International School Fee Survey 2017

The process of moving your family abroad for a new job or assignment holds many costs, both overt and hidden. One of the largest of these can be finding a new school for your children, especially if, like many expatriates, you are looking for an international school so that they can access the best quality of education possible in your new home.

Following on from our survey of 707 international schools in 98 countries last year, we have again scoured the globe, to update and improve on last year’s report. This year, ExpatFinder presents our International School Fees Survey 2017, a study of the pricing and availability of 1,576 schools in 117 countries across the globe.

“The rising cost of international education is exacerbated by increased demand from wealthy or even middle-class families of emerging nations in Asia and the Middle East who want a grounding in international curricula (International Baccalaureate or an American High School Diploma) for their children. We have also seen significant reductions in subsidies offered by home governments and international schools, further compounding the financial outlay of expat parents who may already find fees at top-end international schools out of reach.


According to a Forbes report last year, the international education business is expected to be valued US$89 billion by 2026. Our study shows that multinational corporations and international cultural bodies want a slice of that market worth by taking on international education themselves. For example, businesses are started to fund or start international education programs for their employees while the UK government-backed British Council opens more international schools based on the British curriculum in response to demand. This highlights how the industry is adapting to provide expats with a high-quality option that is more budget-friendly.”

Mr Sébastien Deschamps – CEO and co-founder of

International Education Sees Global Price Hikes

This year has seen an increase in tuition fees of 2% across the globe, with some continents and countries significantly exceeding this number. For example, the American and Asia – Pacific regions saw price increases of 6% and 7%, respectively. With costs of living increasing all over the world, and workforces becoming more globally mobile, we can expect tuition fees to be consistently trending upwards. Last year, Forbes reported that the international schools market will be worth US$89 billion by 2026.

Across the 1,576 international schools surveyed, the total cost of a single child’s full education varied between US$1,078,188 for Leysin American School in Switzerland and US$3,969 for Kongsberg International School in Norway. This comparison acutely demonstrates the vast gulf observed between the highest and lowest international school fees across the globe.

“We are part of an international group of schools, so our fees are balanced between the expectations of the company and matching the local economy. We are in a country of high taxes, small population; and a country new to private, never mind international, education. In fact, International school status has only been legal for nearly a year. We have adjusted our fees carefully; to signal that this is a quality product we are offering their children, but we understand the local economy.”

Katherine Knott – Principal, IES Ljubljana International School, Slovenia

Five Most Expensive Countries in the World

  1. Switzerland – US$29,711 per annum
  2. Austria – US$25,957 per annum
  3. China – US$25,820 per annum
  4. Singapore – US$23,198 per annum
  5. Kazakhstan – US$22,650 per annum

The Escalating Costs of Asian Education

Since last year’s report, the average school prices for Asia – Pacific have increased by a 7% to US$14,150 per annum. This is the largest continental increase seen this year and highlights that although the region is already popular with expatriates, the interest in the area shows no sign of slowing down.

“We spent time educating ourselves about Hong Kong's varied schooling options before opting for a local education for our children. There are often incorrect assumptions and negative preconceptions about local schools, especially amongst expats. We identified a progressive school with a well-rounded, bilingual curriculum, and in the end, the cost was not the main reason for our choice.”

Kate Farr – British expat living in Hong Kong.

Not only does Asia have four of the ten most expensive countries in the world for international education, but when the figures are adjusted for the relative cost of living, Kazakhstan (US$59,433 per annum, adjusted), China (US$57,616 per annum, adjusted) and Vietnam (US$41,619 per annum, adjusted) shoot to the top of the leader board. Also, when this adjustment is made, four of the world’s five most expensive schools are within the region (between US$161,156 and US$91,198 per annum, adjusted).

“It is generally recommended to aim for well reputed international schools and not enrol children in local schools, unless the child has a very solid knowledge and proficiency in the language. This is sometimes enquired about, but we advise against it.”

Jakob T Korslund – General Manager, Pacific Orientation Relocation Services, Thailand

This significant shift in the rankings is most likely due to the low cost of living found throughout much of Asia, especially in nations such as Vietnam (US$17,857 per annum) and Thailand (US$12,866 per annum). Residing in these poorer areas can vastly increase the relative cost for expatriates and locals, in these regions, meaning that school fees in these areas might not be as attractive as at first glance.

“Many International schools are unaffordable for expats who work for local companies as opposed to embassies or management roles in international companies. There is a strange assumption that if you are an expat, you must be rich. I pay more than I can afford for a level of education that is below my expectations considering the price. Whilst 'donations' and letters of recommendation from government officials (which in turn require a 'donation') seem to be disappearing from the system, exorbitant entrance fees are making up for the deficit in the extortion racket that is the education system.”

Caroline Stedman – British expat living in Mumbai, India

In a Class of Their Own

Europe (US$16,855 per annum) contains some of the countries with the world’s highest costs of living, and certainly, some of the most expensive international schools available, with four of the five most expensive schools found on the continent (between US$89,849 and US$73,104 per annum). Although the Americas have a higher average yearly cost (US$18,070 per annum), Europe comes both first and second for the most expensive countries to attend an international school, whereas the United States (US$20,625 per annum) sits back in fifth place.

“…the cost of education is certainly on my radar. I believe in supply and demand. However, I certainly feel that some international schools carry a bloated budget. If you are a shrewd expat, or if you find a good relocation company, you will quickly learn about high-value options, especially if you are in a world-class city like Moscow.”

Andy Frecka – American expat living in Moscow, Russia

Within Europe, Switzerland (US$29,711 per annum) is the standout player, with four of the most expensive schools on the Continent, and three of most costly in the world. However, this dominance is only the case regarding absolute figures. When the fees are adjusted for the cost of living, Switzerland falls to 21st place with a yearly median of US$22,955, showing that it might not be as pricey as at first glance.

Companies do not have a choice but to react to the rising costs of international school fees. While assigning Expatriates with families with children of school age into Switzerland, you simply cannot convince the assignee to relocate unless the proper education for their children is ensured. Some companies have made their policies more restrictive in a way to put native speakers into local schools. Swiss local schools are known to be very good in integrating foreigners.”

Chris Debner – Global mobility expert, and Founder and Managing Director of Chris Debner Strategic Global Mobility Advisory

Consider the System

Under the broad umbrella of international education comes an array of different schooling systems, from classic British boarding schools to language-specific French offerings. Deciding which system is right for your children can be tricky, as although all will provide a high quality of education, other cultural factors may be significant.

“Education at International Schools in Singapore is very costly. Unless expat parents are able to get a space in a local school, the mobility benefit for education is usually insufficient to cover a child studying in an international school. Expat parents need first to understand what type of education their children need, instead of going with ‘brand name’ international schools they would like their child to attend. Because the teaching methods differ from every school, it is important to find a school that suits a child’s learning needs and personality even if that means that siblings may attend separate schools.”

Evon Estrop – Managing Director, CS Mobility, Singapore

Of the various schooling systems surveyed around the world, it is clear that the Australian schools are the most expensive, with a median yearly fee of US$24,166. American and British schools are also some of the more expensive, with median annual costs of US$19,126 and US$17,896, respectively. French citizens should rejoice, however, as the French schools around the world came out as cheapest in our data, with the median yearly tuition fees coming in at only US$7,019, less than one-third of the cost of Australian Schools.

“…we wanted our kids to continue their education in French (we are from Montreal). I think the cost are high, but our kids are exposed to multiple cultures, languages, and they are building contacts for the future that will be very beneficial.”

Etienne Beauregard – Canadian expat living in Brazil

“One aspect that should not be forgotten is a positive collateral aspect of providing international schooling. It serves as a very good community for the Expat spouses to meet other Expats, which often helps the integration and well-being in a country.”

Chris Debner – Global mobility expert, and Founder and Managing Director of Chris Debner Strategic Global Mobility Advisory

Searching for Subsidies

In some cases, companies will subsidise or even completely cover the costs of education for their employee’s children, but if this is not the case, you may find that the expenses become a significant burden. Luckily though, many of the international schools we assessed offer subsidies to students if they are from the origin country of the particular system the school uses. Therefore, if you are a German citizen, you may be able to secure funding to cover some of the costs of sending your children to a German-based International school.

“[When searching for a school before relocation parents do not consider pricing] very important, as most often schooling expenses are supported/covered by the employer (quality in tuition is the primary concern).”

Jakob T Korslund – General Manager, Pacific Orientation Relocation Services, Thailand


In Moscow, most multi-national employers cover the tuition, while local Russian-owned businesses compensate their employees well, but expect them to pay their children's tuition costs themselves.”

Andy Frecka – American expat living in Moscow, Russia

Not only are schools already offering these subsidies, but some governments will further subsidise the costs of schooling. In addition to this, some embassies are opening their own schools, to ensure that the local population of expats can provide their children with the proper native teaching that parents may want to continue from their home country. 

“For parents with children in the nursery or kindergarten age, they would focus on more cost-effective establishments as it is still relatively early in the child’s education. But from Grades 1 to 10, I would say pricing ranks high on a parent’s search criteria for schools. In fact, budget-conscious parents are now looking for ‘no-frills’ international schools, and thus we see new schools adapting their operations to meet this need; this is in addition to some international schools providing a waiver of registration fees or offering discounted fees for admission to siblings.”

Evon Estrop – Managing Director, CS Mobility, Singapore

Unfortunately, the number of governments offering these schemes, and the funding available has been decreasing, as governments continually tighten their budgets in volatile financial times. In response to these funds drying up, schools are starting to introduce higher corporate rates, which supplement the fees for expat children, lowering the costs for all of the pupils.

“More companies should adopt a procedure where if local schooling is adequate and available, then this should be considered, instead of searching for international schools at the start. A tailored approach may be applied, where educational assistance is coupled with a cultural assessment, to recommend the most suitable school regarding compatibility with the assignee’s children and the overall relocation budget. This, of course, would entail a longer time frame for the entire service, but could result in cost savings for the company and a seamless educational transition for the employee’s children.”

Naren Damodaran – Executive/Senior Global Mobility Professional.

Are Corporate Schools the Future of International Education?

In addition to rate subsidies and tuition payments supplied for some expatriates by their employers, some companies have gone a step further and started up schools for their employees’ children to ensure a high quality of education while on assignment. These corporate academies are often run in tandem with an international school in the region and are an elegant solution for overcoming the potentially large financial burden of education for their employees.

“MLF creates ‘corporate schools’ intended for the schooling of (mainly French) expatriate executives’ children, where there are not currently any institutions offering a French-backed curriculum program. Thus, depending on the location of the corporation, the school can be isolated in a company campus or a town. The current trend is for corporate schools to be hosted by international schools with which MLF signs a hybrid system agreement.”

Maxime Michel - Corporate School Project Manager for Mission Laïque Française. 

This new system of education will become more and more pervasive over the coming years, as many countries move towards a more global structure, and require a high level of mobility for their most valued employees. If a company can control its own schools at its various locations around the world, it can ensure that a constant high quality of education is available for its employees’ children, no matter where they are.

“MLF also advises its partner companies to consider hosting students who are not children of the company’s employees but want a French education. However, this needs to be done within the limits of available places and possibly with higher tuition fees structured for children of non-employees. The corporate school, therefore, has the potential to become the French educational establishment in the area.” 

Maxime Michel - Corporate School Project Manager for Mission Laïque Française. 

Regardless of the situation in which you are moving, or planning to go abroad, these are some serious considerations for you to be making early on in your relocation. Where are the best and most prestigious schools for you children? How expensive are these schools? How are you going to be able to cover these increasingly significant costs?

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All school fees data was taken from the relevant schools’ websites or kindly provided by the schools themselves.
All yearly school fee costs were calculated as the median yearly cost, including tuition fees; application, admission and enrolment; registration and re-enrolment; building and capital development; one meal a day; school uniforms; and exams.
All prices are displayed in USD.
The relative fees, adjusted for cost of living were calculated from Numbeo’s Global Cost of Living Index, available here.