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Abu Dhabi parents get new school year jitters

Most Abu Dhabi schools report overwhelming registrations despite limited seats

Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News Archives
Little minds bent on getting a good education. Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: As the new academic year draws closer at Indian curriculum schools, parents in the capital have once again begun searching frantically for admission in schools for their children.

Most school authorities however reported that despite many additional registrations, they have already filled the available spaces for the 2013-2014 academic year, especially for the kindergarten classes and Grade 1.

“My son is almost four years old now and so I began to apply to the various Indian curriculum schools last November. Yet we have been unable to find admission for him,” Amit Agarwal, a 35-year-old banker from India, told Gulf News.

Agarwal said he had applied to more than six schools in the capital but had not received a positive response from any.

“If I am unable to get admission, I might have to send my family back home to India. But I prefer not to do so because it is difficult to live away from one’s family and also because it would disrupt my son’s development,” he added.

The academic year in Indian curriculum schools begins in April.

For the last few years, a persistent shortage of seats in private schools has concerned parents in the capital. The shortage stems partially from the closure of villa schools, which were found to be unsafe for children by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec). In addition, limited investment in the private education sector so far has also meant that few new schools seats become available each year.

When asked, school principals said it was difficult to estimate the exact number of pupils looking for admission this year, especially as parents tend to submit registrations at multiple schools in the hope of getting admission.

However, an Adec forum organised to encourage investment in private education heard in January 2013 that 69 per cent of all private schools in the emirate already enrol more pupils than their actual capacity. In addition, Adec officials said that by 2020, nearly Dh4 billion must be invested to build 100 private schools in the emirate to serve the education needs of middle and low-income earning families.

At present, more than 198,000 pupils, representing 60 per cent of all schoolchildren in the emirate, are enrolled at 185 private schools, including Indian curriculum schools.

“Every year, we see the greatest demand for school seats at the KG 1 and Grade 1 levels. Many of the available seats are taken up by the siblings of existing pupils, and we then conduct a lottery for the remaining seats,” said N. C. Vijayachandra, principal at Abu Dhabi Indian School.

This year, only 75 seats were available in KG 1, although the school received more than 1,500 registrations from parents. It also received 900 more registrations for Grade 1, despite only a handful of seats being available.

“We understand that the limited number of seats presents a difficult situation for parents. However, our resources are functioning at maximum capacity at present with about 6,500 admitted pupils. The school is also working on acquiring an additional plot of land in Al Wathba. The development of facilities there in a few years should help to ease the situation for parents,” said V. K. Mathu, adviser to the school’s board of governors.

At the newly opened Bright Riders School in Mohammad Bin Zayed City, nearly 900 seats in KG 1, KG 2 and Grade 1 have already been filled, said B. R. Shetty, the school’s chairman. Because the school is still receiving more than 100 calls each day asking for registration, a request has also been filed at the Adec for additional places to be granted at a new block before the start of the academic year.

On the other hand, Sunrise English Private School in Mussafah has been unable to offer any new admissions in the upcoming academic year, said Rajendran Padmanabhan, the school prinicipal.

“In the last three years, we had received permission from the Adec to enrol three extra pupils per classroom till March 2013. At the end of the period, we have to move the extra pupils out of each section and form new classes. This has already filled up all available spaces in our school,” Padmanabhan said.

Out of more than 2,300 registrations at The Model School Abu Dhabi, only about 400 can be accepted for admission, said Dr V. V. Abdulkader, school principal.

“We tend to prioritise the children of parents who have just moved in from India over those who are trying to move their children from other schools,” he added.

At the Emirates Future International Academy, nearly 250 pupils have been taken in for KG 1. The school, however, received about 400 registrations, said Sridevi Muthukumaran, the school’s HR and administrative officer.

“About 50 children, mostly siblings of existing pupils, will be admitted at the start of the new academic year in the kindergarten level,” said Sister Minnette, a teacher at St Joseph’s School Abu Dhabi. She added that more than 170 parents had approached school authorities for admission.