What are 2020’s hot trends to watch in Middle East education?

A new decade dawns and brings with it a host of exciting trends throughout the Middle East.

From more school places to technology-driven topics, we can see that the 2020s will be an intense, but opportunity-rich, decade for educators across the region.

We’ve profiled five must-see topics to help you get a flavour of what’s influencing education throughout the Middle East across the next decade.

5 hot trends to watch in Middle Eastern education

Growth of international schools

International schools continue to pop up throughout the Middle East.

At present, there are over 1.5m students attending such schools throughout the region, and with each paying an average of $7,658, it’s almost an economic necessity to keep growth going.

The UAE currently leads with the highest number of international institutions at 624. A total of 28 schools were inaugurated here in 2018 too. 

Saudi Arabia follows with 257 international schools. According to data from ISC research. Some 430 new schools have been opened across the last five years.

According to ISC Research’s Schools Director Richard Gaskell, most of the demand for new educational establishments is being driven by mid-price international schools. Ex-pats and affluent locals are the target audience for such schools. 

Let’s examine some numbers to show expected growth. As of 2018, there were 1,632 English-medium schools throughout the Middle East. ISC Research forecasts that number to rise to 2,513 by 2028. 

Saudi Arabia alone has plans for 700 new international schools to start the new decade off, as part of its wider Vision 2030 national development plan. 

On the whole, the international schools sector has the potential to really thrive this year.

Significant education investment

It’s not just international schools that will benefit from sustained growth. Both private firms and governments are readying capital to let them spend big on education.

Just look at Saudi Arabia. In 2019, the Saudi government allocated $51bn to education, representing 21% of overall fiscal spending, and covering roughly 7% of the nation’s GDP.

A report for Arabian Business states that Saudi authorities have opened up the sector to more than private investors. 

The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) said there was an 800% increase in the number of new education-related businesses receiving a business license from the organisation in 2018. 

These represent a mix of education providers from the US, UK, and wider Gulf region.

One of the largest deals is the collaboration between Gems Education, based in Dubai, and Saudi Arabia’s Hassana Investment Company. This $800m deal will kick off in 2020 and will ultimately deliver 130,000 K-12 places.

A “new generation” of schools is also coming to the UAE. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid stated in 2019 that his administration is priming $408m for new educational centres, schools and academies.

This fresh wave of education schools present a golden opportunity for education technology producers, as the Sheikh’s plans to include AI, robotics, and new tech in each institute.

Wellbeing comes into focus

A big trend for education around the world will become more and more important throughout the Middle East into the next decade. Student and teacher wellbeing is forecast to take on a new level of importance.

That said, research suggests that Middle Eastern learners and educators are actually some of the happiest in the world.

A survey conducted in 2017 by Bett MEA’s knowledge partner KHDA, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority of Dubai, that 84% of middle school students considered themselves “to be happy most of the time.”

92% felt confident in their schooling and their own abilities, while a further 83% believed that teachers and students alike treated each other with respect.

The onus is now on keeping these good feelings going into 2020 and beyond.

Bett MEA will be playing its part in promoting this trend. Wellbeing is one of the core themes of 2020’s event, and a range of keynotes, sessions, and workshops will be in place to help educators keep their pupils’ wellbeing at the forefront of their minds.

Differentiating schools in a crowded marketplace

We’ve spoken at length in this article about the volume of new schools being built throughout the Middle East. 

While this is good news for parents looking for the best education for their children by being given healthy variety of institutions to pick from, it does mean schools have to seriously think about their own offer.

A school simply cannot rely on its old reputation alone when new rivals are popping up every month. Rather, it will have to showcase effective teaching practices, a stable, inspiring environment, world-class facilities, and considered use of education technology.

As the world moves ever more towards a digital future, technology offerings will play a big role in a) prepping students with the skills they’ll need to succeed and b) separating schools from the rest of the pack. 

The rise of blended learning for professional development

The above trends mostly focus on K-12 level – but what about higher and further education?

The Middle East’s online education market is expected to grow at a steady rate from 2020 onwards, possibly at a compound annual growth rate of 9.8% during the period. 

Driving this growth will be adult learners looking to improve their skills, in a similar way schools are looking at digital preparedness for their pupils.
As such, a variety of suppliers are looking at widening their online and blended learning solutions to capture interest from mature students outside of traditional education. Some of the key topics of interest for these learners are AI, cyber security, business analytics, and supply chain management.

Courses gaining popularity are career programmes, corticate programmes, online mini-degrees and even masters courses too. 

This could prove to be big business too. The market in Saudi Arabia alone will be worth roughly $275m by 2023, providing ample room for international suppliers to find market share.

Dig deep into education’s hottest trends at Bett MEA

Bett MEA – the education technology event – transforms learning through offering an exhibition where experts and educators can strategize, participate in professional development and share their vision of how to improve learning outcomes across the Middle East and Africa regions.

Decision-makers come to source new technology, strategies and share intelligence on their vision of how to improve learning outcomes across K12 and Higher Education from across the Middle East and Africa.

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