ABU DHABI // An all-girls secondary school and an American-curriculum school are to open in the capital next year as part of an expansion by Aldar Academies that will take its pupil population from about 5,000 to 9,300.
The girls’ secondary will share a building that is under construction in the Al Mamoura neighbourhood, near the Sea Palace with co-ed primary classes.
It will offer the English national curriculum in the primary, while the girls section will teach the international baccalaureate diploma programme for years 12 and 13. .
“There’s a big number of schools opening up in Abu Dhabi – whether they’re coming internationally or being created nationally – and the focus of all-girls schooling has been quite minimal,” said Aldar Academies chairman Mohammed Al Mubarak.
“We felt there was a demand in this field and we should be a pioneer.”
Nilay Ozral, chief executive of Aldar Academies, said the addition of a girls’ school will help retain primary school students as they move on. “We lose quite a percentage who say ‘I want to go to an all-girls school’ and they knock at our door asking ‘Why don’t you open an all-girls school?’” said Mrs Ozral, noting that about 30 per cent of Aldar Academies pupils are Emirati. “So it’s always been on the agenda.”
The American school, which will teach co-ed kindergarten to Grade 12, will offer the Massachusetts State curriculum and is being built on Yas Island West.
Both schools will charge fees in the medium-to-high range, beginning at about Dh40,000 annually, although tuition has yet to be set.
The girls school, including the co-ed primary section, will have room for 1,800 pupils, while the American school can accommodate the same number of students.
Aldar Academies will hire 150 more teachers and staff, taking its total number of employees to about 950 when the two schools open in September 2016.
Each of Aldar Academies’s six existing schools in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain are oversubscribed, with waiting lists in the hundreds, said Mr Al Mubarak.
The Abu Dhabi Education Council’s private school master plan projected a pupil population growth of about five per cent annually, reaching about 280,000 in 2020.
About 230,000 pupils are registered in 187 private schools across the emirate this academic year.
“There are several things in the pipeline, everything from partnering with some of the best-brand schools from around the world to potentially bringing boarding schools to Abu Dhabi, high-quality boarding schools,” said Mr Al Mubarak.
The Al Mamoura primary school will take in about 500 students from Aldar Academies’ Al Mushrif School, the British primary school that has been operating out of the Al Bateen secondary school building.
The move will allow Al Bateen secondary school to expand to its full capacity of 1,300 pupils.
Aldar Academies is also working to develop an enhanced Arabic and Islamic studies curriculum by developing textbooks to supplement the Ministry of Education course that schools must teach to all students over the age of six years.
“We don’t believe that the Arabic and Islamic curriculum that was taught 10 years ago should be taught today – it should be very, very different,” said Mr Al Mubarak. “That is something we would like to pioneer.”