From desert gardens to mock banks, Dubai schools get creative to attract more pupils

Dubai has 206 private schools and new institutions are having to work a little harder to carve out their niche


EMS Founders School in Al Mizhar Principal Nigel Cropley, at the school's Founder's city.

(Photo by Reem Mohammed/The National)

Reporter: Anam Rizvi
Section:  NA

Dubai educators are trying new approaches in their attempts to attract pupils amid fierce competition.

Sustainability and the environment are being used to attract new pupils, with many of the schools that opened this year encouraging children to grow their own food.

At the Aquila School, pupils will have a 1,500 square metre indoor organic garden that will be solar powered and use recycled water.

Principal Wayne Howsen said the school, which has a desert gardening programme, was interested in food technology.

“It will do them good to think about what’s going to happen,” Mr Howsen said.

“We are starting by growing herbs, spinach, berries and tomatoes.

“We expect to generate half a tonne of produce a month by the end of November. The children can sell this to the community or contribute to school dinners.”

Dunecrest American School has living walls and tower gardens where pupils will grow food and herbs.

“We are hoping they will learn the skills here and use them in their homes,” said Bill Delbrugge, the school’s director.

Another new school, Gems Founders School Al Mizhar, has outdoor communal classrooms where children will play musical instruments, engage in role play or build objects.

The school has also made an area called Founders City, where children aged between three and six are taught how to use money.

It includes a market, clinic, restaurant and bank where children can learn how to spend and save, developing their understanding of the world and their language skills.


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Fairgreen International School is focusing on sustainability and trying to help its pupils to become caring global citizens.

Director Graeme Scott said the school would focus on the social and emotional health of pupils and said its building was designed with sustainability in mind. The bathroom taps mix air with water to be more efficient.

“Our children will be diving into these subjects and critically examining climate change, renewable energy and economic sustainability,” he said.

“They will be doing their own research and coming up with their own conclusions.”

South View School and Dubai International Academy Al Barsha have developed their own mother tongue programmes, where children will learn in their native languages.

The Al Barsha is offering the programme in Dutch and will be extending it to Italian, Spanish and Hindi.

“In Dubai, we have communities coming in from many parts of the world. They want to maintain the language,” principal David Hicks said.

“We want to facilitate that and connect families. This is a community support programme as well.”

Anam Rizvi