We used to think of boarding schools as A Little Princess or Harry Potter sort of facilities where kids end up living unimaginable adventures. In the real world, however, these schools offer students the opportunity to gain independence, but they are not without their cons – just like any schooling systems.
In a 2017 report, a YouGov survey revealed that a vast majority of respondents would consider sending their kids to boarding school in the UAE. Just under 80 percent of families living in the UAE and abroad have come to this conclusion. “There are many practical and long-term benefits to being a boarding student in Dubai. To start with, and as many parents are aware, students in Dubai can spend up to, and over an hour, on the bus in the mornings and after school. Boarding would eliminate the long commute to and from school every day and your kids could use the extra time,” says Nathan Rhys Edwards, boarding recruitment executive at Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai (SISD).
In addition, boarders in Dubai would benefit from a structured routine throughout the day and outstanding levels of pastoral care. In any good boarding school, the academic team also spends time with boarders in the evening to help them with their homework.
“From a parent’s point of view, there are a lot of other practical benefits. For example, all food is provided, laundry is done, and students follow a daily routine and are each given different responsibilities within the house,” Edwards adds. Less laundry for us? Sounds like a plan.
But there are some drawbacks to boarding school. Every kid is different and there are plenty who might not be as keen to attend boarding school due to a number of reasons, the main one being homesickness. Whether your kids are going off to a school abroad, or even boarding here in the UAE, they may feel like they’ll lose a sense of “home”. Schools are working on creating this so students can feel at ease.
“Technology has evolved and students are connected like never before. They have access to wi-fi and can communicate through many different methods. Boarding schools are continuously working to create a genuine ‘home away from home’,” Edwards says. Many boarding schools now offer flexible timings, too, which may be a good fit for UAE parents. Here are your options: Full-time boarding Students leave their home country to go to boarding school in another country full-time, and they return home during the holidays. This is mainly for international students, but can be done locally and within the UAE, too.
Weekly boarding A popular option for busy UAE parents, students spend Sunday to Thursday at school with a structured weekly routine, living on campus boarding facilities. They return home for the weekend to spend time with their families.
Flexi-boarding Good for constantly travelling parents or emergencies, flexi-boarders usually stay at the school for up to three nights per week.
“At the moment, 64 percent of SISD boarders are full-time and 36 percent are weekly,” Edwards says. Boarding is no longer an “all or nothing” concept. Students love the responsibility and it’s becoming appealing to parents within the UAE, but boarding remains a family decision.
Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai (SISD), Dubai Healthcare City Phase 2, Al Jaddaf, www.swiss.sisd.ae (04 375 0600).
New schools for non-boarders
Dunecrest American School, Dubai
A community school, Dunecrest will follow the American curriculum, with the option of IB in Grades 11/12.
Opening Sep 2018. Al Barari & Living Legends, Dubailand (04 333 6996).
Fairgreen International School, Dubai
Aiming to promote sustainability in all its forms, the IB curriculum school will teach students about impactful environment-related behaviours.
Opening Sep 2018. Sustainable City, Dubailand (04 349 9989).
South View School, Dubai
Adopting the British curriculum,this new school will focus on students’ access to global opportunities, as well as also fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in kids.
Opening Sep 2018. Remraam, Dubailand (058 578 7392).