x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

British curriculum leads the way as Dubai aims for 90,000 more school places

Education chiefs in Dubai expect to have 90,000 more places in 60 new and expanding private schools in the next five years.

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director and chairman of the KHDA, says more British schools have opened in Dubai in the past five to six years than any other curriculum. Antonie Robertson/The National
Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director and chairman of the KHDA, says more British schools have opened in Dubai in the past five to six years than any other curriculum. Antonie Robertson/The National

DUBAI // Education chiefs in Dubai expect to have 90,000 more places in 60 new and expanding private schools in the next five years.

The regulator, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, bases its projection on the 7 per cent annual increase in the number of pupils in the past decade.

The authority also anticipates 50,000 more places in British schools by 2020.

“We’ve seen more British schools open up in the past five to six years than any other curriculum,” said Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director and chairman of the KHDA.

“The British education is the one that’s lifting the education system up, not because of the numbers, but because of the quality of education it brings, which is extremely important to us.”

Dr Al Karam said the British education system shot “through the roof” at every assessment by the regulator’s inspection teams.

“In terms of numbers and quality, the British system always pushes Dubai in a higher place than other curriculums,” he said. “Most of the schools that have opened recently are British and we always feel proud of their growth.”

Even during the worst period of the economic crisis, schools in Dubai were the only sector that was still growing, he said.

“It’s because of the private schools in Dubai from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s that you have all this real estate and multinationals. But it’s important to highlight the contribution of British education in Dubai and we have yet to see more in higher education.”

The additional 50,000 places will require an average of four to five new or expanded schools every year.

“We want to see these opportunities happen,” Dr Al Karam said at an education forum on Monday hosted by the British Business Group. “We have more space now than five years ago and a lot of people say they want to go into the British system. The British education system is playing a vital role in Dubai’s standing and it’ll only get bigger and better.”

Some schools already have plans to expand in the coming years.

Taaleem, a private education provider, plans to open two new campuses in the next two years.

“We’re opening a new school in Jumeirah Park in 2015 accommodating 1,600 students,” said Clive Pierrepont, Taaleem’s director of communications. “We’re also opening a 250-capacity foundation stage early childhood centre, or nursery, in 2014 in Jumeirah Islands that will feed into our new Dubai British School.”

Opening new schools will mean recruiting top quality teachers to keep up with the high standards of the British curriculum.

“The quality of education never exceeds the quality of teachers,” Mr Pierrepont said. “And teachers are a rare commodity these days. If you’re a good school, you’re looking at the top 5 to 10 per cent of great teachers to come and teach in your school and with the explosion of international education across the globe, those teachers are in very short supply.”

And that means ensuring teachers’ wages remain high.

“Up to 80 per cent of your costs are salaries, without a doubt,” he said. “Unless you’re keeping up with the market rate for salaries, then you’ll never attract the professionals that you need to drive education forward. Despite how professional teachers are, they do need to live and be valued.”

Mr Pierrepont said many people viewed Dubai as a localised environment when it was, in fact, part of a global market.

“It’s like the price of gold,” he said. “The rise in demand is far exceeding the supply in great teachers and they inspire our next generation. They’re not mercenaries but they do need to be recognised for the contribution that they make and you have to keep pace with what’s going on in the international world.”

cmalek@thenational.ae