

Mahboob Murshed, managing director, Alpen Capital Limited stated that "the education sector in the region is growing at a rapid pace and offers attractive opportunities for the private sector. The sector has witnessed several M&A transactions in the last three years owing to the increasing demand for quality education. The investor friendly policies adopted by the GCC governments are also helping the trend towards increased private sector participation. We believe that the existing momentum in the M&A space of the education sector in the region is likely to continue fueled by factors such as favorable demographics, high disposable income and growing awareness for quality education."

A diversified expatriate community is increasing the demand for international curricula, thus attracting several international schools and colleges to the region. The private sector is receiving support from the government through the investor friendly policies aimed at improving the quality of the education. More than 500 educational projects collectively worth above US$ 50 billion are under various stages of development across the member nations. Dearth of skilled teachers in the region is one of the biggest challenges here.

ankita@khaleejtimes.com


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