The school and education landscape in the UAE is changing at a dynamic rate, more schools opened in 2017 and more are scheduled to open in 2018. For families and parents, these changes are good. More schools means more places; more places means more competition: more competition means maintaining and even improving the standard of education their children will receive.
We bring you an overview of these new developments in the education sector and their influence on parents’ choices. We have listed down the opportunities and changes new schools would bring along with comments from industry experts.
More schools per area
As the number of Dubai schools soars high, it will improve the ratio of number of schools per area providing parents a perfect opportunity to choose a school near to home. Mrs. Jane Whitby Founding Principal of Newlands School said, “More schools will mean a greater choice of schools per area which will equal less travelling time for children as it is not fair for them to spend so long on school buses and in cars." Patrick Lee - Browne, Principal of Kent College Dubai said, “Travel time to and from school is increasingly an issue for families and a proportion of schools are being built in the new residential areas, which will help keep that time to a minimum."
Relief from long-waiting lists
When there were few schools in Dubai, parents went through the hardship of letting go of their favourite school because of a long waiting list. More schools in Dubai would definitely be a relief for parents as more schools means, short or no waiting lists.
Clive Pierrepont, Director of Communications at Taaleem said, “Wait lists have all but disappeared. In the past when school places were in short supply, through desperation parents felt pressured to secure the first place offered to them. Now parents can be a little more relaxed about the timeframe needed to make an informed decision and will still have a wide choice of options even if they arrive late into the admissions game."
Encourage healthy competition
The continuous growth in education sector will induce a healthy competition in the sector, hence improving the overall standard of education. To come across as the best school in Dubai, the existing schools are focusing on making their achievements visible to parents whereas the new schools are vouching for their unique and well thought out selling points.
Clive Pierrepont of Taaleem said, “In our newest school in Jumeirah Park, Dubai British School, we worked with a Michelin Starred Chef, Gary Rhodes to create a dining experience unique to Dubai that included healthy formal meals with an emphasis on great manners and social etiquette. We also established a school radio station which was used to launch the school, established a direct link with Barcelona Football Academy for our soccer school and established a partnership with the Dubai Performing Arts Academy available to the whole of the community."
Alan Williamson, Director of Education at Kings' Schools said, “With increased competition in Dubai, the opening of new facilities motivate existing schools to be at the top of their game. Schools, established or new, need to be able to demonstrate that they offer an education environment where children feel they belong, and this has to be played out every single day from the director of education to the cleaning staff. At Kings’, our state-of-the-art sports facilities, for example, may be the icing on the cake for some parents but, ultimately, every school has to feel well-rounded."
Head of Secondary School, Luke Osborne at the Swiss International Scientific School said, "In an ever-changing world and at a time where the Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing the nature of profiles required in the labour market, it became important for schools to teach students creative and critical thinking and make sure they develop their cognitive abilities, to ensure they receive ‘future proof’ skills in the global competitive market."
New and Modern facilities
As with everyting, new things are often more fresh, innovative and equipped with modern facilities. The newness in the schools would surely please children and parents as they start to look at these new schools.
Alan Williamson of Kings' Schools added, "A lot of new schools also offer incredible facilities. Here at Kings’ School Al Barsha, we have a black box theatre, three swimming pools and a fantastic auditorium for expressive arts, among other things."
Johnathan Maxwell Letcher, School Principal at Amercian School of Creative Science (ASCS) Al Barsha said, “The competitive school landscape also drives quality, attracts great international talent and pushes schools to be innovative in the way they are nurturing our future generations."
Impact on fees
Fees is an important deciding factor when choosing a school. With new schools bringing more competition, the fee scale becomes a crucial factor to survive in the market. While parents may experience a positive change in fees as they go down, some schools will be charging higher fees vouching for their state-of-art facilities and educational standards significantly above others. Head of Marketing, Caterina Perlini at Swiss International School Dubai said, “It is difficult to predict since the market is currently witnessing a number of fee reductions in schools across Dubai. At the same time though, several new schools are opening and displaying the highest fees in the city."
A spokesperson for GEMS said, “We have been tackling the cost of living issue for parents, including school fees, through several initiatives designed to lessen the impact on pockets. This academic year we launched the GEMS Rewards Programme in 2017 with the aspiration to allow families to save towards their school fees."
Student: Teacher ratio
The students per classroom is expected to remain same as the schools, established or new, need to adhere the students per classroom guidelines. As per education experts, there’ should not be much change on this front. Clive Pierrepont of Taaleem said, “ Most schools state in their admissions policy, the maximum number of students per class. It is a myth that the smaller the class size the better the educational experience is. The quality of education never exceeds the quality of the class teacher; therefore, class size should not be of prime consideration in parents’ choice.”
Johnathan Maxwell Letcher of ASCS Al Barsha said, “ The focus for us at ASCS Al Barsha, like any school, is to provide the ultimate learning environment for future generations. The size of the school class is a regulatory requirement which we adhere to.”
The education sector is blossoming in Dubai bringing many stated benefits with it. However, the education experts are of the opinion that the addition of new schools should not bring much change in the school selection criteria besides the fact that parents will now have more schools to choose from. So, what should you really be looking for when you are given so many new options as well existing schools.
Asking write questions
Mrs. Jane Whitby of Newlands School said, “Parents should make sure they are not misled by schools saying they follow a particular curriculum as this does not ensure high academic levels but to ask questions about how a school can help their child specifically to achieve his or her best. Parents need to ask many questions and to not be misled in the belief that high fees will mean their child will get a good education." A spokesperson at GEMS said, "There are a broad range of factors to consider when choosing the right school for your children. These include location, school culture and values, type of curriculum, teaching practices - the use of innovation & technology, extra-curricular activities and development programmes, credibility of school operator and budgets."
Holistic approach to education
Luke Osborne, of the Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai said, “The focus on wellbeing aligns with the aims of those schools who, like us, take a holistic and pastoral approach to education. You cannot separate emotional balance from long-term academic and career success. We understand that school-leavers flourish when they are ready to contribute to wider society in a meaningful way - certainly, study and work form a key part of this mix but true wellbeing also stems from a feeling of belonging to - and service to - one’s various communities.”
Modern education style
Johnathan Maxwell Letcher at ASCS Al Barsha said, “With the advantage of choice, parents have the option to consider a school that has the most suited academic and environment that will allow their children to thrive with likeminded students. Moreover, parents should seek a school that provides a 21st century education where adaptation, student ownership, and grit are grounded with a moral compass focused on social awareness and responsibility."
Visiting schools personally
Clive Pierrepont of Taaleem said, “Items to research may include, reputation, curriculum, inspection reports, exam results, the destination of graduating students, international benchmarking comparisons, staff turnover, a search of social media and school fees. However, there is no substitute for actually visiting the school and getting a feel for the establishment and more importantly the people that run it. It is always good to try and visit at drop off and pick up times and ask parents at the school to share their views on the positives and negatives of that particular school. They will find that parents are quite candid and forthright in their views, but they must try to canvas as many of them as they can."
Track record of investor in a new school
Patrick Lee - Browne, Principal at Kent College Dubai said, "The track record of the school’s investors and their level of involvement in the new school can be important, along with any particular distinguishing features of the school such as the curriculum offered."