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Aparna Verma, CEO, Scholars International Group
Aparna Verma, CEO, Scholars International Group

Using adversity and obstacles as stepping stones in her journey of success, the CEO of Scholars International Group believes on the virtue of forging one’s own path in life

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Published: Wed 8 Mar 2023, 10:24 AM

Last updated: Wed 8 Mar 2023, 10:53 AM

Aparna Verma, CEO of Scholars International Group, has constantly faced and overcome challenges throughout her successful career, which is a testament to resolve and following one’s dreams. As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, we turn our attention to the remarkable life and career of Aparna Verma. A true UAE native, she is a dedicated educator who has triumphed over numerous challenges from a young age. Her unwavering spirit and unbridled passion are truly inspiring, serving as a beacon of hope and strength to women everywhere.

Scholars International Group is a leading provider of quality education for children in the UAE. Aparna’s dedication to redefining the purpose of education and inspiring young people to ‘own’ their own destinies has been shaped by her own experiences of overcoming adversity from a very young age. Aparna’s professional journey began in 1984 with the tragic demise of her parents that summer, just as she was about to start university. Her journey of internal discovery was about to come about through the harshest of teachers — life itself.


In the summer of 1984, a few months shy of her 18th birthday, Aparna found herself having to take over her father’s successful construction company as well as her mother’s well-reputed nursery. She also became the matron of the family, having two younger siblings to take care of. Thrust into the forefront of responsibility as an underage female was life-defining. “A lot of people have come up and asked me how I did it. I believe now as I did then, if you need to do something, then you just have to do it.”

While the natural choice was to shut down both the construction company and nursery, the emotional choice was a lot more difficult.


Aparna quickly realised that the large number of construction employees would be best served by assigning company projects and the team to other contractors.

However, when it came to the nursery, she could not let go as she needed to maintain some legacy of her parents. She was also a lot more confident in this regard, having a special relationship with the nursery manager at the time, and so mapped out a plan of action. And so, her professional journey began as an administrator running a small and well-respected nursery while taking care of her younger siblings.

It was only after her youngest sibling had been accepted into boarding school that Aparna felt it was the right time to focus on her own growth and ambitions. And so, back to school she went, retaking her A’ levels so as to be eligible to apply to university again. A degree in finance from Georgetown University followed and then continued with a diploma from Parsons.

Filled with ideas and inspiration, Aparna returned to Dubai at 25 with a renewed sense of purpose. Within the year, she wanted to build upon the nursery and turn it into a school. Upon agreement with her brothers, she poured much of the family monies into the initiative while raising the rest from the bank. “I do not know how many banks I approached. A 25-year-old woman did not exactly fit the banks’ profile of an ideal client. There is nothing wrong with rejection, there is something wrong with not trying.”

And so happened Dubai Scholars, one of the most recognisable and respected schools in the UAE. With students benchmarking in the top percentiles globally and graduates going on to some of the most prestigious universities in the world, the school has built an enviable reputation as reflected in its waiting lists.

However, at age 36, personal tragedy struck again as Aparna was diagnosed with breast cancer. The next few years of battling left her with a renewed sense of purpose towards family, friends and her own growth development. “It changed my outlook on life completely. It is the natural epiphany when face to face with your own mortality — you realise the fragility of life and how short and precious it is. I now spend more time with my family and I am passionate and give my all to everything I do, I prioritise what’s important to me, not worry about the trivial and be grateful for what I have.”

Working with her brothers, she started Scholars International Academy in Sharjah, which has emerged as one of the leading international schools in the emirate. It was the first BSO / BSME accredited school in the emirate as well as the first high performance learning school, with its own enviable track record of board and university placement successes.

Clarion School launched a few years later — the first and still leading progressive school in the region and recognised as a disruptor within the current educational ecosystem.

With a nursery set to launch within the prestigious Al Zahia Community in Sharjah for 2023-24 and a new school opening up in 2024-25 as well, Aparna has certainly been busy. However, she practices what she preaches — being a life-long learner. She regularly engages in continued learning, whether it be a local course or even a stint at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Aparna’s contributions to education have been well recognised, this includes the accolade of being voted ‘Arabian Businesswoman CEO of the year’. However, when asked, she says: “I feel successful when my students are successful. I see that every time I walk into school and interact. It could be a young child showing me the first sentence they wrote or last year, when a student became a top 10

finalist in the global student award and got a scholarship to Stanford.”

Her success has been built from many important figures in her life, from her parents who instilled and role modeled the core values and attitudes that guide her life, to the Nursery Manager who eventually became the Principal of Dubai Scholars, to her brothers, who have taken a role in leading the group.

When asked to reflect on her life so far, Aparna waxes philosophical, or not, as she says: “At the end of the day, we come with nothing and leave with nothing. We all have hardships and successes, moments of joy and pain. Everyone has a story to tell and mine is no more or less important than anyone else’s. I feel honoured to be profiled and if I have anything to impart, it is to make your story the best one possible.”

PINNACLE OF EXCELLENCE

From the first school, Dubai Scholars Private Schools (DS), which opened in 1976, to Scholars International Academy (SIA), opened in 2009, to their newest school Clarion School, opened in 2016, Scholars International Group has maintained its mission of educating children for over 45 years. It has provided high calibre, achievement oriented schools to develop the next generation of leaders. Don’t just take our word for it, read about the resounding testimonials from parents of these exceptional students who have shared their awe-inspiring experiences.

Anjali Goswami, Mother of Mannat Datta, (DS)

I am very proud of my daughter, Mannat Datta, for obtaining a score of all 9s in her IGCSE Board Exams, and receiving four prestigious awards for her exceptional results, both regionally and worldwide. This achievement was possible not only because of her consistent sincerity, dedication, and hard work but also due to the unyielding support and guidance from her teachers and the leadership of Dubai Scholars. I am very grateful for all the effort invested in helping my daughter realise her potential and steer her towards a successful future.

Paola Balbi, Mother of Maria Vittoria, (Clarion)

My daughter, Maria Vittoria, has been attending Clarion for six years, and we are intercontinental commuters, living half of the year in Italy and the other half in Dubai. What I love about the school is its progressive education, as the educators ignite creative and independent thinking in the students. My daughter participates in multiple Clarion sports teams and recently won three medals at a gymnastics competition. This achievement has boosted her confidence. Additionally, participating in the Lego league has also helped in this regard. Clarion’s emphasis on inter-school competitions has aided in developing her self-confidence and team spirit. Thanks to Clarion’s excellent specialist teachers, my daughter has also achieved great mastery in art and painting. Being a professional performer, I have noticed that my daughter possesses talents that differ from mine. This gives me the greatest satisfaction as it indicates that there is a school that promotes the discovery of our children’s genuine abilities. At the mere age of 10, my daughter has the ability to create incredible artwork, which has significantly boosted her confidence. As a result, she now has a clear vision of what she wants to pursue in the future. Our children are all different and Clarion takes this into consideration rather than trying to adapt them to the school they adapt the school to the children and this is what I appreciate the most.

Cariane Kapswarah Hoffie, Mother of Zoe, (Clarion)

Zoe is a high achiever in sports, having competed and represented Clarion in athletics, gymnastics, and swimming. She excels as an all-round athlete and strives to improve her performance continually, setting a great example for her peers. During the Dassa Gymnastics competition, she won gold medals in the U-8 category for floor and vault, highlighting her outstanding talent and dedication.

As a parent, I am pleased with my child’s achievements at Clarion. The school provides a fun and engaging learning environment, allowing children to learn without even realising it. In addition to her athletic achievements, she also participates in theater and singing. Even at the young age of eight, she confidently performs in front of an audience of 200 people. I believe this is a testament to the excellent educational system at Clarion, which empowers children to explore their talents and develop their full potential.

Farhat Sikandar Butt, Mother of Lamya Butt (DS Alumni)

Lamya had been at Dubai Scholars from KG to Year 13, and from the beginning, she received the utmost support from the teachers to the administration. DS gave Lamya the platform to explore her interests and excel at them, from her academic to extracurricular pursuits. All four of my kids have completed their education at Dubai Scholars because of the faith that I and other parents have in its education and administration. They all found their community here. Even now, all the way from Stanford University, Lamya still actively remembers her DS community and thinks of ways to give back to the school that gave her so much throughout her life.

Karen Tauro, Mother of Kate Joanne Tauro, (DS)

My daughter, Kate Tauro, is currently studying in Year 11 at Dubai Scholars Private School. She is the Head Girl of the school and was also the Head Girl in Junior School. The journey from FS1 to Year 11 has been extremely successful and memorable. DS provides a safe and comfortable learning environment for children. Dubai Scholars provides high-quality education that successfully prepares students for their future education, growth, and development. Kate has actively participated in the various opportunities that DS has provided. She has achieved the ‘Certificate of Academic Excellence’ for 10 consecutive years and has also won countless accolades in extracurricular activities. Along with being an academic topper, she is also a contemporary dancer. Dubai Scholars has further enriched her dancing skills; she is part of the school dance team and has won many dance competitions, whether it’s a group or solo performance. In year seven, Kate won the gold medal for the intra-school Maths Olympiad. As Head Girl, Kate has helped organise and host many events. She secured first place in the senior category of the intra-school competition ‘DS Got Talent’. She is also a very confident public speaker. Recently, Kate represented her school in the British Council Schools Now! Conference 2023 as one of the young student delegates in the panel discussion. I have been in this school for the past 13 years and have seen a school community that never stops striving for excellence in every way. I am positive that with her confidence and perseverance, she will be successful in all that she does and will achieve all of her goals and fulfill her dreams.

Elizabeth Solomon, Mother of Nardos, Year 13, (SIA)

Every parent’s dream is to watch their children succeed and thrive in the career paths they choose, and I am delighted that my daughter Nardos is taking definite steps in that direction at Scholars International Academy. Her commitment to excellence and her drive to get into the universities of her choice make me proud as her mother. I hope that she continues to make us proud and motivates other young girls to pursue their dreams wholeheartedly.

Rehana Fawad, Mother of Eman, Year 13, (SIA)

I am immensely proud of Eman’s academic achievements and of the strong, capable, and empowered woman she has become. Scholars International Academy provided a nurturing environment, both inside and outside the classroom, allowing Eman to reach her full potential. I have every confidence that she will continue to excel in all her future endeavours.



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