Another boarding school comes to the rescue of busy UAE parents
The boy's boarding house at Repton School Dubai
Dubai - This September, Dubai will see its second school adding a boarding provision - Swiss International Scientific School Dubai (SISD)
In some countries, the concept of boarding school has long been steeped in their tradition. But with just two campuses offering full-time boarding options in the UAE, the concept is still fairly new here.
Repton School Dubai was the first campus in the city to offer full-time boarding to students in 2007, and today about nine per cent of the senior school population (15 girls and 43 boys) are boarders.
But this September, Dubai will see its second school adding a boarding provision to its portfolio at Swiss International Scientific School Dubai (SISD).
Speaking to Khaleej Times, Beat Sommer, head of school at SISD, said Dubai's convenient geographically location makes it "very accessible" for parents looking at boarding.
"It gives parents the option for their children to experience world-class boarding without sending them to the more conventional boarding destinations."
In its first year, the SISD will only accept boys, aged 11-15 for boarding, with the section opening to girls in 2018/19.
Speaking about how sentiments towards boarding have changed here in recent years, Sommer said the Ministry of Education's Strategy 2020 to develop a "globally competitive education system" has been a huge boost for boarding possibilities here.
"The option of boarding school in the Middle East only reinforces this commitment to providing students with a spectrum of opportunities to nurture tomorrow's future leaders. For children whose parents' jobs necessitate frequent globe-trotting, boarding school can be the perfect solution offering stability in their education and lives."
According to Jonathan Hughes D'Aeth, headmaster at Repton School Dubai, today's busy parents are finding more interest in weekly/flexi boarding as it has become a "huge help to their family work/life balance".
However, others factors do apply too. In many cases, he said there is no access to British and IB Curriculum Schools in their home country.
"Dubai is also easily accessible from a huge range of countries. Parents and pupils like the fact that Repton offers an outstanding British Education in a very safe Muslim country, where the school is culturally aware and supportive of different religions."
Additionally, he said it cuts down a student's travelling time considerably too.
"A day student might spend up to 15+ hours per week travelling, whereas the travel time for boarders is zero hours."
With a "real mix of nationalities" boarding at the school, the majority of students are from India, Nigeria and the UK, but students from Pakistan, Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and Oman also account for about 25 per cent of boarders.
And for the most part, Sommer said boarders at SISD will likely come from neighbouring countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as well as India, Kazakhstan and Turkey.
But with tuition fees in the UAE already deemed high by many parents, and boarding priced considerably higher than regular tuition fees, are parents willing to pay the extra cost?
Yes, Sommer said, as it ensures their children have a smooth transition from school to university.
"After graduating from a boarding school students will be ready for the challenges of higher education because they acquired the skills to live independently and become acquainted with new people," he said.
At SISD, full-time boarders will pay between Dh180,000 to Dh192,000, per year, with weekly boarding priced at Dh150,400 to Dh162,400 per year. And for students at Repton School Dubai, annual boarding will cost Dh66,000 (not including tuition fees), with weekly boarding priced at Dh60,500.
Father of three, A.A., said for him, sending his children to boarding school just isn't "financially viable", but he can see the appeal for those able to pay the price.
"It instills independence and confidence in children from a young age, but unfortunately, with three children and only one parent working, we cannot afford it."
And mother-of-two B.R. said it would be something to consider.
"My children haven't reached school-age yet but I would consider it an option. In my home country, the UK, boarding school is quite common, and with my husband's work life seeing us move country every few years, a boarding school would be a form of stability for my kids."
Parents keen on boarding school> 79 per cent say Dubai is well placed to offer boarding facilities to students
> 52 per cent would consider boarding their children at a school in Dubai
> 51 per cent think it builds confidence, leadership skills and independence of students
> 55 per cent agreed that it will help build future career development
Source: YouGov (more than 2,000 respondents surveyed)