UAE educational boom: 50 new schools to accommodate 150,000 students by 2027

Demand for high-quality education institutes will fuel the rise of international schools in the Emirates and GCC region


Waheed Abbas

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Published: Wed 2 Aug 2023, 4:14 PM

Last updated: Wed 2 Aug 2023, 10:10 PM

Around 150,000 students will enrol in UAE schools by 2027 as the country's population increases and more international schools set up campuses in the Emirates, said Alpen Capital, a Dubai-based financial advisory firm.

Krishna Dhanak, managing director at Alpen Capital, said demand for schools in the UAE is likely to grow from an estimated 1,258 schools in 2022 to 1,308 by 2027, translating to an additional 50 new schools over the five years.

In terms of recruitment and salaries of teachers in the UAE, Dhanak added that hiring and retaining high-quality staff to match the rising standards among private schools has proven to be a challenge.

“In order to attract and retain the right teaching talent, many international schools have started offering generous compensation packages and we expect this trend to only intensify going forward. Additionally, schools are also planning to offer more professional development opportunities for teachers, including promotions, while also encouraging flexibility at work,” he told Khaleej Times at the launch of the GCC Education Industry report.

The study, however, didn’t disclose how many new teachers would be required in the country, but industry executives project that thousands of new jobs will be created in the next five years.

A survey released earlier by Zurich International Life and YouGov revealed that UAE parents in the education and academics industry spend approximately Dh91,000 annually for tuition fees compared to Dh46,500 per year by those employed in the public sector. It found that the average annual cost of education stood at Dh45,676 with approximately 80 per cent of families in the UAE setting aside 40 per cent of their monthly income to pay tuition fees.

1.1 million new students in GCC

Dhanak said demand for high-quality schools will fuel the rise of international schools in the UAE and GCC as the region would require around 1,100 schools over the next 5 years. He further pointed out that regional institutions are facing a shortage of skilled staff.

According to Alpen Capital, in the GCC, the total number of students in the GCC education sector is projected to increase by 1.1 million to reach 14.2 million by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 1.6 per cent from an estimated 13.1 million in 2022.

The UAE posted the highest enrolment growth rate of 5.1 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2016 and 2021, the highest in the GCC, followed by Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. It said student enrolment in the K-12 and tertiary segments across the UAE reached more than 1.5 million in 2021, up from 1.2 million in 2016.

While demand for schools in the GCC is likely to increase at a CAGR of 0.7 per cent which would translate to an addition of an estimated 1,127 schools by 2027 to reach 35,208.

Growing school-age population, high per capita income, sizeable, budgetary allocations and favourable government initiatives are expected to drive future growth of the sector.

Between 2022-2027, the pre-primary and tertiary segments are expected to grow at a faster rate than the other segments in the region, it said.

During 2022-2027, K-12 enrolments in the region are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 1.5 per cent to reach 11.7 million by 2027.

The study pointed out that demand for affordable schooling is also on the rise across the region.

Sameena Ahmad, managing director, Alpen Capital, said student enrolments across the region witnessed an increase of more than half a million over the past five years. “Apart from growing school-age population, this was led by factors such as the influx of private school operators, favourable policies/ guidelines and focus on technology-driven education, which is also expected to continue playing a crucial role in future growth,” she said.

“However, eroding profit margins, shortage of skilled staff and intensifying competition are some of the challenges impeding the growth of the sector,” she added.


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