DUBAI // A new boarding school in the emirate will compete with some of the best and most exclusive in the world as it prepares to open its campus this year.
The first of three planned boarding houses at the Swiss International Scientific School’s Al Jaddaf campus is being built and on track for completion before the academic year starts in September.
Consisting of 50 en-suite rooms that can be configured for single or double occupancy, each boarding house will be able to accommodate up to 75 pupils from Grades 6 to 10.
The school aims to enrol 30 boys in its first year. Housing for girls is expected to be ready in the next academic year.
“If you want to flourish as a school in Dubai these days, you need to be offering something a little bit different to what other schools are doing,” said Luke Osborne, the institution’s head of middle school.
Boarding recruitment executive Nav Rai said demand for Swiss boarding schools had always been strong.
“Now the idea is that you can get that traditional Swiss-style boarding, but closer to home and nowhere near as expensive as they can be over there,” he said.
Swiss boarding schools are among the most exclusive and expensive in the world.
In Dubai, full boarding costs Dh180,000 for Grades 6 to 8, and Dh192,000 for Grades 9 and 10.
For parents who wish to enrol their children from Sunday to Thursday, weekly boarding costs Dh150,400 for Grades 6 to 8 and Dh162,400 for Grades 9 and 10.
Although the prices are similar to those of boarding schools overseas, Mr Rai said the fees were all inclusive.
In the UAE, Repton Dubai is presently the only school that offers full and weekly boarding.
In 2015, it inaugurated accommodations for girls after demand exceeded the capacity of its off-site residence. Its boarding house on campus for boys has room for up to 100 pupils.
Yearly boarding fees at Repton Dubai range from Dh136,221 for Year 6 pupils to Dh169,325 for Year 13 students.
Jonathan Hughes-D’Aeth, headmaster of Repton Dubai, said demand for full-time boarding had been “fairly static at the moment”.
Its boarding houses for boys or girls are not at full capacity.
But demand for weekly boarding had increased, said Mr Hughes-D’Aeth.
He said his school and the Swiss International Scientific School had different curriculum and boarding costs.
Repton Dubai reflected a “lower-cost British model” while its rival’s fees were “very much in line” with those of Swiss boarding schools.
Swiss International Scientific is the only school in the UAE to offer pupils the option of studying in either French and English or German and English.
It also offers the framework of the International Baccalaureate as a candidate school.
Repton Dubai delivers the English curriculum up to Year 11 and the International Baccalaureate diploma for Years 12 and 13.
Amna Al Jallaf, an Emirati mother of a 10-year-old boy, is considering enrolling her son in weekly boarding.
“My child doesn’t have any children his age as neighbours and he gets bored after school,” said Mrs Al Jallaf, noting that his education and social life would be enriched with after-school activities.
“I feel that boarding might instil more discipline in the children because they are not attached to their parents. They have a little bit of space but they are not far away.”
Cranleigh Abu Dhabi says its long-term plans include the construction of boarding houses, as it foresees regional demand.
Mr Osborne agrees that local and regional demand for boarding schools is on the rise.
“But we’re also hoping to create the demand to an extent and contribute to the UAE’s position as an educational hub, and that’s quite exciting,” he said.
“It’s not just reacting to how we perceive the market to be, it’s creating a market that’s aligned with the vision for the country.”
Some other exclusive boarding schools
Le Rosey, Switzerland
This elite boarding school founded in 1880 employs 120 teachers for its 420 pupils. In the winter, the pupils and staff retreat to a winter campus in Gstaad, “one of Europe’s most beautiful mountain villages” where pupils can ski the slopes in the afternoon, according to Le Rosey’s website.
Motto: Actis Virtus
Annual boarding fees: from 81,900 Swiss francs (Dh302,474) for juniors to 108,900 (Dh402,069) for seniors
Note: Fees don't include registration, uniforms, books, medical insurance, private music lessons, extra language classes, cultural and recreational group trip or costs associated with the International or French Baccalaureate matriculation.
Famous past pupils: King Albert II of Belgium, Prince Rainier of Monaco, children of celebrities such as John Lennon and Elizabeth Taylor, and various members of the Rockefeller, du Pont, and Rothschild dynasties.
Founded in 1934 on a 200-acre wooded campus surrounded by Scottish mountains and forests, this school has educated many members of British royalty.
Motto: Plus est en Vous ("There is more in you.")
Famous past pupils: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and his sons Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.
Annual boarding fees: from £22,515 (Dh107,107.01) for Years 2 to 8 to £36,909 (Dh175,581.28) for Years 12 and 13.
Note: Boarding fees don't include "chargeable extras," such as "uniform costs, travel, individual music lessons, additional tuition, extra-curricular excursions, external exam fees, purchases from the school shop and stationery store".
New York Military Academy, United States
Founded as a boys school in 1889 by a Civil War veteran and former school teacher who believed that a military education provided the best environment for academic achievement. It became co-ed in later years.
Motto: Set apart for excellence
Famous past pupils: US president Donald Trump, Stephen Sondheim, John A Gotti and Francis Ford Coppola.
Boarding fees: US$41,210 (Dh151,397.49)
Note: Additional fees, including haircuts, international student fees, application and uniforms, can run up to an additional $11,605. Textbooks are also extra.
Westminster School, England
Westminster’s origins can be traced to a charity school established by the Benedictine monks of Westminster Abbey. Its continuous existence is certain from the 14th century.
Annual boarding fees: Starts at £36,462 (Dh173,448)
Famous past pupils: Several world famous musicians have been educated at the school including Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, and the pop stars Mika and Dido.
The Doon School, India
Based on the British private boarding school model, the Doon School opened at the foothills of the Himalayas, north of Delhi, as an all-boys school in 1935. It operates on a six-day schedule with academic lessons from Monday to Saturday. Sunday is reserved for outings, activities and opportunities for pupils to catch up.
Motto: Knowledge our light
Famous past pupils: Former eBay chief financial officer and president of Skype and Paypal Rajiv Dutta, the sculptor Anish Kapoor and Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Annual boarding fees: 1.2 million rupees (Dh69,285), plus 6,06,250 rupees admission fee (Dh34,643) and 50,000 rupees (Dh2,857) for incidentals.