By sending their children to an international school, expat’s choices are already more limited by default. And, as a recent research project by the International Schools Database (ISB) shows, some cities are much more expensive than others…
The project saw the ISB analyse price data from 19 cities in 13 Asian countries using its extensive database of information about international schools across the globe. (In drawing its conclusions, the ISB noted that there may be additional schools and prices not included in each city because they do not make their price data available.)
What immediately stands out from their data is Chinese prices. China is home to the top three most expensive cities for international schooling in Asia: Beijing’s prices start at over $8,000 per year, Shanghai at just under $5,000 and Shenzhen at over $11,000. Prices finish at $41,000, $39,000 and $32,000 respectively.
Guanghzhou, the fourth Chinese city in the list, also makes it into the top 10 most expensive cities in the world with a range of $11,231 to $29,818 per year.
However, comparatively affordable options can still be found in Asia. Out of the 19 cities in their research, 10 of them have starting prices of $5,000 per year or less: Hanoi (ranked #8 overall), Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe (#14), Shanghai (#2), Ho Chi Minh City (#10), Singapore (#5), Bangkok (#12), Kuala Lumpur (#18), Manila (#16), Jakarta (#15) and Phnom Penh (#19).
Phnom Penh is in fact the most affordable city in Asia for international education and the only city with a minimum price of under $2,000.
Although Phuket is ranked 17th, the third cheapest, its starting price of $5,563 edges it out of this list. But with a finishing price of $20,397, and an overall median of $8,515, it is still one of the more affordable options overall.
But how do Phuket and Asia compare on the global stage? The ISB’s additional analysis of schools in 56 cities in 52 countries showed that the most expensive schools worldwide can still be found in Asia, particularly in China. Beijing and Shanghai have the first and second most expensive maximum prices on the planet respectively. Phuket takes 40th place.
Africa offers some of the cheapest minimum prices in the world for international education: four of the 10 cheapest cities in their research are African. In fact, Uganda’s capital Kampala is home to the least expensive price worldwide, at just $523 per year.
Even more affordable in general is the Middle East: Manama (ranked #50 overall) at $1,003 per year, Kuwait City (#41) at $1,241, Doha (#32) at $1,250, Riyadh (#47) at $1,675 and Dubai (#26) at $2,317.
However, there is a big range of prices in Middle Eastern cities included in the research due to the high numbers of international schools available. So while their minimum prices may seem cheap, their maximum prices could be considered quite high, which in turn raises the average prices.
As for Europe, certain cities offer very good (relative) affordability. In Madrid (#39), parents can expect to pay a maximum of $15,095 per year, while in Malaga (#45) the maximum price drops to $10,471 – the cheapest on the continent by a significant margin, and the second cheapest in the world.
Switzerland is China’s closest rival at the expensive end of the scale. Zurich takes the top spot in Europe and third in the world with prices ranging from $8,052 to $31,406 per year.
In one third of the European cities included in the study, the median price sits between $9,000 and $11,000. Paris (#28), the city with the widest range of prices and the third highest maximum price, is included in this. So while school prices in Europe do reach the top end of the scale in some countries, the ballpark price on the continent as a whole can be lower than in other regions.