Dubai International Academy (DIA), located on Dubai’s First Al Khail Street, in the well-heeled Emirates Hills district, is a good example of the blossoming private education sector in Dubai.
This growth, exemplified by the number of new schools, has accompanied the “Dubai miracle,” which has been in progress since around the start of the millennium – and really began to make its presence felt around 2004-2005.
Here, we’ll take a close look at Dubai International Academy and point you in a few directions for answers to questions that aren’t immediately obvious in the school’s website.
How much does it cost, and is it any good?
Two key questions – and they could equally have been posed the other way around. The first is available on the website (as it is on the websites of most, if not all of its rivals).
There’s no point in wasting your time (or the school’s time). If the fees are outside your budgeted target, then look elsewhere. The range, as you can see, is from an annual sum of AED 36K for a preschooler in his/her first year, to almost AED 64K for a Year 13, final year of high school, student.
And I think you’d better allow for the fact there will be extras to be budgeted for. How much extra? That’s one of those questions you really need to go to the school to get an estimate…
Is this the most expensive school in Dubai? No it is not. That would be Foremark.
You can also compare fee structures with other schools. How does the fee structure compare with schools in your own country? Again, that will vary. You can do your own comparative research to find individual answers (XE.com is an invaluable tool for this).
On the whole, high quality private schools in Dubai are much more expensive than they are in other countries. I know this from personal experience, although my information is a little out of date.
Is it any good? Clearly a lot of parents think it is. It has been open for ten years now, and the marketplace rules are such that if a place isn’t performing, the customers vote with their feet.
Are there any more objective benchmarks to judge the place? I’d say so: DIA offers components of the International Baccalaureate to all three levels of its student body. For 16-18 year olds, this is an internationally recognized, high value, highly transportable qualification.
It’s rigorous, externally examined, and global. Students from Dubai are competing to achieve exactly the same benchmarks as students in any other country in the world. So, Dubai International Academy’s track record of success and achievement with this qualification will be displayed as proudly as any win-loss record of a top sports team.
It’s certainly a key question to ask the school administrators before committing to send your child or children there. I’m sure they’ll be very happy to tell you.
Then of course, there’s the grapevine – where else would you hear stuff? Just try a search with keywords like “Dubai International Academy/good/bad/problems” and you’ll see what pops up.
As with everything Dubai, Expatwoman.com’s discussion forums are the place to go. And as expected, there’s a mix of happy and unhappy (far more of the former, I think).
But is it really worth the money?
Objectively, that’s really hard to answer. A private school is a business and it needs to make a profit.
It needs to generate enough of a surplus to carry out maintenance and eventual replacement of plant and equipment. It needs to fund building and curricular expansion in future years. It needs to pay its entire faculty and staff a good enough incentive to stay and contribute to the school’s aims and objectives.
All of the above (and more) set the fee range that any school, not just Dubai International Academy, needs to operate within. But unlike Dubai, private schools in other countries often have investments, endowment funds, and even some government support, which may allow them to offer their services at a more modest rate.
In Dubai, some schools can command a premium, but maybe they offer more than cheaper alternative institutions.
So what specific “extras” are DIA and its kindred schools offering? Going back to DIA’s website, in particular the “student life” tab, I see things in the Parents’ Handbook such as: After School Activities, English as a Second Language support for non-native speakers who may be studying in a mainly English learning environment for the first time, and an on-site medical clinic, with a doctor and nurse in daily attendance.
You can see for yourselves by accessing the DIA yearbooks, found under the “Parents” tab on the homepage, the various activities, both curricular and extracurricular, that were happening in all three main areas of the school during the past three Academic Years.
Finally, there are the less easily quantified factors that only you, as parents or prospective parents, can judge. What price do you put on happiness? What price do you put on friendships and security? What is a fair cost to be apportioned for a truly multicultural and multilingual education?
Will such a learning experience make your children better adults and better global citizens than if they had been educated in more familiar cultural settings in their home countries?
Yes, pretty much all the international schools in Dubai will claim that these are the advantages of attending their institution. Undoubtedly, some will do this better than others.
Quite possibly, there isn’t a satisfactory direct link between fees paid and how happy and culturally enriched your children will be at school, but the better schools will have systems in place to monitor, evaluate, and remediate their aims and goals in providing culturally enriching and nurturing educational environments.
After doing some preliminary research of all the kinds I have suggested above, arrange to go and visit Dubai International Academy. All the good schools have open days.
Ask questions, listen carefully to answers, and above all, trust your instincts as parents. Expect to see happy, confident, but polite and well turned-out students while you’re there.
And, speaking as one with some background in education, expect to see the teachers reflect those same characteristics. Settling your child or children into a new school in a new country can be a very anxious time for parents, but you have plenty of choices.
Always trust your inner judgment, no matter what you see at first glance.