A new report on education in Dubai found that 30 new private schools opened in the emirate between the academic years 2017-2018 and 2019-2020, with pupil numbers increasing by 14 per cent at new schools in the past academic year.
Dubai's private school population has declined by nearly 16,000 since the previous academic year as the education sector grapples with the unique circumstances presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.
New figures released by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Dubai's private schools regulator, showed 279,191 pupils were enrolled in the emirate as of November 1.
This is down from the 295,148 learners attending private schools at the start of the 2019-2020 academic year.
The number of pupils at the emirate’s private schools had climbed consistently from 193,323 in 2010 to last year's high, according to KHDA statistics.
The KHDA's Private Schools Landscape report revealed six new schools had opened this year alone, with four either closing or merging, increasing the emirate's number of schools to 210.
Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of KHDA, said 2020 had been a challenging year he but was hopeful for the future as schools displayed their resilience.
“Dubai’s school sector faced unprecedented circumstances this year," he said.
“Despite setbacks, the emirate’s school sector has not only proven its ability to bounce back from challenges but also recovered stronger and better.
“New schools continue to open in Dubai, new families continue to move to Dubai, and our educational community continues to deliver high-quality education.”
Schools around the world have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Data from the UN shows that the pandemic affected nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries, while the closure of educational institutions affected 94 per cent of the world’s pupil population.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which is comprised of 37 developed nations, found up to 60 full school days were lost between the outbreak in February and mid-May.
Dr Saif Al Dhaheri, spokesman for the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, said this week that the education sector was one of a number of fields to be affected by the rise of coronavirus.
But, he said, the UAE was planning for its recovery from the Covid-19 outbreak as it staged a gradual return to normality.
The KHDA landscape report, previously an annual publication, will be updated and released three times during the current academic year with reports due in late 2020 and spring of 2021.
At Dubai’s private schools, overall enrolment dropped 1.7 per cent compared with the previous academic year.
According to the KHDA study, Dubai continued to attract new investors into its school sector.
The average tuition fees at private schools in the emirate are Dh30,000, with 50 per cent of private school pupils charged less than Dh20,000 a year.
The report found 53 per cent of pupils in the emirate are undertaking blended learning, a mix of online classes and face-to-face lessons.
The remaining 47 per cent continued to study through full-time distance learning.
The landscape report showed that 88 per cent of schools followed Covid-19 rules.
In September and October, the KHDA team made 1,148 visits to schools.
At present, 20,445 teachers work in the emirate.
“We’re grateful to the teachers and school leaders who have been so devoted to their students and their work; to the parents who have placed their trust in Dubai and our schools; and to the pupils who have shown such courage and optimism throughout this period,” Dr Al Karam said.
“Our community will continue to work together in the weeks and months ahead to build a more resilient, future-focused private school sector.”