UAE needs 175,000 extra school places by 2020, says PwC

The private school sector is expected to continue to drive the growth of the UAE's education market to 2020, according to a new study.

Over 175,000 additional seats are predicted to be required in the K-12 segment in the next four years, and 90 percent of this will come from private school enrolees.

The report also showed that based on historic demographic trends, Dubai is forecast to require 74,500 additional seats in 50 new private schools by 2020, while 62,000 additional seats in 52 new private schools in the same period will be needed in Abu Dhabi.

Almost all of the UAE, led by Dubai, are witnessing growth in private K-12 enrolment, with the exception of Fujairah. However, as more quality schools are opening, efforts to attract and retain students will become a more pressing issue for school operators.

The data was released through a study published by PwC Middle East ahead of Global Education Supplies and Solutions (GESS) Dubai 2017, which will take place at the Dubai World Trade Centre on March 14-16.

“The study presents a positive outlook for the education market in the UAE, and perceptively presents not just opportunities but also challenges for those involved in shaping the future of education in the country,” said Matt Thompson, project director, F&E Education, organisers of GESS Dubai 2017.

The report also noted that given the increasing number and quality of schools, parents have a better selection of schools in which to enrol their children.

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It added that cost will play a critical role in changing the supply-demand dynamic, with calls for Dubai to have more quality schools below the average annual tuition of AED40,000.

The study said that in Dubai, UK and Indian curriculum schools continue to dominate while in Abu Dhabi, Indian and American curriculum schools are driving growth but British curriculum schools remain popular choices with parents considering admission to lower cost European higher education institutes.

Sally Jeffery, PwC Middle East Education & Skills partner and PwC Global Education Sector leader said: “The public education systems in the GCC are using national curricula, which have a lot of reform to go through still.

"In the private sector there are a couple of areas that are underserved. Pre-school is growing at twice the rate of K-12 and that demand can be met by smaller sized facilities, and regulation - particularly pricing - is less controlled than in K-12, although this may be changing as the government focuses more on early learning.

"There are also gaps in higher education, which need development funding, particularly for STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] subjects, which are much needed, but expensive to operate.”

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