The UAE and GCC's education sector holds bright prospects for teachers and the other general administration staff as demand will grow in coming years in line with surge in population across the region.
The shortage of teachers in the region is also the second highest in the world as the profession is of less interest to the locals who prefer to work in highly paid public sector jobs. Although the region has a lower pupil-teacher ratio of 17 compared to the world average, the countries face challenges in recruiting highly qualified teachers. Growing demand for teachers at international schools in the UAE of at least 14,000 over the next five years and in Saudi Arabia of 183,600 by 2030 will pose further problems, Marmore Mena Intelligence said in its report "Is education still a good business in the GCC?"
According to industry figures, GCC's K-12 education market stood at $67 billion (Dh245.9 billion), of which the share of private schools accounted for $8.1 billion (Dh29.7 billion).
MR Raghu, managing director of Marmore Mena Intelligence, says shortage of qualified staff is still a challenge faced by many institutions in the UAE. Private players need to offer salaries above the global average to attract quality staff. Over the period of next 3 years, about 10,000 staff are expected to be recruited.
"Despite the projected entry of more players into the education sector, the demand is also expected to grow in the coming years. Thereby, the tuition fee is highly unlikely to decrease and is expected to grow at the existing rate," he said.
"We expect the number of UAE private schools to grow by five per cent in 2018 compared to the current year as enrollment is expected to rise."
Replying to a query whether the existing educational institutions meet requirements for the growing population in the UAE, Raghu said they would not be able to meet the demands as the enrollment levels are expected to increase over the next few years owing to the projected growth of the population between the ages zero to 18
Therefore, an influx of private institutions is expected in the coming years to meet the growing demand.
Favourable demographics, rising disposable income, government initiatives and the willingness of parents to spend on education are expected to be key growth drivers for the education sector.
The average spending for education in the UAE is nearly twice that of the global average and the average tuition fee for private institutions in the UAE has grown at a compound annual growth rate of five per cent since 2011.
A recent study by HSBC disclosed that school fees in the UAE is the second-highest in the world. It found that the cost for sending a child to school in the UAE, from primary to university, will be around $99,378 (Dh365,025).
According to Mahboob Murshed, managing director of Alpen Capital, the total number of students in the UAE is projected to grow at an annualised rate of 4.1 per cent, from an estimated 1.1 million in 2015 to 1.4 million in 2020; there are around 220 schools forecasted to be set up in the UAE by 2020. Irteza Ahmed, director of Investments at Amanat Holdings, which holds stakes in educational institutions including Madaares, says there is considerable planning and visibility regarding new schools opening in 2018 - and along with existing supply, these new schools will help address demand in the market. With respect to teachers, the UAE remains an attractive destination for teachers trained locally and across the globe.
Ahmed sees overall tuition fees to remain stabilised in the UAE due in part to constructive initiatives by regulatory bodies such as the KHDA and ADEK.
According to Mahboob Murshed, the population in the GCC is projected to reach close to 60 million in 2020, 40 per cent of whom are below 25 years of age. The total number of students in the GCC education is projected to grow at a CAGR of 3.6 per cent from an estimated 12.6 million in 2015 to reach 15 million in 2020.
"Saudi Arabia will lead the way with almost 7,000 schools expected to come up in the kingdom in the next five years to meet the growing requirements and manage the current shortfall. On the other hand, the number of educational institutions in Dubai are heading for a potential oversupply and this may further intensify competition in the sector," Murshed said.
The demand for schools in the GCC region is likely to increase at a three per cent CAGR from an estimated 43,903 in 2015 to 50,978 in 2020. Saudi Arabia will continue to dominate the education market in the GCC. In terms of annualised growth during 2015 to 2020, the number of students in Oman, Qatar and the UAE are projected to grow faster than the other member nations, he added.
From an estimated 9.2 million in 2015, the total number of students in Saudi Arabia is projected to grow at an annualised rate of 3.5 per cent to 11 million in 2020 signifying a requirement of more than 7,000 schools in the next five years in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia also aims to build 1,500 nurseries by 2020, he added.
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