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New research reveals the cost of international education around the world in 2021

Key points:

  • Just 4 countries feature in the top 10 most expensive cities in the world for international education; USA, China, Switzerland, and the UK. This is the first time since our research began that the UK has featured in the top 10.
  • Asia dominates as the most expensive region for international education. Of the 23 Asian cities included in our research, 16 feature in the top half of price rankings with 4 featuring in the top 10.
  • Africa is still the most affordable continent for international schooling, although prices within the continent have shifted - only two African cities have the same ranking as last year.
  • Europe has the second least expensive fees after Africa, but only in certain countries. Europe also has the widest range of international school fees in the world.

At the International Schools Database, we help local and expat parents choose the perfect international school for their children. Our database allows parents to find, research and compare international schools in cities across the world. Naturally, this means that we gather and analyse a huge amount of information about international schools all over the world.

Starting in 2019, we began using this data to evaluate the prices of international schools across the globe. We are now in our third year of this project, and we have been able to pinpoint certain price trends such as the most expensive regions, the regions with the biggest variety of prices, and more.

Below, we have analysed the worldwide price data from 72 cities in 47 countries, in graph and table forms. While we have used all price data available to us, there may be additional schools and prices not included in each city, because they do not make their price data available or it is unknown to us. Links to additional research focusing in each of the regions individually can be found at the bottom of this article.

Worldwide Prices of International Schools Per Year

The graph below is known as a box plot graph. It shows a comprehensive view of the range of prices in each city, instead of just an average, as a single average price may not necessarily represent the full picture of prices in each destination. Since there is a lot to unpack in this graph, we have also provided a little explanation on how to read the graph easily at the end of the article.

How to read this graph

Highlights and takeaways from the research findings

The four most expensive countries for international education - USA, China, Switzerland and UK - are all known for having some of the best international schools in the world. However, they are also known for high costs of living, particularly in the cities that feature in our top 10 rankings. These include New York, San Francisco, London, Zurich, Beijing and Shanghai. London is the only UK city to feature in our research and is ranked within the top 10 for the first time.

For the third year running, Africa remains the most affordable region for international schooling. However, there have been some surprising changes within the region itself. Casablanca has dropped from 44th on the list (i.e., in the middle of the overall rankings) down to the second cheapest city at number 72. All other African cities included in our research have also shifted places, with the exception of Cape Town which remains the cheapest city, and Johannesburg at number 68.

European cities are among both the most expensive and the cheapest in the world for international education, showing the region’s wide variety of prices. However, Switzerland and the UK dominate the top of the list, with the next European entry (Brussels) only appearing in 16th place. Copenhagen and Spain represent the best value in Europe - both countries appear within the 10 cheapest cities.

Asia tells a similar story. China features heavily among the most expensive cities, andwhile other wealthy Asian countries such as Korea and Singapore aren’t far behind. Affordable prices can still be found in the region however, with Phnom Penh, Kuala Lumpur and Penang all among the cheapest cities on the list.

You can find a breakdown of exact prices for each city in the table below. But if you’d like even more analysis, we have also compiled price data by region; you can find links to this additional research at the bottom of this article. If you require any further information or have additional questions, don't hesitate to contact us at andrea@international-schools-database.com.

Prices of International Schools Per Year

Rank City Minimum Q1 Median Q3 Maximum
1 New York City $24,365 $34,934 $41,175 $48,150 $59,800
2 Beijing $11,569 $28,001 $38,183 $39,154 $41,409
3 Shanghai $5,325 $22,615 $31,668 $42,125 $44,886
4 San Francisco Bay Area $12,632 $25,918 $29,100 $33,070 $36,750
5 Zurich $8,744 $26,266 $27,508 $30,072 $35,413
6 Shenzhen $13,876 $22,537 $27,408 $34,863 $48,551
7 London $4,126 $14,117 $24,791 $29,499 $38,782
8 Lausanne - Vaud $16,443 $18,785 $23,740 $30,655 $41,599
9 Geneva $16,313 $21,249 $23,332 $27,450 $30,415
10 Guangzhou $10,990 $20,360 $23,022 $30,994 $50,117
11 Seoul $8,326 $19,236 $22,452 $26,806 $32,632
12 Singapore $5,288 $13,486 $21,108 $23,949 $38,297
13 Chicago $5,565 $12,225 $19,995 $31,538 $33,400
14 Toronto $11,571 $15,469 $19,773 $27,134 $28,786
15 Hanoi $3,708 $10,392 $18,386 $21,462 $28,315
16 Brussels $7,600 $12,810 $17,405 $22,586 $39,318
17 Tokyo $5,362 $13,296 $17,358 $20,625 $26,021
18 Hong Kong $2,263 $14,888 $17,042 $22,282 $33,106
19 Ho Chi Minh City $5,117 $9,996 $16,697 $21,224 $27,383
20 Taipei $12,337 $14,090 $15,508 $18,967 $30,903
21 Jakarta $2,489 $9,159 $14,528 $20,132 $30,712
22 Milan $3,191 $7,516 $14,040 $17,486 $20,828
23 Lisbon $5,204 $8,604 $12,912 $14,130 $15,871
24 Paris $2,650 $9,376 $12,729 $18,209 $35,797
25 Frankfurt am Main $4,491 $9,061 $12,656 $16,496 $25,226
26 Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe $6,593 $8,987 $12,580 $14,317 $21,713
27 Rome $6,266 $9,196 $12,532 $17,108 $21,176
28 Bangkok $2,471 $7,783 $12,324 $17,872 $30,869
29 Budapest $4,646 $6,188 $12,092 $13,520 $23,300
30 Athens $5,086 $9,042 $12,071 $12,275 $13,065
31 Yangon $7,010 $10,100 $11,735 $21,125 $24,700
32 Bratislava $5,941 $9,068 $11,546 $15,265 $25,841
33 Berlin $3,481 $7,919 $11,214 $13,045 $18,101
34 Bucharest $4,525 $8,712 $11,197 $14,626 $24,437
35 Pattaya $3,562 $7,300 $11,116 $15,043 $18,083
36 Dubai-Sharjah-Ajman $2,317 $6,133 $11,039 $14,294 $26,019
37 Vienna $6,127 $6,684 $11,028 $21,494 $24,328
38 Sofia $5,274 $6,498 $10,675 $11,694 $22,595
39 Doha $1,312 $7,982 $10,634 $13,088 $20,784
40 San Jose $4,027 $8,911 $10,305 $10,899 $19,960
41 Barcelona $4,943 $8,444 $9,869 $11,409 $20,370
42 Madrid $4,525 $8,198 $9,242 $10,048 $15,839
43 Panama City $4,904 $6,574 $9,095 $14,393 $16,816
44 Prague $5,190 $7,767 $8,935 $15,208 $24,077
45 Manila $2,532 $5,619 $8,722 $14,613 $20,711
46 Mallorca $6,382 $7,964 $8,695 $9,443 $11,592
47 Kuwait City $1,250 $6,339 $8,618 $10,958 $18,231
48 Abu Dhabi $2,532 $6,773 $8,592 $12,409 $20,420
49 Johor Bahru $3,133 $5,218 $8,536 $17,641 $20,243
50 Rotterdam - The Hague $4,351 $6,962 $8,504 $22,743 $28,080
51 Istanbul $2,111 $6,165 $8,496 $23,006 $35,340
52 Muscat $1,195 $5,427 $8,377 $11,435 $21,427
53 Phuket $4,148 $5,201 $8,251 $10,467 $19,267
54 Chiang Mai $4,019 $6,677 $8,026 $9,187 $11,482
55 Malaga - Costa del Sol $5,982 $6,572 $7,711 $8,991 $10,153
56 Warsaw $4,429 $6,448 $7,487 $10,406 $21,916
57 Lima $4,302 $5,936 $7,474 $11,555 $17,424
58 Nairobi $1,040 $5,289 $7,296 $13,944 $29,750
59 Algarve $5,393 $6,962 $7,078 $8,268 $10,356
60 Riyadh $1,792 $4,632 $7,012 $10,064 $24,853
61 Alicante - Costa Blanca $2,147 $5,895 $6,765 $8,099 $9,863
62 Amsterdam $4,003 $5,456 $6,716 $19,139 $28,805
63 Addis Ababa $1,800 $4,325 $6,500 $15,930 $27,220
64 Manama $1,002 $4,037 $6,498 $9,181 $12,995
65 Valencia $3,411 $6,075 $6,161 $8,168 $8,865
66 Penang $3,470 $4,989 $6,037 $6,365 $7,519
67 Kampala $1,558 $2,925 $6,000 $7,400 $20,100
68 Johannesburg $1,163 $5,186 $5,907 $7,045 $26,945
69 Kuala Lumpur $1,967 $4,139 $5,432 $9,272 $22,394
70 Phnom Penh $2,100 $3,846 $5,070 $7,554 $19,941
71 Copenhagen $3,764 $4,117 $4,787 $5,790 $20,121
72 Casablanca $1,805 $3,992 $4,735 $12,257 $13,489
73 Cape Town $2,322 $3,881 $4,301 $4,562 $6,122

source: www.international-schools-database.com

How to read the graph

The purple box shows the middle portion of the data, known in statistical lingo as the Interquartile Range. This is the ‘ballpark’ range that you would usually expect to pay in that particular city. The horizontal lines at each end of the box represent the First Quartile (Q1) and Third Quartile (Q3). These are the prices that would be considered somewhat cheaper (for Q1) or more expensive (for Q3) than the norm.

The median is shown as a vertical bar in the centre of the box. This is the price of the school in the exact middle of the range, i.e. the half-way point. Finally, you’ll see dots next to some of the box plots. These are ‘outliers’, prices that sit outside of all of the above ranges.

⇧ Go back to the graph ⇧

Additional research for other regions: