x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Dubai private schools form group to work with Government

Private schools band together to form a group that represents their interests amid the continuing debate over inspections and government oversight.

DUBAI // A number of private school operators have banded together to form a group that represents their interests amid the continuing debate over school inspections and government oversight. The Dubai Private Schools Group, in association with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said yesterday it hopes to influence public policy and serve as a forum for schools to share best practices.

Many private school operators in Dubai have criticised the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) over its inspections and its policy of linking performance on inspections to fee caps. A representative said the new group had 30 members but did not provide a list of individual schools. When the group first announced plans to form in June, several schools listed as "founding members" denied allegiance with it. Because state schools are not open to all expatriates in the UAE, many children attend private institutions, most of which are run as for-profit businesses. In Dubai, 85 per cent of pupils go to private schools.

The chamber of commerce said the group would work with government organisations to improve schools and resolve issues. "Together we will work to further enhance the quality of education provided," said a statement from Hamad Buamim, its director general. "We will identify key issues and work with the relevant agencies on policy matters - We will also help strengthen dialogue with the Government, including the Ministry of Education and Knowledge and Human Development Authority."

The group elected a nine-member executive committee, led by its chairman Brig Sharafuddin al Sayed M H Sharaf of Al Mawakeb School. Two vice-chairmen were appointed: Sunny Varkey, the chairman of Dubai's largest private school operator, Global Education Management Systems (GEMS); and Adonis Nasr, the chief executive of Academia Management Solutions International, which manages Al Mawakeb School, among others.

Other members of the committee are Avi Bhojani of Dubai International Academy, Dr BR Shetty of Deira Private School, Aparna Varma of Dubai Scholars, Sanjay Mankani of Regent International School, Abdul Salam Mohammad of the Pristine School and Dr Ralph Tabberer of GEMS. Aside from the GEMS group, all schools represented by the committee scored "acceptable" on inspections last year. Of 11 GEMS schools rated, six were acceptable, four good and one was outstanding.