One of Canada’s largest pension funds has taken a 25 per cent stake in an international schools group, as private equity focuses on education as a new area for growth.

Omers Private Equity, an arm of the eponymous group that invests the pension fund assets of Ontario’s municipal employees, said on Monday it had acquired a holding in International Schools Partnership, a group of 50 international schools in a deal that values it at €1.9bn.

The move points to growing investor interest in education, as private school chains expand their global reach and companies gain a stronger foothold in public education systems by providing infrastructure and technology.

“Education is a really resilient market that has strong underlying macro drivers,” said Jonathan Musselwhite, head of Europe at Omers. “There’s a real opportunity for private equity.”

International Schools Partnership was created by Swiss private equity firm Partners Group in 2013. Since then it has grown into a global company, teaching 45,000 students in 13 countries including Canada, Italy, Chile, the UAE and Malaysia.

Chief executive Steve Brown said the group wanted to expand its global network. “We are delighted to now have Omers Private Equity invested alongside us,” he added. “We welcome their long-term approach to value creation, and are confident that with Omers, together with Partners Group, we will be able to continue delivering exceptional outcomes.”

Musselwhite said they would continue to expand through the acquisition of existing schools, as well as building new ones, driven in part by growing demand for high-quality bilingual education.

Investors have backed establishments offering virtual education and bricks-and-mortar private school chains have also attracted private equity funding in recent years.

In 2018, Zurich-based investment firm Jacobs Holding agreed to acquire private school chain Cognita from Bregal Investments and US buyout fund KKR in a deal worth £2bn. The following year private equity firm Warburg Pincus joined TA Associates as an investor in Inspired Education, which runs more than 50 schools for at least 50,000 students internationally.

David Layton, co-chief executive at Partners Group, said International Schools Partnership was a “textbook example” of “transformational investing in action”.

“Having invested extensively in the education sector, we saw the potential to create a leading K-12 schools platform supported by growing global demand for high quality education,” he added. “We are pleased to welcome Omers as a shareholder to ISP, which is already one of the largest K-12 school groups globally and still has significant growth potential ahead of it.”