UK independent school outposts in South East Asia are forcing other international schools in the region to raise their marketing game — driving a boom in enrolments, a new report finds.
The number of pupils enrolling at international schools of all kinds in South East Asia rose 23 per cent in the past five years, the study by ISC Research says.
The report says that the appearance of “high profile foreign independent schools with premium style campus buildings in several cities” helped to attract wealthy and educationally competitive parents but also generated curiosity and raised awareness of all the international schools in the area.
Numerous UK independent schools have or are planning to open branches in the region, with establised big names including Shrewsbury and Harrow Schools in Bangkok, Thailand, Marlborough College Malaysia and more recently Reigate Grammar School Vietnam.
Katie Rigney-Zimmermann, admissions and marketing director at Saigon South International School in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, said the visibility of British independent school branches in the area was “really strong”.
She told the report’s authors: “This is helping to raise the conversations about school choices with many families. These schools are changing admissions marketing – for all international schools. Their brochures are glossier, their marketing budgets bigger, and so other schools are having to spend more resources in that direction too to keep their own brand awareness up.”
Other reasons given for the rapid rise of international schools and enrolments in South East Asia include significant growth in the desire for international school education from local families in several countries, notably Thailand and Vietnam.
“Much of this demand is dependent on a fee point these parents can afford. Where there’s affordability, there is high demand,” the report says.
The report also cites growth in demand from expatriate families moving to the region for work, particularly Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand.
“The main growth nationalities being cited by international schools in the sub-region include families from South Korea, Japan, India, Myanmar, China and Hong Kong with some variation of these nationalities by country,” the report says.
The report, entitled Why more international schools keep opening provides an overview of the drivers behind the growth of international schools in different regions of the world.
In the last ten years, the number of international schools globally has increased by 52 per cent from 8,700 schools in January 2013 to 13,190 schools in January 2023.
In terms of pupil enrolment, numbers have risen 53 per cent in the past decade, from 4.2m students to 6.5m.
All Asian regions experienced significant growth over the past five years and the lowest growth in that time was in Europe, at 4 per cent.
In the past 10 years, Asia as a whole has seen a 59.6 per cent increase in its number of international schools and a 62.4 per cent increase in student enrolment.
The report details the drivers behind the growth in different regions, looking at everything from government influence, the growing number of expatriate professionals and the increasing affordability of international education.