DUBAI // As Ashok Kumar, the chief executive of the Indian High School, walked into his school's well-stocked library, a big, brightly painted room filled with English and Hindi books and more than a dozen computers, he beamed with pride. "Even the best schools charging Dh40,000 or Dh50,000 will not have such facilities," he said.
"Each classroom has a smartboard," he added. "What school will have that?" The Indian High School is among those that Dubai's Knowledge and Human Development Authority classifies as good. By Mr Kumar's account, the school, a not-for-profit institution that opened its doors in 1961, offers a higher quality education than for-profit schools while charging lower fees: tuition starts at Dh3,500 (US$950) annually for KG1 and goes up to Dh5,500 for Grade 12.
"Charging low fees does not stop us from offering state-of-the-art education," Mr Kumar says. "Since it is not for profit and we have a model where people give time to the students, everything we do in the school is for the students. That's why we're able to keep low fees. We do not compromise on education." Inside the sprawling collection of buildings that make up the school - on a big grassy plot in Oud Metha - there is a certain feeling of community. Unlike many other Indian schools in its price range, the Indian High School is meticulously maintained: the grounds of the campus are kept clean, science labs are spacious and modern, and the school even boasts its own radio station.
"It's a good education. It's not just a low bracket," Mr Kumar said, adding that even parents who can afford more expensive schools enrol their children. Mr Kumar said Dubai needed more schools like his that operate on a not-for-profit basis. "It's a simple rule," he said. "If I were for-profit, I would be charging more. But in the same fee bracket, nobody has such facilities. We have better facilities than the people on a higher bracket."
"It's not-for-profit, anything which we make is ploughed back in the system," Mr Kumar said. "We have a lot of honorary advisers and workers on the board who don't charge. So if I hired a consultant on safety they would charge me a bomb, but I have an honorary consultant who does it for free, so we save on that." But the waiting list for the Indian High School is 4,000 strong and students are selected by lottery. Most parents who want to send their children to the school are not able to obtain a place even though the school has close to 10,000 on its rolls between the two campuses.
"The facilities offered by the school are high, especially since the fees are pretty low," said Steve Thomas, a 16-year-old student who has been at the Indian High School since kindergarten. "We had board exams in another school last year," he said. "The facilities here are much better. If you compare the ACs and stuff they are much better. "In the lower grades they have projector screens and laptops are provided to each in the classrooms ... The classrooms are also much bigger and better."