x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Schools in three-way fight for new pupils

Now JSS International has switched to the CISCE curriculum, three institutions instead of one will be offering it next year.

DUBAI // Parents who want their children to study the Indian CISCE curriculum, a privately administered alternative to the state-run CBSE, now have a choice. Dubai Modern High School, which has more than 2,300 students, has long been the sole CISCE school in Dubai.

But yesterday, JSS International announced that it had been granted permission by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), which oversees schools in Dubai, to switch from the CBSE curriculum when the Indian school year starts in April. When Dubai Modern announced a 90 per cent fee increase to be spread over two years to fund a Dh180 million (US$49m) move to a new and much larger campus, many parents expressed their desire for a cheaper alternative.

The move from the Nad al Sheba campus was planned after Dubai Modern was evicted from its premises to make way for a now defunct development project. The private CISCE (Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations) curriculum is thought to offer a more well-rounded education for pupils, particularly in the arts and humanities. Many believe that the state-operated CBSE (Central Board for Secondary Education) curriculum, offered at 20 schools in Dubai, better suits applicants to Indian universities. However, the CISCE is regarded as better preparation for international universities.

Fees for JSS International will range from Dh12,000 for pre-kindergarten to Dh20,000 for Grade 7 (children aged 12 to 13), compared with nearly Dh34,000 that Dubai Modern will charge once its increase takes effect next year. The news follows an announcement last week that the Global Indian Foundation, a Singapore-based operator of Indian schools, will open its first school in Dubai in April, pending approval from the KHDA. It will also offer the CISCE curriculum.

Guruswami Kalloor, the general manager of JSS International, said there had been significant interest in the school already. "A lot of parents have been calling," he said. "We are expecting about 800 students next year." The school has received around 400 online applications to date. At present, JSS International, in Al Barsha, has just only students, who will switch to the CISCE curriculum next year.

Richard Forbes, a spokesman for Global Education Management Systems (GEMS), the largest private school operator in the country and the parent company of Dubai Modern, said: "GEMS believes the facilities at the new campus are the best of any Indian day-school in the world, so we have no difficulty in welcoming competition into the market." Enrolment was up on last year and there were 400 new online registrations for the new school year, he said last week.

Unlike the other two CISCE schools, JSS International will operate entirely on a not-for-profit basis. "CISCE seems to be a better education as compared to CBSE," said Sundararaman, a project manager at the RAK Bank in Dubai. "That is one of the primary reasons why we have chosen that school. "I thought Dubai Modern's fee structure is not that reasonable. When you compare JSS to Dubai Modern, they have the same facilities at more affordable rate."

Sridhar Krishnan, whose six-year old son is a pupil at the Millennium School, a CBSE school in Dubai, will move his son to JSS next year. "Obviously the curriculum is different, but the facilities are pretty similar," said Mr Krishnan, who works at an investment company in Abu Dhabi. "In the recent past, CISCE has gained a lot of popularity. "CBSE gives a good footing for studying within India let's say but CISCE gives a proper footing if one wants their children to go to school abroad. The curriculum is more rigorous."

Another parent, who asked not to be named, said: "Modern High has become really expensive. We are looking for a good education and not anything else. "JSS is a good, established school back in India. They also have all the facilities, so it's a good alternative. "I am not looking at a fancy campus, I am interested in having a good education for my child." klewis@thenational.ae