Waiting lists full at some Dubai private schools before January term

New schools opening to meet demand as an increasing number of families move to the emirate

Fifth-year pupils at the Gems Metropole School in Al Waha, Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
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Some Dubai private schools have waiting lists in place before the new term starts in January, with several reporting they are full.

School groups are expanding capacities or opening new schools to meet demand amid a sharp increase in families moving to the UAE.

Zafar Raja, group chief operating officer at Gems Education, said that it started the 2023-24 academic year with the highest number of pupils in its 64-year history.

“Many of our 42 schools in the UAE are now either full, with waiting lists, or close to capacity,” said Mr Raja.

“We are making considerable investments in new and existing schools to meet growing demand."

Chinese nationalities grew 28 per cent and Russian nationalities grew 24 per cent. Dutch and French both grew 18 per cent
Lisa Whyte, head of admissions, Taaleem

Gems Metropole School Al Waha opened in August, and Gems recently announced the launch of its first net-zero energy school, Gems Founders School Masdar City, in August 2024.

Gems is also adding capacity to some of its most in-demand schools, such as Jumeirah College, Gems Wesgreen International School Sharjah and Gems Founders School Al Mizhar.

Mr Raja said there were still spaces available at many of the schools in some year groups.

He said schools opening in the 2024-25 academic year would be announced.

"This growth and our record enrolment numbers reflect the increasing demand for quality education in the Emirates, fueled by population growth, market conditions, a buoyant economy, and the enduring attractiveness of the UAE, with its high level of security, infrastructure, and entrepreneurial and enterprise-enabling environment," said Mr Raja.

“The UAE’s relative stability during the Covid years and now the country’s favourable economic conditions have resulted in an influx of families from around the world looking to make the Emirates their home.”

Lisa Whyte, group head of admissions at Taaleem, said: "Waitlists of 100-plus can be found throughout the year groups in each Taaleem premium school.

“This is normal for Dubai British Schools and Jebel Ali School, but this is the first time we have multiple waitlists across IB schools like Jumeira Baccalaureate School and Greenfield International School.”

She said waitlists were predominantly in primary year groups, but there has also been an influx of secondary pupils on the waitlists.

"I think definitely more people are staying because our number of leavers who have left at the end of last year has gone down. Also, the demand is there because we have waitlists now in schools that we didn't have waitlists earlier."

Ms Whyte said Dubai British School Jumeirah Park, Dubai British School Emirates Hills and Jebel Ali School have seen an increase in the number of pupils in Year 10 and Year 12, when GCSE and A level studies begin – evidence that more mature pupils are coming to Dubai.

“At the end of the academic year is when we always get the highest number of families relocating and this year relocations showed that the number of relocating pupils had dropped," said Ms Whyte.

"On average, we would see 10-12 per cent of the total enrolled relocate out of Dubai, but this year that was as low as 5 per cent for some schools, with the average across all premium schools at 8 per cent.

"Due to the large influx of new families entering the country over the summer, by the first week of school, all 10 Taaleem premium schools had achieved their budgeted target for enrolment in 2023-24.

Diverse mix

Taaleem has more than 14,000 pupils across 10 premium schools.

Ms Whyte said British nationals made up the majority of pupils enrolled, followed by Indians, but there was a more diverse mix of nationalities now, with more Russian and Chinese pupils enrolled.

"These two (Britain and India) nationalities are still our biggest nationalities across the premium schools, but due to other nationalities coming into the country, the dynamics of the schools are different," she said.

"Chinese nationalities grew 28 per cent and Russian nationalities grew 24 per cent. Dutch and French both grew 18 per cent."

Rashmi Nandkeolyar, headteacher at Delhi Private School Dubai, said there isn’t a single place available at her school.

"During the pandemic, in schools like ours, which are good value for money, suddenly there was a huge influx of enrolment," said Ms Nandkeolyar.

"Because we had online classes, we could accommodate a few more pupils. Now we are at full capacity and we don't have a single spot."

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Updated: December 28, 2023, 6:40 AM