International Cities and International Schools, by the Numbers

July 14, 2012 § 2 Comments

What makes a city international? Is it the foreign cuisine? The languages spoken? The diverse cultures celebrated? One barometer is the number of foreign-born residents, and the top city, Dubai, is winning by a landslide. With 82% of its population born outside of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is well ahead of the next city, Miami, which has 51% of its residents foreign born. Following is a list of the top-10. (All figures are dated 2002 or before.):

  1. Dubai  82%
  2. Miami  51%
  3. Amsterdam  47%
  4. Toronto  45%
  5. Muscat  45%
  6. Vancouver  39%
  7. Auckland  39%
  8. Geneva  38%
  9. Mecca  38%
  10. The Hague  37%

The authors note that 7 of the top 25 cities are in the Middle East, due to large guest workforces and the drawing power of religious centers. They also mention some “surprises,” mega-cities that didn’t make the top 25: Tokyo and Seoul, with about 2% each (ranked 92 and 96); Sao Paolo, 1% (100); Jakarta, .9% (105); and Mexico City, less than .5% (109).

Of course,the world’s expats include children, and while many attend typical, national schools, others get their education at international institutions. According to ISC Research, the number of international-school students worldwide has grown to over 3 million, attending over 6,000 institutions in 236 countries. Providing the education at these schools are over 290,000 staff. It’s probably not surprising that the country with the most international schools is the United Arab Emirates, as its national population mirrors that of Dubai, its largest city, with the country having 83.5% of its residents foreign born. Here’s a list of the top 10:

  1. UAE, 372 schools
  2. Pakistan, 349
  3. China, 327
  4. India, 317
  5. Japan, 219
  6. Spain, 183
  7. Indonesia, 173
  8. Germany, 170
  9. Hong Kong, 165
  10. Thailand, 161

The number of students attending international schools has tripled over the last 10 years, but not all of the current number are expats. In fact, the great majority, 80%, are local citizens. And as more and more people raise their children outside their passport countries, as more and more locals seek the best track for the world’s best universities, the demand for international schools is increasing. ISC Research’s prediction is that the number of international-school students will grow to 6 million in the next 10 years, and the number of schools will reach 10,000.

(Lisa Benton-Short, Marie Price, and Samantha Friedman, “Global Perspective on the Connections between Immigrants and World Cities,” part of a research project funded by the GW Center for the Study of Globalization; Andy Sambidge, “UAE Population Hits 6m, Emiratis Make Up 16.5%,” ArabianBusiness, October 7, 2009; Suzi Dixon, “International Schools: Now more than Three Million Children Get a Global Education,” The Telegraph, March 23, 2012)

[photo: “Flags,” by misskprimary, used under a Creative Commons license]

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§ 2 Responses to International Cities and International Schools, by the Numbers

  • Marilyn says:

    Interesting post and another reminder of an interconnected global world. As someone raised in Pakistan seeing a number like 349 schools is quite unbelievable so I seriously question what defines “school” in this study. Is it hanging out a shingle that says “International School”?

    • Craig says:

      Thanks for the firsthand insight. ISC Research says, “A school is included on our database if it teaches wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country.” Pakistan does stand out on the list, showing more schools than China and India. The breakdown for schools per city in Pakistan is here.

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