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Posted by Karen Thornalley

Schooling in the UAE Taaleem


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The UAE has more private schools than anywhere else in the world. However securing school places for children is potentially one of the most stressful parts of moving to the UAE, especially as parents try to choose and apply to schools from afar. The first decision that parents have to make is which curriculum that they are going o opt for. Traditionally many expats have gone down the British school route but more and more are turning to the International Baccalaureate programme as an alternative, especially if the UAE is only the first stop in their expatriate journey. Once you have chosen your curriculum, then it is time to navigate through the plethora of information on websites, forums, government rating agencies and in brochures. New arrivals in the UAE must be aware that depending on the year or grade applied for, there may be limited choice, as the popular schools usually have waiting lists, especially in the Early Years programmes and Primary School. The one universal piece of advice is to start looking at schools in the UAE as early as possible. If your company uses a relocation agency then they will usually have someone who specializes in education who should be a valuable source of advice on the current situation on the ground. They will often have good relationships with admissions personnel in the schools and steer their clients in the right direction and arrange tours for their clients. So what sort of factors do parents need to consider carefully when choosing a school for their children? After the decision has been made on the curriculum, then people usually start looking for schools around an area that they might potentially be livingin, however this need not be a limiting factor as both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are extremely commutable and schools usually run a fleet of buses into the large catchment areas. The location of the school and the facilities available are often important factors in the choice of school for parents as are the level of school fees. In the past most expatriate packages included school fees for at least two children, however there is an increasing trend towards an all-encompassing package where benefits are lumped together. Some parents are initially shocked at the level of school fees charged in the UAE for premium schools however they are in line with their counterparts throughout the world offering similar curricula. Most schools publish their fee schedules on their web sites, check them carefully to make sure that the school will fit your package and your budget. What else should you be looking for in a school? To decide this you should be that sitting down as a family to look at your specific needs. Is your child musical, sporty, artistic, are they a gifted or have special needs, do theyneed English as an additional language (EAL) support? Not all schools will be able to offer all of the above but some will have a reputation for having outstanding departments and have specific areas in which they excel. In preparation for a first contact e-mail, look carefully at the website of the school you are particularly interested in. If there is information you need that is not published there do not be afraid to send them an e-mail asking them to clarify any issues you may have concerns or questions about. However do not send a copy andpaste e-mail to all schools asking them for information that is readily available on their websites, take the time to personalize each e-mail and inquiry. After doing your research, you should have finally narrowed your choice down to just a few schools. Schedule visits to them, some schools will invite you for a personal tour and others will schedule you on a group tour, usually conducted at specific times during the week. Both types can be informative and they should give you an opportunity to meet some of the teachers and the senior leadership teams in the school. Try also to interact with as many current parents that you might meet when visiting, most of them will be more than happy to give you their candid opinion on the school. Once you are happy with your choice/choices and decide to put in an application (an AED 500 fee charged by most schools for each application) make sure that there are places available at the school. If you are told that there is a waiting list, then be firm and ask how long it is. Unfortunately there are a small number of schools that will take yourapplication fee knowing that you have little or no chance of getting into the school. An ethical school will have a comprehensive admissions policy published on their website with a list of priorities for student admissions, it will also explain how the wait list works. After receiving your application, the school will usually arrange an assessment date, if you are not in the UAE then some schools may arrange for an overseas assessment to take place and offer a conditional place on the results. For your own peace of mind ask questions about the assessment procedure but do not stress your children out about it especially your younger ones where a school is merely trying to find out that your child is socially well adjusted, developmentally normal and can access the curriculum without special help. Finally make sure that you have copies of all the required certificates, documents, photographs, reports etc. that are a legal requirement to enable the school to register your child as a student with the local regulatory body! When you have eventually landed the school place of your choice, take the opportunity to join in with school life, many expats have made lifelong friends from the parents that their children went to school with. During the initial settling in period fellow parents can also be a useful source of help and advice. If anyone has any specific questions about admissions to UAE schools please e-mail me at cpierrepont@taaleem.ae An Introduction to Taaleem, formerly known as Beacon Education, is a school management company set up in 2003 to develop and run high quality education projects. The founding partners identified two distinct gaps in the market: the need for more topquality schools to cater for the growing demand as the region’s population rockets and the desire on the part of many investors to plough their funds into ventures that will help secure the long-term success of the region. Taaleem was founded to fill these gaps. Our focus is first and foremost on o students. The comprehensive – or holistic – approach we employ means that we place as much emphasis on the emotional, social, moral and physical development of our students as on the academic. This ensures that our students grow into well-balanced, open-minded, knowledgeable individuals who are interested in the world and the cultures that colour it, who reflect on their experiences, communicate intelligently about them and hold their own wherever they are across the globe with compassion and confidence. Our Purpose At Taaleem we aim to inspire young minds, and help them to identify and develop their passions and talents. To achieve this Taaleem will provide children in the region with the skills and knowledge to compete on a level playing field with students from the world’s top schools. We also intend to raise the standard of private education in the Middle East, thereby spearheading a fundamental and permanent behavioural change in both consumers and providers of education

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