At least 20 new schools opening in Dubai, Abu Dhabi

Some 34,500 extra seats to be added for fresh school year next week in the two emirates

Dubai/Abu Dhabi: At least 20 new schools are opening in Dubai and Abu Dhabi this new academic year starting on Sunday, September 2.

The new schools will create tens of thousands of new seats.

Dubai is taking the lead, with 13 new private schools opening. One of them — an Indian school — already opened in April, when Indian schools begin their fresh academic year.

25,517 seats to be created this academic year by 13 new schools in Dubai

In Abu Dhabi, a total of seven new private and public schools are opening, with a total capacity of 9,000 students.

In Dubai, there will be 25,517 new seats created — a 7.7 per cent increase in total capacity, according to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

In the previous academic year, there were 194 private schools in Dubai (11 of them new), teaching 281,432 pupils (a 2.9 per cent growth in enrolment), KHDA figures show. The Capacity Utilisation Rate, the percentage of occupied seats, was 85 per cent.

‘Not a saturated market’

Out of the 13 new Dubai schools, almost half (6) are UK curriculum schools — one of them is a dual UK/IB curriculum school. The rest are IB (three), US (three) and CBSE (one).

Despite new schools opening each year, there is still room left for more schools, said Rhona Greenhill, co-founder of IPSEF (International and Private Schools Education Forum). “The market is not saturated; although it is controlled by parents at the moment, as there is a healthy supply of choices,” Greenhill said.

IPSEF will host ISC Research for a presentation on the latest data on international schools in the Middle East, at the IPSEF Dubai forum on September 21 at KHDA.

Greenhill said “the biggest benefit” to parents and students of the new school launches is that “they have plenty of choices and the tougher competition should push schools to offer the best possible education for them, to stand out among the crowd”.

For schools, “the increasing competitive landscape will hopefully push them to focus on differentiating themselves in terms of quality, and this will include better teacher recruitment drives, as obviously the better teachers a school has, the better the quality of education is”.

However, Greehill does not believe it will lead to a trend of schools reducing fees. Some schools had announced a freeze or reduction on fees for the new academic year. “Some schools may resort to gaining a competitive advantage via reduction of fees, but this wont be very much and will not be the route taken by the more established schools.”

Mid-price focus

Most of the demand for international schools in the Middle East is currently focused on the mid-price schools that are “affordable to the majority of professional expatriates and more affluent local families”, said Richard Gaskell, schools director at ISC Research.

9,000 seats created by seven private and public schools opening in Abu Dhabi

Out of the 13 new Dubai schools, GEMS Founders School — Al Mizhar has the lowest fee range, at Dh23,000 to Dh35,000 per year. The school will offer the National Curriculum for England to students from Foundation Stage to Year 8; it will add grades over the years.

Nigel Cropley, principal of GEMS Founders School — Al Mizhar, said: “I am excited about promoting our positive growth mindset, encouraging our community of learners to make today their best day ever. The teachers we have employed are a wonderful team and we are all looking forward to meeting our new students and parents.”

Meanwhile, the most expensive school among the 13 new ones is Dwight School Dubai, with a fee range of Dh66,000 to Dh103,000. The IB curriculum school is located in Al Barsha South.

Janecke Aarnaes, head of school at Dwight School Dubai, had earlier said: “At Dwight School Dubai, we will create a unique and personalised environment where students can pursue their passions and live their dreams. We will ready our students for a future where they can thrive, no matter where in the world they choose to go.”

New Dubai schools:

Al Mawakeb School Al Khawaneej (US)
Bright Riders (CBSE)
Brighton College Dubai (UK)
Dubai International Academy Al Barsha (IB)
Dunecrest American School (US)
Dwight School Dubai (IB)
Fairgreen International School (IB)
GEMS Founders School Mizhar (UK)
Ignite School (US)
Riverston School Dubai (UK)
Southview School (UK)
The Aquila School (UK with BTEC, IB)
The Arbor School (UK)


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