Actually, there are far more than ten things that your children can do in Dubai after regular school classes have finished. Here’s just a sample: martial arts, ballet, music, horse-riding, basketball, football, cricket, baseball, rugby, ice-skating, swimming, drama, extension/enrichment math classes, flying lessons (OK, there’s probably an age issue with this last one)…
That’s more than ten and I could just keep going. What parents with school age children in Dubai want to know is: where all these wonderful programs can be accessed, are they really any good, and what do they cost?
Start with school
Dubai’s schools serving the expatriate community have a reputation of being amongst the most expensive in the world. Most offer pre-school right through to Year 12 (i.e. “A” Level/International Baccalaureate/High School Diploma year), and are typically organized into divisions catering to the Pre-School, Primary, and Secondary age groups.
Most (if not all) offer after-school activities. Why? The customer’s needs, that’s why!
In many cases, both parents are working and not especially happy to have their children of any age arriving home mid-afternoon and having unrestricted access to “couch-potato” activities like video games and TV, or worse still, access to all areas of the house in their parents’ absence.
Try your own chosen school’s website, or ring and ask. The very well regarded Dubai International Academy (DIA) is a case in point: the first paragraph of the page on After-School Activities tells us that “a selection of activities from art, reading club, musical instruments, drama, organized sport activities, karate, computer courses, science clubs, photography, and others are offered in a supervised setting.”
These extension activities are free – you’re paying for them in your semestral fees, but access is restricted to specified numbers per activity, so registration is required – and then it’s on a first-come-first-served basis.
In addition, DIA also highlights a number of organizations in Dubai that offer after school programs, but these are on a paid basis. You, the parent, make the approach via the contact details provided. Presumably, DIA has had a long-term relationship with these bodies, and is quite satisfied to endorse them in this way.
The brief survey I carried out of other educational institutions in Dubai shows that they are equally aware of the demand – and attempt to satisfy it.
Regent International School, for example, an institution that I am not at all familiar with, promotes the same messages: qualified instructors, a safe environment for the children, examples of the programs available, and where to direct initial enquiries.
A new, one-stop-shop initiative
Wherever there’s a need, there’s an entrepreneur with a product to fill it. In this case, Afterschool.ae is a portal-based storefront for everything conceivable going on in Dubai once classes have ceased.
The idea apparently came from the direct needs of a working mother with three school age children, who had one of those “wouldn’t it be a great idea if I could…” epiphanies, then the drive and energy to see it through to completion and launch in 2015.
Read all about the birth of Afterschool.ae here.
Like a lot of Dubai websites, it’s rather “busy” – animations race past, and there’s a lot to take in on the first page, but don’t worry…
Be patient and you’ll identify what you’re really interested in, then you can navigate your way further into that for the precise details.
As a “work in progress,” it will doubtless also morph and adapt according to the feedback that customers give, so the way it looks now might not necessarily be the way it looks in six months’ time.
You can see from the variety available why limiting the scope of this article to just ten activities is less useful than actually getting a real look at the size of the field with a tool such as this portal.
But how can we know if they’re any good?
Almost all of the activities that I’m aware of have a “come and see for yourself” policy.
Some even go further and offer a “try first, before you buy,” or at least a 100% refund of fees if you are not satisfied after a short trial period. This will vary according to the individual organization, but it’s a good question to ask during the initial phone call.
And then there’s the fact that for all its size, Dubai is really just a village for the expat community. Word travels quickly and people share knowledge. There are a number of useful “Expat Info” sites, but in my opinion, the one that beats them all is Expatwoman.com.
And men, don’t be put off by the name: as a knowledge base for where to get this done, that fixed, who to see, and so on, it pretty much dwarfs all the others.
There’s a general “Education” tab right on the top bar under the logo. Mouse over that and the sub-menus open up, and there, hard left, is “After School Activities.”
Currently, this is a listing and contact information for fourteen different organizations and individuals offering the kinds of extending activities that you would expect. All very well and good, but it doesn’t tell you what people think of them, or if they’re any good.
For that kind of opinion-based information, look up to the very top bar on the home page, On the right side, you’ll see “Forum.” Click and enter.
The topics displayed are the most recent threads. To get what you want, enter key words into “Search Posts” above the topics – not the Search box to the right, this will give you a list of companies and paid advertisers.
One tip – a very general topic search like “after-school activities” might not give you much that’s useful. Use key words that relate to the specific activity or institution you are keen to know more about. Here’s an example of a thread that popped up when I searched under the keywords: drama/classes/primary.
Finally, I wasn’t being entirely facetious about flying lessons: here are the requisite links for further information. From Time Out Dubai; there’s a further link at the bottom of the article to Jazirah Aviation Club, which is offering the lessons.
I had a quick look around the site, including the application for flying lessons; nowhere does it state a minimum age. So if your 11 year old really wants to be up in the clouds… buy a trampoline!