Login | Register
Email Twitter Facebook YouTube Google+ 2013 Survey

School Place Panic – And How to Avoid It

School Place Panic – And How to Avoid It

It’s summer and for more than a few Dubai parents school place panic has arrived with the warm weather. Families who are just now finding themselves transferred to Dubai for work, parents who have been carefully evaluating schools through on-site visits and are now thoroughly confused, parents who see the end of the school year and have now decided that a school change is imperative or parents who have yet to receive a positive response to applications are now in full panic mode.

What to do?
Take a deep breath. Dubai, with its 149 private schools and 19 curriculums on offer, is a plethora of good options for parents to find the school that fits their child’s personality and academic goals. All expat children in Dubai attend private schools. Free public schooling is only available to Emirati citizens.

With education a private school only scenario, places at some grades are scarce, especially at the Kindergarten level where Dubai’s school age population bulges. Some of Dubai’s best know schools are already at full capacity a factor that adds to parental jitters. Families with young, school age children find Dubai an ideal location to live and work abroad and since the economy has resurged more young families are drawn to the UAE, two other factors that are crowding school admissions according to Aon Hewitt, a global talent recruitment firm.

See also: Finding a School Place – Start here

Should I be on a wait list?
Many schools in Dubai use waiting lists to manage their overflow of applications. Earlier this year, in The National newspaper Abdulrahman Nassir, chief of customer relations for Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the government ministry responsible for school oversight stated, “there are places for every child.

Waiting lists exist because parents wish to get their children a seat at a particular school”. Some parents feel pressured to join school at the Pre-K level to be assured of a K-1 spot the following year. In March, the KHDA issued the good news that seven new schools are due to open by the start of the academic year 2014-15, offering pupils an estimated 17,700 seats when those schools are fully at capacity. Seven more schools plan to open in the academic year 2015-2016, making room for another 10,000 pupils. With these schools opening up in the next school year, there is a seat out there for your child.

What to consider?
Curriculum choice is probably the most difficult decision many parents will face in choosing a school. Unlike the countries most of Dubai’s expats come from where there is a national curriculum and little alternative, Dubai offers the big four curriculums of British National curriculum, American curriculum, Indian curriculum and International Baccalaureate plus French, German, Japanese, Korean and more esoteric learning plans like Ontario International Canadian curriculum and even home-schooling, which is allowed in Dubai. A school visit is probably the key place to start even if it is already June. Parents are obviously seeking the best educational opportunities they can find for their children. The reality is that, in Dubai, we are favored with some excellent schools. Many schools open mornings and tours are offered for parents to gain a sense or feel for what the school has to offer. Parents should observe teacher student interactions, is there a sense of joy for learning? Are parents welcome at school, do you hear laughter, are the facilities adequate, do you see group work happening, collaboration between students, and between students and teachers, do you sense that people care about each other and their campus – are all aspects one can sense from taking a walk though the facility.

Thinking of Switching Schools?
Some parents who have not successfully registered at the school of their first choice will take a seat with the idea of switching schools during the year. Be cautious if that is your plan. “The KHDA regulates student movement between schools and changing curriculums. There are specific dates issued by the KHDA each year that all Dubai schools must adhere to.”


Important dates to remember if thinking of a school switch –
Enrolled in a Dubai school and changing curriculum: 15 November.
Shifting schools within Dubai and staying in the same curriculum: 15 January
For incoming international enrollments, the last date to enroll: 15 March
Between 15 March and 15 April incoming international students were taken as individual exceptions by the KHDA
All new enrollments stop date: 15 April*

Moving schools mid-year is probably not ideal for any student but we understand that sometimes it has to happen.

In selecting a school at this time, of year, you may have to stretch yourself to find the right school for you and your child. The beauty of Dubai is that there remains plenty of choice as to which school one chooses.

*2013-14 KHDA change school dates

 Susan Whistler is the Marketing and PR Officer at the IB curriculum Uptown School, Mirdif – a member of the Taaleem Group of Schools. 


Share YOUR experience... Have your say here...