Raffles schools split from Singapore original

The developer Emaar's sale of the prestigious East Asian school's affiliate campuses leaves parents unhappy.

DUBAI // Ties have been cut between Raffles Campus, a Singapore-based schools company whose name adorns several campuses in Dubai, and the property developer Emaar, the owner of the Dubai schools. In 2006, Emaar approached Raffles, which already operated Raffles Campus in Singapore, to run the schools it was building in Dubai. In the same year, Raffles was purchased outright by Emaar, which also took ownership of the original campus in Singapore.

Shortly afterwards, Ng Boon Yew, the founding chairman of Raffles Campus Singapore, moved to Dubai to set up and run the UAE schools as the chief executive of Emaar Education. Raffles opened its first Dubai school in 2007. It now has two schools and six nurseries. Now, Emaar Education has sold the Singapore school back to the original founders, cutting formal ties between the schools. Avishesha Bhojani, the chief executive of Emaar Education and managing director of Innoventures, a Dubai-based education company which now runs the schools, said in an e-mail yesterday that the move would not have an impact on pupils in Dubai.

"Raffles International schools and nurseries in Dubai are continuing as before," he said. But some parents, who have been embroiled in disputes with new management for the past few months, are unhappy with the development. "When the school belonged to Raffles Singapore it was an amazing school and now the standards have gone down," said an Emirati mother, who did not want to be named. The woman is taking her children out of the school this autumn. "I'm getting my kids out of the school because I have not been happy with it," she said. "I don't think Raffles should keep the name, it's not the real school. I do hope that Raffles Singapore decides to open a school again here, because I would put my kids in that school."

In March, Emaar said management of the Raffles schools was being turned over to Innoventures, which also runs the Dubai International Academy. Since the change in management, parents have expressed unhappiness with several decisions, including a move to close the school's all-girls campus and the dismissal of some 40 teachers just a month before the end of the school year. Another parent, a Briton, said he withdrew his daughter after Innoventures announced its intention to shut the girls' campus.

"It's just been a complete mess around for the parents," he said. The parent added that the decision to close the girls' campus was handled poorly by new management. "It's a major hassle as you can imagine, having to have your kid change schools," he said. Part of the draw for the parent was the Raffles brand and its reputation in Singapore. "If it was not a Raffles school, I don't think that I would have got involved," he said.