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Cheapest cities for international education

international school students labEducation is among the top priorities for parents who are cutting household expenses and luxuries to pay for their children's tuition fees. For expat parents however, this can be a little more challenging than usual. By sending their child to an international school, expat’s choices are already more limited by default. And it turns out some cities are much more expensive than others. Here is a new study that reveals the cheapest cities to get your child an international education and how the prices for international schools compared with the overall cost of living in each city.

Expatistan, the cost of living comparisons website for expats, analyzed international education costs around the world and we found something surprising. While the cities that topped the most expensive end of the list won't come as a shock to many (Shanghai, Singapore and Seoul all made the top 10, as did three cities in Switzerland), three at the lower end will. Some of the cheapest cities to get your child an international education include Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Abu Dhabi.

international school prices across the world

Expatistan compared the prices of international schools with the prices for the typical monthly rent for expats in the same cities. For this comparison, Expatistan 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 Shanghai for example, monthly international education costs, at an average, $2,783 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 it is compared the cost of one month of tuition in an international school in Shanghai with the cost of the typical monthly rent there ($2,027), you can see that it would be 137% - more expensive than rent by a huge 37%!

If you're an expat in Shanghai 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 $345 per month) is just 17% of the typical monthly rent for expats (which is $2,018). 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.

According to the Expatistan’s study, 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 could suggest that international schools do not only depend on generous expat packages paid by big companies; they also (and often 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.

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 $722 $2,634 27%
Netherlands Amsterdam $495 $1,998 25%
Thailand Bangkok $888 $1,297 68%
Belgium Brussels $1,599 $1,348 119%
South Africa Cape Town $319 $1,329 24%
Denmark Copenhagen $345 $2,018 17%
Qatar Doha $752 $3,316 23%
United Arab Emirates Dubai $1,009 $2,174 46%
Switzerland Geneva $1,863 $3,711 50%
Hong Kong Hong Kong $1,226 $4,864 25%
Indonesia Jakarta $1,145 $1,351 85%
Malaysia Kuala Lumpur $492 $763 65%
Switzerland Lausanne $1,813 $2,528 72%
Philippines Manila $783 $1,043 75%
Kenya Nairobi $875 $1,570 56%
France Paris $1,121 $2,718 41%
Czech Republic Prague $1,044 $973 107%
Saudi Arabia Riyadh $411 $1,209 34%
Italy Rome $932 $1,659 56%
South Korea Seoul $1,695 $1,906 89%
China Shanghai $2,783 $2,027 137%
Singapore Singapore $1,637 $2,615 63%
Japan Tokyo $1,463 $2,777 53%
Austria Vienna $1,383 $1,478 94%
Switzerland Zurich $2,057 $3,451 60%

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