International schools in GCC face resourcing challenges

GESS Dubai 2023 to connect key industry stakeholders with the tools, insights and partnerships to tackle the pressing needs of international schools across the region 

Dubai, Sept 22, 2023: International schools in the GCC are facing resourcing challenges as the number of institutions is set to increase significantly, according to the organisers of Global Educational Supplies and Solutions (GESS) Dubai 2023. 

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, challenges in resource procurement are inevitable and the obstacles that international school groups face lie in the protracted lead times required for goods transportation and customs clearance, the announcement said quoting ISC research. 

While inflationary pressures have been felt in the UK, US and Europe, the impact on schools remains relatively subdued in the UAE thanks to the resilience of the AED/USD exchange rate and access to more cost-effective products from Asia and local suppliers.  

With 2,068 international schools and a student population of more than 1.9 million across the Middle East, school leaders in the UAE have however indicated that the actual sourcing of necessary resources is not a major hurdle provided adequate time and funding are available.  

The forthcoming GESS Dubai is expected to address some of these concerns as top educational suppliers and solution providers from 40 countries representing more than 350 brands are expected to gather in the emirate from October 30 to November 1, 2023. 

Resource procurement in Saudi Arabia is a time-consuming process. The sweltering summer months often coincide with storage periods, where temperatures can exceed 50°C, causing potential damage to certain goods such as book bindings.   

Although many items are available domestically, they often come with premium price tags.   

To optimise costs, some schools resort to consolidating purchases through the UAE, while teachers, when visiting their home countries, personally procure goods from platforms such as Amazon, covering the additional luggage expenses.  

Across the education landscape in Qatar, leaders are keenly aware of the rapid transformation driven by education technology. Across the rest of the GCC, educational institutions face shared challenges when it comes to sourcing necessary supplies. These challenges encompass high customs duties, extended delays, a shortage of skilled labour for equipment maintenance and a limited presence of international vendors within the region. For instance, the scarcity of suppliers for products such as Apple results in elevated costs and shipping delays exceeding four months. The absence of local book publishers, regulated due to curriculum control by the Ministry, forces heavy reliance on foreign publishers, impacting education delivery.  

Consequently, the procurement of educational supplies primarily originates from the UK and the USA, but also extends to other regions such as Australia and Asian suppliers, which are gaining traction in the market.