Abu Dhabi: The waiting list for seats in Indian curriculum schools in the capital has reached a huge total of 15,000 pupils.
While there are not enough slots in British, American and International Baccalaureate (IB) private schools, Indian curriculum schools are facing a particularly acute problem too.
"A minimum of 15,000 pupils in Abu Dhabi alone, are waiting to enrol in Indian schools.
"Our school alone receives over 15 walk-in parents each day, all eager to find classroom space for their children. We have over 3,000 pupils waiting to get into our school since the beginning of the school year, and I can't do anything about it," Ram Menon, Manager for Private International English School (Pies), said.
Despite the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) approving an extra 250 classroom seats — in the afternoon session — for KG1 pupils, Pies still faces a shortage.
Space has been located and approved by Adec to make room for 1,100 more pupils across a 12,000 square metre plot owned by Pies.
However, Menon refuses to go ahead with the project unless Adec agrees that the new premises will be spacious enough to accommodate 3,000 pupils.
No room for more
Similarly, Sunrise School has an average of 1,000 pending admission requests, for KG to grade 12, for its 2011/2012 academic year.
"There are over 230 pupils waiting to be admitted in grade 11 alone. I cannot accommodate to one quarter of that number, because I have my own grade 10 pupils waiting to enter grade 11," Rajendran Padmanabhan, principal of Sunrise School, said.
Despite Adec's regulations that schools must not exceed the limit of 30 pupils per classroom, Sunrise was granted permission to increase their capacity to 33 pupils in each classrooms, excluding KG who were allowed to increase their spaces from 25 to 28 seats.
Similarly the Abu Dhabi Indian School (Adis) says it has received 2,500 applications since April 5, and has been using a yearly lottery system — to accommodate the rising number of pupils in their waiting list — for the past four years.
"I've only managed to accommodate 500 pupils out of the 2,500. I don't pre-select anyone, or know who I'm admitting. Our lottery system gives preference to pupils on our first waiting list.
"Till about two years ago, Adis had 30 pupils per classroom. Adec, however, has allowed for 33 pupils due to a shortage of space, and have temporarily agreed to an additional two pupils per classroom for 2011/2012," V. K. Mathu, Adis' principal, said.
To address the problem, Adec plans to provide more than 20,000 classroom seats in Indian schools, while introducing another three new Indian schools by the 2012/2013 academic school year.
Although the exact data regarding the lack of classroom space and waiting lists across private schools is not available, Adec agrees that there is a problem.
"There's not a balanced supply and demand of student spaces in Abu Dhabi. Adec is working towards solving that problem by building a master plan on other projections where schools need to be located.
"For instance there's a market shortage of schools in the Western Region, which many families are moving to and are in need of good private schools," Brian Fox, Adec Division Manager for Licensing and Accreditation, said.
There are currently 175,000 pupils enrolled in 181 private schools in Abu Dhabi; with many more on waiting lists.
Meanwhile, other schools are cashing in, due to a market imbalance, by charging as much as Dh60,000 a year.
"British, American, and IB schools have the highest fees, ranging from Dh35,000 in kindergarten (KG) to Dh60,000 in higher grades.
"Tuition fees in a British school's KG can be as high as Dh46,000, while in a grade 12 American school fees can be as high as over Dh67,500.
"One IB school charges Dh35,000 for their KG and Dh55,000 for grade 12," said Fox.