Indians welcome new schools

Two new Indian schools in Dubai will help to ease overcrowded classes.

Grade One students attend their first day of class following the opening of the JSS Private School in Dubai. 350 pupils are enrolled. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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Afshan Ahmed

DUBAI // After a succession of sleepless nights, Nandish Hoovappa finally breathed a sigh of relief when a new Indian school in the emirate offered places for his children.

The JSS Private School that accepted both Mr Hoovappa's sons opened yesterday. A branch of the Indian High School (IHS) in Dubai Silicon Oasis is expected to open next week.

Both schools will help reduce the ongoing shortage of places at Indian curriculum schools by offering at least 4,800 places. Each will follow the Central Board of Secondary Education International (CBSE-i) curriculum.

Mr Hoovappa was at JSS yesterday to finish the necessary paperwork to secure a place for his son in Grade 1. His other son will enrol in September.

"Finding an Indian school is a tedious job. In most schools you lose out in the lottery," said Mr Hoovappa, referring to the system that applies at oversubscribed Indian schools.

JSS has 350 students enrolled, but there is room for twice that number, said Chitra Sharma, principal of the school in Al Safa.

"Despite being a new school, we have seen a lot of interest and continue to get admission requests," Ms Sharma said yesterday on the school's first day. As parents filled out forms, students were being eased into a classwork routine by their teachers.

Arundathi Srinivas, the supervisor of the kindergarten, said they were using smart boards - interactive white boards - for play activities.

"We will have introductory sessions, games and reading classes for the next few days," she said.

The two new campuses will cut class numbers. Parents have complained about overcrowding at Indian schools. Not including the new campuses, there are 20 Indian schools in the emirate.

Large class sizes pose problems at more than half of the Indian and Pakistani schools in the emirate, according to the 2010-2011 Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau report.

Ms Sharma said the class size at JSS did not exceed 25 students. "Parents are also interested because in other schools, the teacher-student ratio is very high and they are aware of it not being a healthy environment to learn."

Overcrowding was one of the reasons Preeti Manok moved her two girls from another Indian school to JSS. "I was not very happy there because the school had a lot of students in the class," she said. "My children were not getting the individual attention and the teachers could not really focus and work on the weaknesses of the students."

On the first day at JSS, the students lined up for the morning assembly in the compound, and were addressed by the principal.

When the pupils were asked if they had any questions, one boy in the primary section raised his hand and said: "I do not have a question but I want to say that this school is good."

Ms Sharma said the plan to have enrichment activities such as swimming and a mathematics lab had excited the students.

The library and activities room are still under renovation, but the principal expects them to be up and running by the end of the month.

At the Indian High School branch, preparations were underway to welcome the primary batch next week.

Ashok Kumar, the school's chief executive, said the number of seats offered in the kindergarten section were taken up within two hours of the announcement. Admissions are now closed, he said.

"We will be opening only KG to Grade 1 this month," he said. "Expansion to Grade 2 and Grade 3 are scheduled for September."

At the other Indian High School campus, which is 50 years old, 3,000 applications were received for only 500 KG places.

However, the IHS-Silicon Oasis can accommodate 3,000 students at full capacity.

Mohan Valrani, chairman of the IHS-Silicon school group, said: "There is a big shortage in primary grades and we will be opening up admissions for all the other classes in September as well.

"Once this school is full, we will start working on our next school. There will always be a campus in the pipeline."

Suma Deepu, whose daughter will be joining the KG batch at the IHS-Silicon Oasis, said this was the best option.

She said the fees of Dh800 per month at the new school were slightly higher but still more affordable than many others.

She would have paid only Dh315 per month if her child had been accepted at the first school she had applied to, said Mrs Deepu.

"It's a different curriculum as well, but I trust the management of the school," she said.