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Why is Seeking Admission to Dubai Schools Such a Daunting Task?
22 Oct 2020

Dubai has emerged as a hub of all business in the Middle East. The UAE Ministry of Education is responsible for the accreditation of schools in Dubai and the Knowledge, and Human Development Authority (KHDA) is tasked with their growth and maintaining the quality of education given in private institutions in the Emirate. Off late, seeking school admissions in Dubai has really become a herculean task. 

An education expert suggested to expatriate parents to select their child’s school maybe a year in advance so that they can find a place. But for many expatriates who are moving to the UAE on short notice, this is not possible. Imagine with almost 194 schools in Dubai that follow 16 curriculums and around 185 schools in Abu Dhabi to opt from, though there is an abundance of options, getting Dubai Indian school admission isn’t so easy.

Problem of oversubscription

Though when the registrations begin, several schools close their waiting lists in no time due to oversubscription. Most schools say that they are operating at full capacity in March. Parents have to gamble and wait for other people to cancel their admission in case they are moving out of the country or to another school. That’s the only option of a seat becoming available. 

Parents should check for vacancies with various schools at least a few months before the start of the school year. Most of the schools give preference to siblings of existing pupils. Schools also demand the registration fees for applicants who are put on a waiting list. In such a case, sending emails and making phone calls work, but it is always better to visit the school campus and meet the admissions officer in person.

Finding a seat in higher classes easier

Parents are also advised to look for schools at least a year in advance if possible, as that gives them enough time to visit the school campus, explore different curriculums, review their choices, take assessments and then secure a place. Because of so many expatriates in Dubai, parents should not give up hope of getting a seat as jobs are dynamic and people keep moving in and out. However, finding a vacancy in a senior class could be easier as compared to a junior grade as the early year classes tend to fill up very quickly.

Small class size poses as a constraint

Another problem is that the class size is mostly up to 22 or 25 students per class which are as per the government guidelines. Because of that, there are lesser seats available, and schools are mostly oversubscribed. But why is that the case? Parents are anxious, and as a desperate measure, they register their wards in multiple schools to get a better chance.

Time factor

Another factor is the time and the capability to pay the large amounts of the admission fee. Many schools open registrations about 18 months prior to the actual academic year, and so, it’s important not to delay at all. Regarding the cost, most schools are charging a Dh500 non-refundable fee during registration. So, parents who are applying in a minimum of 3 to 4 schools, end up spending Dh2,000. Now, add about Dh5,000-Dh7,000 if the child secures a seat on passing the assessment; the expense really becomes sizable and difficult to manage for all parents.

So, what is the solution to all this? KHDA says that there is a seat shortage due to a rapid rise in population in Dubai, and children are waitlisted in more than one school.

Demand and supply

Especially the established and renowned schools that offer good quality education fill very quickly and usually have long waiting lists. The only way to solve this is that current schools keep expanding and new schools are added — this way the number of seats offered will increase. The reality is that there is an imbalance in the seat availability in schools in some areas, especially in the early and primary years. The best solution would be for all the government bodies, school operators, regulators, and investors to collaborate and anticipate the demand and then provide sufficient seats in years to come. 

The KHDA also advises that while the demand for seats in Dubai schools is more in some established schools than in others, there will be some schools that have spare capacity. The best way is to check and admit your child there for a year, and in the meantime, you could continue to find admission to the school that you desire.

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