Dubai schools prepare for population boom with 550,000 pupils expected by 2040

Hiring boom expected as thousands more teachers will be needed

Pupils on A-Level results day at the Gems Metropole School in Motor City, Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
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Dubai's leading school operators are set to embark on major teacher recruitment drives to keep pace with the emirate's population boom.

Experts project the emirate's population, which crossed 3.5 million in April, will surge to 5.8 million by 2040, bolstered by a fresh wave of post-pandemic immigration.

Dubai's daytime population — a figure which includes commuting workers who live in other emirates — is set to soar to 7.8 million by this time.

In anticipation of the growing population, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, last year, unveiled the 2040 Urban Master Plan.

There's going to be a huge requirement for teachers in Dubai and what better way of doing so than by growing our own forces from within
Poonam Bhojani, Innoventures Education

The ambitious blueprint for the future calls for a 25 per cent increase in land allocated to health and education facilities to serve the increasing number of residents.

Figures released this week showed Dubai's pupil population had risen above 326,000 — up from about 303,000 in April.

If Dubai's population does reach 5.8 million by 2040, the school population could approach 550,000.

Private school group set to double in size

Alan Williamson, chief executive at Taaleem, said the school group had doubled its pupil population in the last two years and he said he was hoping to double it again by 2027.

“We went from 13,200 pupils in 2020 pupils to having more than 27,400 in 2022,” said Mr Williamson.

“We expect to continue the growth trajectory of Taaleem in line with the growth of the UAE’s population.

“The fact that Taaleem have a growth trajectory and are planning for the same again, in relation to the previous growth over the last four years would mean that we would need more schools.”

Taaleem has a staff of 1,700 teachers at present and Mr Williamson said that if they were to double their pupil population in the coming years, they may need to hire 1,000 to 1,500 more teachers.

He said independent market research shows there would be 60,000 new pupils in the UAE over the next five years.

“We will also look to quickly pivot to any acquisition that becomes available through us in the market,” said Mr Williamson.

“If you take the five-year strategic plan of Taaleem, we're aligning that with private sector market research and government publications.

“With over 60,000 additional young people coming into the UAE and Dubai, these young people will need schools, and Taaleem will be at the heart of that.”


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Mr Williamson said the school group’s long-term strategy took into consideration the 2040 urban expansion plan and they aimed to build schools to serve developing areas.

Taaleem has announced it will be opening a school in Mira and another in Jumeirah in 2024.

“One of the things I've always thought would have been amazing is for there to have been a school on Palm Jumeirah. I think it's an opportunity as we develop that area of the city to have a school at the heart of that community,” he said.

There were more than 20,000 teachers employed at Dubai’s private schools in 2021, and experts predict this number will grow in line with the emirate itself.

Ashwin Assomull, head of LEK Consulting's Global Education Practice, said the city could expect to welcome hundreds of thousands of pupils in the years ahead, with thousands more teachers needed to meet demand.

“If the population of the city now is what three and a half million and we have 326,000 pupils at private school, so you would probably think that that will probably double again, if you're going to double population,” said Mr Assomull.

'Huge requirement for teachers'

Innoventures Education, which employs 700 teachers across its five schools and seven nurseries in the emirate, aim to expand by more than 35 per cent over the next five years.

Early in 2023, the school group will commence a project to build a school in one of newer communities identified in Dubai’s Vision 2040.

Poonam Bhojani, chief executive of Innoventures, which runs the Raffles and Dubai International Academy (DIA) group of schools, predicted strong demand for teaching staff.

“There's going to be a huge requirement for teachers in Dubai and what better way of doing so than by growing our own forces from within," she said.

“As part of the Emiratisation programme, we are also seeking to develop Emirati talent in teaching areas. I think this would be like a huge opportunity for us to be able to leverage Emirati talent.

“For any country to expand its population so rapidly requires the highest levels of skills and talent and that is where we come into the picture.”

Zafar Raja, group chief operating officer at Gems Education, said it was prepared to meet the needs of a growing city.

“In the last 12 months, we have increased capacity across a number of our schools and opened new campuses in order to better serve our communities and meet rising demand," he said.

“We do have plans for further growth in Dubai and these will be shared with our existing families and the wider Dubai community as we progress them.”

Updated: November 20, 2022, 10:46 AM