This month, the slowdown in the oil and gas industry not only shook up the financial markets, but also had a knock on effect on the enrolment at international schools around the world. The body which tracks data on the international schools market, the International School Consultancy (ISC), revealed that many schools may see a sharp drop in enrolments this Autumn, as teachers are predicted to avoid returning to expatriate positions now that the summer break is over, causing somewhat of a stir among international school leaders and parents.
But such a state of concern is unnecessary. Enrolment in international schools has seen rapid growth over recent years, and while changes within the oil and gas industry will undoubtedly bring about a reduction in student enrolment from within that industry, schools and parents should hold their nerve, because new industries are replacing these just as swiftly.
The fintech (financial technology) industry, to highlight one, has taken off, with a recent Accenture study showing that investment in Asia-Pacific fintech more than quadrupled in 2015 to $4.3 billion, making it the second biggest region for fintech investment after North America. Singapore in particular is seeing a rapid growth in fintech, as initiated by the Prime Minister who announced plans in 2014 to make the city-state the world's first smart nation by 2030. Since then, investment initiatives such as the Financial Sector Technology and Innovation (FTSI) scheme have popped up, as well as the opening of the world's largest fintech hub, Lattice80.
Singapore has also seen growth in the biotech industry, with more than $1.49 billion spent on biomedical research and development in Singapore every year. It's not a coincidence that seven of the world's top 10 pharmaceutical companies and all of the top 10 medical technology companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline and Takeda, have their regional headquarters in Singapore.
Singapore's neighbouring country Malaysia continues to welcome increasing numbers of high-tech and IT professionals, with the country's Communications Minister recently confirming that the digital economy contributes 20 per cent to Malaysia's gross domestic product. The e-commerce sector also plays its part in this, as the total funding for tech and e-commerce companies grew from less than $14.3 million in 2011 to a significantly higher $360 million in just four years.
Meanwhile in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates is seeing a large influx of expatriates thanks to Dubai being the host city for Expo 2020, a universal event that brings together 180 nations and an international audience of 25 million, while expats are settling in Qatar in increasing numbers with Fifa World Cup 2022 around the corner.
The ongoing commerce, travel and tourism industries in these regions are showing no signs of slowing down, therefore parents looking to find international schools for their children should be unperturbed by changes in the commodities markets. While enrolments could be affected in areas that are heavily focused on the oil and gas industries, there are plenty of other industries that are in a healthy state and continue to be on the up, with the ones mentioned above being just a few.
Singapore, Malaysia, UAE and Qatar have been popular expatiate destinations for years, and with the thriving commerce and travel to these areas, there is no need to pull out of plans for expat life with children in these countries just yet.