Comparing the Cost of International Schools Around the World: 2018 Edition

Last year, at the International Schools Database we completed an analysis of international education costs all around the world. Taking the same approach, but using data from even more cities worldwide, we’re proud to bring you a fully updated analysis for 2018.

If you were hoping for international education to have miraculously become more affordable since 2017, we have bad news. The top ten most expensive cities from last year remain largely unchanged in 2018. Five of the ten belong to Switzerland and China, with Shanghai and Beijing taking first and second place. Hot on their heels are Lausanne, Zurich and Geneva in third, fourth and sixth place - Toronto blocks Geneva from breaking into the top five.

However, some names within the ten cheapest cities may surprise you… a lot. Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Abu Dhabi are still some of least expensive cities for international education, as they were in 2017. This year three of the richest economies in the Middle East join them; Qatar’s capital Doha, Bahrain’s capital Manama and Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh are the fifth, fourth and ninth cheapest cities, respectively.

We used our extensive database of international schools in cities across the globe to examine this further. First, we found the average monthly price of sending your child to an international school in various cities across the world:

International School prices across the world

Then, we wanted to see how the prices for international schools compared with the overall cost of living in each city. To do so we used data from our sister site Expatistan.com, the cost of living comparisons website for expats. We compared the prices of international schools with the prices for the typical monthly rent for expats in the same cities.

For this comparison, we calculated the price of international schools as a percentage of rent prices. So, a 50% figure would mean that fees for the typical international school in that city would cost 50% of the price of one month's rent for the typical expat family. The results were interesting:

International School prices as percentage of Rent prices

In Beijing for example, monthly international education costs, at an average, $2,519 for one child. Since China's global education ranking is steadily rising year on year, that doesn't seem too unreasonable. Until you compare it with the cost of living there, of course. When we compare the cost of one month of tuition in an international school in Beijing with the cost of the typical monthly rent there ($2,091), we can see that the ratio is 120% - international schools fees in Beijing are more expensive than rent by 20%!

So if you're an expat in Beijing and have to shoulder the full cost of schooling yourself (instead of as part of an expat package, for example), don't expect to have much disposable income per month.

Contrast this with Copenhagen, where the cost of education (only $373 per month) is just 15% of the typical monthly rent for expats (which is $2,435). If you're wondering how international education can be so affordable in a not-so-cheap nation like Denmark, it's because (long story short) government-approved private schools, including international schools, often receive the same amount of government funding as public ones.

While comparing prices for international schools and expat rents, we also found that international schools prices tend to correlate with local prices, and are not fixed at a “global price” as could be expected:

Relation between International School prices and Rent prices

The above graph shows a significant correlation (with an r-value of 0.76 for the data geeks out there) between local rents and international education costs. As shown above, in the majority of cities both costs tend to go hand-in-hand, which means that cheaper cities tend to have cheaper tuition fees while more expensive cities also have more expensive international schools.

This seems to suggest that international schools do not only depend on generous expat packages paid by big companies; they also (and mostly) depend on locals and expats on locally-indexed salaries. This would explain why their prices fall in line with the local cost-of-living for expats.

The International Schools Database makes it easier for expats to find, research and compare the best international schools around the world. Our online database provides all the information parents need to make that all important decision, including fees, curriculum, student nationalities and more.

As expat parents ourselves, we know that price is a very important part of the decision of which international school to choose. That's why we made transparent and comparable prices an important feature of the International Schools Database.
Andrea Robledillo, co-founder of the International Schools Database

Find and compare the data for your chosen city using the table below. If you require any further information or have additional questions, don't hesitate to contact us at andrea@international-schools-database.com.

Country City Average Price of International School Per Month Average Price of Rent in Expat Area International School Price as % of Rent Price
United Arab Emirates Abu Dhabi $732 $2,319 32%
Netherlands Amsterdam $609 $2,445 25%
Thailand Bangkok $1,032 $1,554 66%
Spain Barcelona $880 $1,690 52%
China Beijing $2,519 $2,091 120%
Belgium Brussels $1,777 $1,335 133%
Hungary Budapest $1,094 $964 114%
South Africa Cape Town $375 $1,330 28%
Denmark Copenhagen $373 $2,435 15%
Qatar Doha $831 $2,998 28%
United Arab Emirates Dubai $964 $2,314 42%
Switzerland Geneva $1,910 $3,551 54%
Vietnam Hanoi $1,251 $815 153%
Vietnam Ho Chi Minh City $1,262 $1,021 124%
Hong Kong Hong Kong $1,282 $5,100 25%
Indonesia Jakarta $1,196 $1,060 113%
Malaysia Kuala Lumpur $583 $786 74%
Switzerland Lausanne - Vaud $2,227 $2,443 91%
Peru Lima $798 $877 91%
Portugal Lisbon $784 $1,333 59%
Spain Madrid $844 $1,685 50%
Spain Malaga - Costa del Sol $590 $1,243 47%
Bahrain Manama $422 $1,545 27%
Philippines Manila $863 $1,077 80%
Italy Milan $1,183 $1,841 64%
Kenya Nairobi $752 $1,550 48%
France Paris $1,070 $3,216 33%
Czech Republic Prague $1,250 $1,228 102%
Saudi Arabia Riyadh $422 $1,008 42%
Italy Rome $1,080 $2,108 51%
Costa Rica San Jose $803 $1,080 74%
Brazil São Paulo $1,100 $1,086 101%
South Korea Seoul $1,799 $1,512 119%
China Shanghai $2,744 $2,363 116%
Singapore Singapore $1,856 $2,661 70%
Taiwan Taipei $1,138 $1,541 74%
Japan Tokyo $1,528 $2,544 60%
Canada Toronto $1,977 $1,841 107%
Austria Vienna $1,597 $1,638 98%
Switzerland Zurich $2,075 $3,067 68%