Mid-market schools that target working families are dominating the market.
Schools in Dubai are struggling to fill up their seats as an oversupply of educational institutions hits the emirate. Eight more schools are due to open by next year.
Currently, there are a total of 211 schools and 13,000 more seats will be made available once the new ones open.
Mid-market schools that target working families are dominating the market and have given parents more options than ever, as most of them offer discounts.
Wayne Howsen, principal at The Aquila School, said his school has a capacity of 2,000 students, which they expect to reach within six years.
“We opened a year ago and had 67 students then. By the end of June, we had 155 and today, we have 352 students. The growth is steady,” he pointed out. “I do think that there is definitely an oversupply of schools, particularly those that are affordable and are for working families.
“The way for schools to stand out is to make sure the children love coming to school. People who come to us have relatives or friends that have been with us. This is the way to make the numbers grow.”
Bill Delbrugge, principal at Dunecrest American School in Dubai, said it will take “a few years” for the school to reach its full capacity of 1,200 students. Though, he insisted they’ve seen a good progress for a school that opened just last year.
The school started off with 150 pupils and now has a little over 320 students. “That’s pretty much where we want to be,” Delbrugge said. “We look at growth very differently than other schools.
“From my experience in Dubai, what causes problems for schools is when you have a corporate mentality or you are driven by profit margins. We are run by family-minded people.”
Alan Williamson, CEO of Taaleem Education, said that some new operators are finding it “especially tough” to break into the market and achieve their projected enrollment, this is where there is mainly a surplus of seats.
“There is no doubt that in some sectors of the market there is, at present, oversupply; this is especially true in the premium sector. With 13 new schools that opened in Dubai in September 2018, five more opening this academic year and three next, the KHDA have done a great job in attracting new entrants into the market, especially to the mid-tier sector,” he contended.
“We welcome competition in the market as this has two main effects: first, it drives raising education standards in schools and second, it gives the community choice at various price points.”
Taaleem has a group of premium quality schools, all of which are rated ‘outstanding’ to ‘good’ by the KHDA and they don’t have mid or low-tier prices.
“For us, it’s all about keeping down costs while improving quality and being sensitive to the need for competitive pricing. This is less difficult to do for a group of schools than a sole operator,” he said.
“Established ‘premium schools’ with ‘a solid reputation within the community will always be in demand; are mostly at capacity and will be at the top of discerning parents’ lists.
Despite the plethora of advertising and incentives offered by new entrants to the market, statistics tell us that around 70 per cent of parents choose a school on reputation gathered from talking to friends, family, coworkers and reading positive reviews on social media.”
Most schools are also offering founders and sibling discounts to students to increase the number of enrollment.
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