Schools in the Middle East are expected to see a 1-2% drop in enrolments this year due to the oil and gas slump, a new report from the International Schools Consultancy (ISC Research) states.
According to the report, schools in several countries were affected during the last academic year, with a number of expatriate families immediately redeployed or made redundant. This year, many more schools will see an impact as a significant number of additional families employed by the oil and gas industry do not return to expatriate postings after the summer holidays.
The report predicts that international schools in Malaysia, Singapore and the Middle East will be hardest hit.
The UAE is the world's largest international schools market, with 548 international schools accommodating 564,200 students.
ISC Research director for international schools Richard Gaskell said: "The schools most affected are those that largely enrol expatriate rather than local children, and those that have a high percentage of enrolments from families working in the oil and gas sector.
"The feedback that we are receiving from many schools is that they have been able to fill these gaps through existing waiting lists, or they have stepped up their admission marketing, and some have cut back on their staffing for this new year," he adds.
The premium international schools - those that charge the highest fees - are expected to be most affected if families now have to fund their own school fees, driving them to select more affordable international schools. Some companies have previously contributed all or a large portion of the school fees for their expatriate families, are now pulling back on such benefits to save costs.
"This could be good news for the middle tier international schools with good reputations, and most challenging for the premium schools," said Gaskell.
In the Middle East, while some schools are preparing for a small decrease in enrolments, others remain positive that growth in other sectors will continue to attract expatriates to the region.
Taaleem's director of communications Clive Pierrepont commented: "The oil price has led to significant redundancies across industries associated with the oil and gas sector. However, the outflow of expatriates as a result of this has been balanced by an influx of people coming into the country to support initiatives related to Expo2020 and future finance, commerce, travel, tourism and leisure sector growth."
Most international schools in the Middle East have also been taking proactive steps to respond to the impact.
American Community School of Abu Dhabi director of finance Deann Hays said: "We have identified some cost cutting measures and have recently advertised for the first time. Now that we have started the year, the enrolment has held steady and we still have waiting lists at most grade levels."
Earlier this year, ISC Research said the international schools market is set to almost double by 2026, reaching 16,000 schools teaching 8.75 million students, generating $89 billion globally.
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