SCHOOL IN THE CROWN

UAE, Dubai 2015 | EDUCATION | FOCUS: PRIVATE SCHOOLS

With so many expatriates looking to give their kids the kind of education they'd get back home, private schools in Dubai are rising to the challenge.

Dubai is experiencing exponential growth in its population due to the return of the family-based expatriate community and expected economic opportunity throughout the region. This means that more and more primary and secondary schools are needed. With the surge in pupils expected to grow from 243,000 in 2014 to 400,000 by 2020, many private schools are entering Dubai to capitalize on this opportunity. In the past three years, 26 private schools have opened with the expected figure of 169 in total reaching 250 by 2020. The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) has recognized this trend and ensured that these private schools will contribute to the overall goals and objectives of the UAE's National Agenda.

One of the highly anticipated school openings is Chinese International School, Dubai's first private school teaching a curriculum in Mandarin. The project was announced during the Chinese New Year celebration at the Dubai's Chinese Learning Centre, and has attracted investment from both China and Dubai and is expected to reach about $32.7 million. Another language focused school opening in Autumn 2015 is the Swiss International Scientific School. The school will have space for 1,400 pupils aged 3 to 11 with a secondary school with 1,000 extra spaces and is expected to open in 2017, and its boarding facilities to open a year or two after that. One of India's oldest and most reputed educational groups, CMI Rajagiri, runs more than 500 educational institutions and has launched a new school in Dubai, the Amled School, which will be located in the Al Khail area of Dubai. The school will initially offer classes from Kindegarten to Grade 5 in the 2015-16 academic year. CMI Rajagiri plans on increasing its footprint in the region with future schools in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
Within this expected growth, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) is playing a key role in ensuring the quality of the education by imposing strict guidelines school's management. In 2014, HH Sheikh Mohammed set the National Agenda in the form of guidelines that will help in the implantation of the UAE Vision 2021. The National Agenda has two main objectives in relation to the UAE's ranking in international assessments in 2021: to be among the 20 highest performing countries in Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and to be among the top-15 highest performing countries in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Due to these aspirations, and Dubai's current position below average in both categories, the KHDA will evaluate all prospective candidates for their knowledge of these international assessments and plans to successfully integrate the expectations in the school's curriculum. Only after the prospective principal undergoes and passes the evaluation process, they are able to be appointed to the position.

With the large amount of upcoming schools and the necessity for delivering on the objectives of the UAE's National Agenda, the KHDA has developed the Education Cost Index (ECI) initiative. The ECI is calculated annually by the Dubai Statistic Centre, which takes into account the consumer price index and school operation costs including salaries, rent, and utilities. Based on the new ECI, schools rated “outstanding” in the next inspection results will be able to increase their fees 5.84%, double the established ECI of 2.92%. Schools rated “good” can increase their fees by 4.38%, 1.5x the ECI, while schools in the “acceptable” or “unacceptable” category can increase their fees by 2.92%. By doing so, the KHDA has recognized the importance of balancing the profitability of the school with its quality of education.

In sum, private school investment is expected to continue its growth trend as Dubai's economy continues to accelerate and demand for seats increases. However, the KHDA has recognized that while schools seek profits, the emphasis must be on the quality of education. In light of this, the KHDA will play a fundamental role in appointing the leadership as well as financially rewarding the performance of private schools. With this, the KHDA aims to ensure the success of the educational benchmarks of the UAE National Agenda.