Steady increase in the number of Emiratis in private schools

The number of UAE citizens enrolled in Dubai's 158 private schools has more than doubled since 2001.

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DUBAI // When it came time to enrol her son in school, Ayesha Al Janahi never even considered the free, public-school system available to citizens.

She readily joined a growing number of Emirati parents who choose private schools over government schools to educate their children.

“I didn’t want my son to be involved in a government school,” said Ms Al Janahi, 30, who studied in both systems as a child. “It’s not the same standard, you know?”

The number of Emiratis enrolled in Dubai’s 158 private schools rose by 3.2 per cent this year, and has more than doubled since 2001, according to figures from the Knowledge Human and Development Authority (KHDA).

The Dubai Private Education Landscape report, released yesterday, showed that nearly 31,000 Emiratis were enrolled in Dubai private schools in 2013-14 – 17,276 boys and 13,718 girls.

Emiratis were the second-largest national group in the private-school system, accounting for 12.7 per cent of pupils, behind Indians with 34.5 per cent.

The main reason more Emiratis were choosing private schools was because of “better teaching and learning”, according to a 2012 KHDA report.

“Their way of teaching is amazing,” Ms Al Janahi said of Uptown School, which her son attends. “It’s like they are more concerned about how they do things. They learn from doing, not from memorising, which is so good.”

International standardised test results show Ms Al Janahi’s view is not just a common perception, but has the facts to back it up.

“Emirati students in Dubai private schools outperformed both Emiratis in public schools and pupils in other participating Arab countries in reading and mathematical and science literacy,” according to the report Emiratis in Dubai Education, published two years ago by the KHDA.

Parents also cited better English-language instruction, convenient location, better school leadership and superior extra-curricular activities as reasons for choosing private over public.

Michael Embley, the executive principal of Nord Anglia International School, which will open in the autumn, said many Emirati parents chose private schools for their curricula.

“They wanted the British curriculum, and often that’s been for portability,” said Mr Embley. “They wanted access to UK or US universities.”

According to the 2012 report, 65 per cent of Emiratis in private schools attended American-curriculum schools, 15 per cent went to Ministry of Education schools and 15 per cent to British schools.

Nav Rai, business development officer at Repton School, said the fact Emiratis were increasingly choosing private schools was not indicative of any failure on the part of government schools.

“It simply reflects the fact that Emirati parents now have a wider choice of schooling options for their children, therefore it is natural they will explore alternatives to government schools,” he said.