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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

More private schools offer discounts

Increased competition, with 20 schools set to open in Dubai next year, leads to introduction of scholarship programmes.

DUBAI // More private schools are offering financial incentives to attract parents as competition increases to fill seats.

About 20 private schools are expected to open in the emirate for the next school year, bringing the total to 193.

Mohammed Darwish, chief of regulations at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, said that new schools realised they would have to provide extra value for money to compete.

Mr Darwish said the KHDA, which regulates private schools in Dubai, did not offer scholarships, “but we are aware of several schools that offer financial relief to parents who might need it.

“Families in need are approaching schools themselves for viable options.”

James Mullan, co-founder of Dubai education consultancy WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, said that while scholarships were only offered by some schools, they were an important part of private education.

“It is still very much a small percentage of schools, although clearly growing, so far in Dubai,” said Mr Mullan.

“Nine out of 10 parents claim school fees are a source of financial stress, so clearly anything that will lessen the pain will have an impact.”

He said scholarships were embedded in private school systems around the world and gave gifted but less advantaged children access to the best education.

“We hope the trend continues.”

Gems Education, which is launching seven schools including six in Dubai next academic year, recently announced it would offer “educational endowments” to about 3,000 pupils, chosen on an individual basis.

Dino Varkey, executive director of Gems, said that each year, more than 6,700 pupils in Gems schools received scholarships, concessions or subsidies.

“Our schools have existing application procedures that cover areas such as merit-based or means-tested scholarships and concessions,” said Mr Varkey.

“Support for families that may be experiencing temporary financial hardship is also determined through an application process.”

Mr Mullan said the increase in the number of private schools made scholarships inevitable.

“You should not discount philanthropy although it is not the only reason,” he said. “In Dubai the sheer number of new schools will inevitably make schools more competitive.

“Schools need to fill their places, and scholarships in the form of fee discounts are a way to make schools more accessible and attractive.

“Some schools will also target children who are gifted and talented, especially those that are academically selective, although there is perhaps less of a driver for this in the UAE where there are no academic league tables of the kind you see in the UK.

“To some degree the reasons are less important than the outcome. Scholarships are a great addition to the education landscape if they are managed well.”

Arcadia Preparatory School, a British-curriculum school to open in Dubai’s Jumeirah Village Triangle in August, said it would offer a 30 per cent discount to all pupils who registered for its inaugural year.

The school’s chief executive, Navin Valrani, said the discount was a way for the Al Shirawi Group to give back to Dubai.

“If it was just a promotional exercise they could have offered it for a year or two or three,” Mr Valrani said.

“They’re now going out there and saying regardless of how successful our school is, our founding students are going to enjoy eight years of a 30 per cent rebate on the KHDA-approved fee.”

KHDA said it was anticipating 250 private schools would operate in the emirate by 2020 to accommodate a predicted 400,000 pupils. About 265,299 pupils are enrolled in Dubai’s 173 private schools.

rpennington@thenational.ae