Would you consider sending your children to boarding school in the UAE?
Boarding schools have recently become a common topic of debate in the region. In a 2017 report, YouGov revealed that over half of respondents would consider sending their children to boarding school in the UAE. According to the survey, the emirate has shown to become a prime location for boarding facilities. Just under 80% of families living in the UAE and abroad have come to this conclusion, based not only on the education climate but also the extracurricular opportunities for additional personal development.
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 commutes to and from school every day and your child could use the extra time to spend on their studies and doing a range of different activities. In addition, boarders benefit from a structured routine throughout the day and outstanding levels of pastoral care. In any good boarding school, the academic team also spend time with the boarders in the evening to help them with their homework.
At the Swiss International Scientific School (SISD), the students also have the opportunity to access and enjoy the state-of-the-art facilities including an Olympic-sized 50 metre swimming pool, gym, outdoor tennis courts, volleyball courts, an indoor running track, soccer and football pitch, the library, innovation labs and doing many other activities. From a parent’s point of view, there are a lot of other practical benefits, for example, all the food is provided, laundry is done and students follow a daily routine and are each attributed different responsibilities within the house.
The long-term benefit of boarding is creating and instilling resilience in students to prepare them for life after school. Boarders are better prepared because they develop confidence, and are more independent and tolerant as they are surrounded by peers from across the world. They also develop a lifelong network of friends that they might fall back on as they enter life beyond school.
Every child is different and there are plenty who might not be as keen to attend a boarding school due to a number of reasons, the main being homesickness. This tends to be a standard concern or way of thinking, especially for people who have never attended a boarding school or don’t know anyone who can speak about their experience.
Today, schools and boarding staff are far better equipped and experienced to look after students and the levels of pastoral care are outstanding. Staff continuously receive training by boarding associations to guide, nurture and develop students which helps them to become mature and healthy young adults. As for homesickness, traditionally in old boarding schools, students were only able to contact their parents once a week, but as technology has evolved, students are connected like never before. They have access to Wi-Fi and can communicate through many different methods, and the level of homesickness is generally not once what it was before. Boarding schools like the Swiss international scientific school are continuously working to create a genuine ‘home away from home’.
The topic is an emotive one for parents and students alike and there still remains a clear divide on the issue. Parents, however, have to acknowledge that boarding schools have become more flexible. Previously, parents only had one option which was to send their children to full-time boarding where they would be away for several months. Now, boarding schools also offer the option of weekly or flexi-boarding.
The options are as follows:
Full boarding – The student leaves their home country, to boarding school in another country full-time for seven days a week, and they return home during the holidays. This is mainly for international students, but can be can be done locally and within the UAE as well.
Weekly Boarding – when the student spends Sunday - Thursday at school and is fully immersed in school life, whilst following a structured weekly routine and living in the boarding facilities on campus. The student then returns home for the weekend to spend valuable time with their families. This could be a popular option for parents within the UAE with a busy lifestyle.
Flexi-boarding – Parents within the school can rely on this if there is an emergency, or they have to travel. It takes the pressure of their parents if they both have demanding jobs.
Boarding in this day and age is a choice, and full boarding is certainly not for everyone! But boarding schools now are changing; it’s no longer all or nothing, the students love the responsibility and the options are now very appealing to parents within the UAE.