School Choice & Charters

Private Schools Catering to Foreign Students in Dubai

By Mary Ann Zehr — January 29, 2008 4 min read
BRIC ARCHIVE
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Ashok Kumar, who grew up in Chandigarh, India, is the chief executive officer at a private school that serves 9,000 Indian students on a sprawling campus in this fast-growing Arab city—and every day is an educational balancing act.

Mr. Kumar must make sure that Indian High School, the name that covers the entire K-12 institution, not only follows an Indian curriculum, including daily Hindi lessons, but also complies with regulations from the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Education for private schools. In accordance with those regulations, the Indian school also provides daily lessons in Arabic.

Opened in 1961, the school fills an important niche in this city of about 860,000, which has a high proportion of foreign workers—many with children—who must find schooling alternatives because the UAE does not enroll non-Arabs in its public schools.

See Also

For more stories on this topic see our International news page.

The demand for private schooling is particularly high among Dubai’s Indian population. Mr. Kumar estimates that about 30 percent of the people in this city are Indian. They hold a wide range of jobs: taxi drivers, hotel workers, bankers, information-technology specialists, and business people, among them.

Dubai is the chief city of the emirate of the same name, one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE. The Persian Gulf seaport was a stop on President Bush’s trip to the Middle East this month.

Strong Academics

Mark Stapleton, an American consultant to the Ministry of Education’s office of planning and policy, works with Dubai’s private schools. He said that many parents, regardless of national background, perceive them as providing a stronger academic education than do the public schools. A fair number of Arab families send their children to private schools, Mr. Stapleton said.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Dubai is one of seven emirates that make up the UAE.

** Click image to enlarge.

BRIC ARCHIVE

SOURCE: CIA World Factbook

For foreign-worker families, however, there is no alternative. And Mr. Kumar said many Indian families and those of other nationalities don’t really want to send their children to public schools because the curriculum is in Arabic. At Indian High School, the language of instruction, starting in kindergarten, is English, one of the official languages of India.

Indian High School charges the equivalent of $800 per year in tuition, and employers cover the tuition paid by about 2,000 parents of the schoolchildren, according to Mr. Kumar. The school waives the fee for some parents, he said.

While the school enrolls children from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds, most of their parents are Indian professionals. Taxi drivers and hotel employees, for instance, are unlikely to earn enough for the government to let them bring their families to Dubai, Mr. Kumar and staff members at the school said.

Even though many parents stay in Dubai by continually renewing three-year job contracts, the student population at Indian High School is surprisingly stable. Only about half a dozen slots open up annually in each of the lower grades and are filled with new students. About six students compete for each of those spaces, Mr. Kumar said. Kindergartners are admitted by lottery, and academic performance is considered for admission of students in other grades. New students aren’t admitted in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades.

All graduates of the school go on to higher education, according to Mr. Kumar. The largest number of graduates attend university in India, and the next-largest number head to colleges in the United States.

Ashok Kumar, who grew up in Chandigarh, India, presides as chief executive officer at Indian High School. He says the school, which provides daily lessons in Arabic as well as in Hindi, cooperates well with the Ministry of Education in the United Arab Emirates.Dubai.

Mr. Kumar, who has a master’s degree in education from the University of Toronto, said his school cooperates well with the UAE Ministry of Education, which, in his view, takes a light hand in instruction.

David Ipe, the career adviser for the school, said the Indian school teaches boys and girls in the upper grades in separate classes in accordance with ministry regulations. Girls attend school in the morning, and boys use the same facilities during an afternoon shift.

Cultural Enclave

It seems that the school is an enclave of Indian culture in the middle of Dubai. With the exception of the school’s Arabic teachers, the 400 teachers are Indian. Many of the teachers wear saris. Mr. Kumar had Indian tea brought to Mr. Stapleton and a mid-January visitor, along with an Indian lunch of curries and biryani, a spicy rice dish.

See Also

For more stories on this topic see our International news page.

On a recent day of heavy rain—so unusual for Dubai that many schools closed—Mr. Kumar decided to keep Indian High School open. He’d closed the school already for one day that week; the government had ordered that schools and government offices be closed because of traffic problems expected during President Bush’s visit.

Sayira Banu, Simran Gandhi, and Shailaja Krishnamurthy—all 11th grade girls—said they had been brought up in Dubai. Ms. Gandhi and Ms. Krishnamurthy have attended Indian High since kindergarten, and Ms. Banu has been there since 3rd grade. Their parents, they said, came to Dubai in search of better job opportunities.

They had all chosen the “commerce” track for 11th and 12th grades—all three hope eventually to get M.B.A.s. The other choices are humanities, which is open only to girls, and science.

Ms. Banu plans to attend university in India. Ms. Gandhi said she intends to go to the American University in Dubai. And Ms. Krishnamurthy said she’ll apply to universities in the United States and Britain.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the January 30, 2008 edition of Education Week as Private Schools Catering to Foreign Students in Dubai

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Assessment Webinar
The State of Assessment in K-12 Education
What is the impact of assessment on K-12 education? What does that mean for administrators, teachers and most importantly—students?
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Centering the Whole Child in School Improvement Planning and Redesign
Learn how leading with equity and empathy yield improved sense of belonging, attendance, and promotion rate to 10th grade.

Content provided by Panorama
Teaching Profession Webinar Examining the Evidence: Supports to Promote Teacher Well-Being
Rates of work dissatisfaction are on the rise among teachers. Grappling with an increased workload due to the pandemic and additional stressors have exacerbated feelings of burnout and demoralization. Given these challenges, what can the

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters Bloomberg Launches $750 Million Fund to Grow Charter Schools Amid 'Broken' K-12 System
Former New York City mayor and one-time presidential hopeful Michael R. Bloomberg aims to add 150,000 charter school seats over five years.
5 min read
New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg, second from left, and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, far left, meeting with senior students at the Bedford Academy High School in New York on Dec. 3, 2013. Bloomberg campaigned on gaining control of the nation's largest public school system. left his mark by championing charter schools, expanding school choice, giving schools letter grades, and replacing scores of struggling institutions with clusters of small schools.
Then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, second from left, and former Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, far left, meet with senior students at Bedford Academy High School in New York in 2013.
Bebeto Matthews/AP
School Choice & Charters Opinion The Kind of School Reform That Parents Actually Want
Parents' inclination to focus on solving specific problems rather than system change helps explain the appetite for novel school options.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters Opinion What Do Parents Look for When Choosing a School?
New polling sheds light on what a nationally representative sample of parents had to say on this question this summer.
2 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters Virtual Charters in Hot Water Again. Accusations of Fraud Prompt $150M Lawsuit
Indiana officials seek to recoup more than $150 million they say was either wrongly obtained or misspent by a consortium of virtual schools.
Arika Herron, The Indianapolis Star
2 min read
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis. Rokita filed a lawsuit against a group of online charter schools accused of defrauding the state out of millions of dollars Thursday, July 8, 2021.
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis.
Darron Cummings/AP