With its high standards of living, zero income tax, and excellent career opportunities, Dubai has long been a haven for expats. And now, it has become a major destination for boarding students as well! Some of the finest international boarding schools in the world have been established within the city, including Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai, and students from all over the world are flocking to Dubai’s schools to become part of this educational landscape.
In this article, we take a look at what makes Dubai such an attractive boarding destination, and how your child can best experience it.
Of course, the central metric to any boarding destination would be the general quality of education in the region, and Dubai does not disappoint in this respect.
In the 2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) study by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, Dubai demonstrated a remarkable year-over-year improvement in the academic achievements of its students. Since 2011, Dubai has been participating in the TIMSS, which evaluates students’ performance in standardised math and science tests. In one sample of improvements, Grade 4 students had improved by 29 and 22 points in Math and Science respectively, and Grade 8 students improved in Math by 8 points – versus their European counterparts.
This is, in part, due to a dramatic push by the UAE government to create a world-class education system, as part of the UAE Vision 2021 National Agenda. High TIMSS and PISA rankings, quality teachers, and improved enrollment and graduation rates are all part of this vision, and Dubai is certainly at the tip of the spear for this movement.
Dubai is a diverse and multicultural city that represents one of the great melting pots of the world. Dozens of languages and ethnicities blend and flow into each other seamlessly, and huge businesses from all over the world set up major hubs and headquarters within the city limits.
Students who study in Dubai benefit from being immersed in this diverse environment, which prepares them for a highly globalised future in which they can expect to be interacting with many different cultures, and be exposed to many languages. The school options in Dubai certainly reflect that, and indeed at SISD, our student body comes from over 70 different nationalities, and we have several bilingual streams such as English-German and English-French, conferring the benefits of bilingual education on our students.
Besides the exposure, students will also gain the opportunity to build international connections, not only with their friends from school, but also with internships and career exposure programmes with major multinationals who have established their businesses in Dubai.
David McKeown, Head of Boarding at SISD said “Boarding in Dubai is a fantastic opportunity for any student. Not only does Dubai have access to some of the best educational establishments in the world, including SISD, but it is also a melting pot of nationalities. Combine that with the all-year round sunshine, access to glorious beaches, and a host of theme parks, water parks, watersports and desert adventures, and you have a students’ paradise!
Dubai is also one of the largest travel networks globally, and can offer flights to most destinations in the world on a daily basis. With the school being only 20 minutes away from the airport, SISD is a perfect destination for any parent looking for easy travel arrangements and access.”
Boarding students in Dubai have many educational systems to choose from, but one of the best opportunities available to them in the city is the International Baccalaureate curriculum. This internationally-recognised curriculum confers 21st century skills upon its students, instilling creativity, problem-solving and analytical skills, communication, and other important “soft” skills that will be essential for the 21st century workforce.
Graduates of the IB Diploma Programme are also remarkably likely to get into top universities around the world. Look no further than the university destinations of SISD’s graduating class, illustrating how our children were admitted into top schools.
Boarding students inevitably spend time away from their families. Safety, therefore, is a paramount concern for many parents when selecting a boarding destination, and Dubai is certainly a top of mind choice in this case. A variety of surveys have ranked Dubai as being among the safest cities on the planet, thanks to low crime rates and strong policing efforts.
And it’s not just crime that is important to consider – the COVID-19 pandemic has also become cause for concern. At SISD, we’ve adopted the COVID-Safe Charter of the Boarding Schools Association, which affirms our efforts to protect our boarding students and staff from any COVID-19 infection. You can be assured that our safety procedures and practices in boarding, and across the campus minimise the risk of the virus for the SISD community.
A recent quote from one of our boarding parents: “A few years ago, I was terrified about having to send my children abroad, as we live in Saudi Arabia. Looking for an international high-school abroad was our only option. As I was researching and looking for a school close to us, I found SISD. I immediately loved what I was reading, and the feeling it had to it. We took the decision to fly there and take a proper look. Everything was fantastic: the school, the students, the staff. Since we have started the application process up until now, everything has been perfect. I have always felt very positive about sending my children there: the boarding house is a great place for students, where everything is taught and designed to make them feel at home. This has even been more the case during these uncertain times due to the pandemic: our children’s wellbeing has always been the school’s priority and this is very reassuring to us. My children have been at SISD for three years now and I am convinced this was the best decision we have ever made. Our family is already far away from us as they live in Ecuador, so having our children close to us means we see them every month, which has been very enjoyable! I am so proud of what they have achieved already, and I am convinced that the school has, and will help them, accomplish great things in life.”
Of course, while academics are a big part of the equation, they’re not the only part. Leisure and extracurricular activities are important aspects in the mental and emotional development and welfare of students.
As a city with some of the best quality of life in the region, Dubai certainly fills these needs. A variety of weekend activities are available to students, such as mall visits, trips to the cinema or beach, theme parks, and even indoor skydiving. These, and other venues, can be host to many social events such as barbecues, birthday celebrations, and take-away evenings.
Boarding schools like SISD also have an array of after-school activities for students to select from, ranging from various language and sports clubs, to music and movement and creative writing.
All of this is made even more pleasant by Dubai’s warm weather, allowing for regular trips to the beach, tours of the desert, and lots of pool visits.
Because of the different needs of expat parents and businesses in Dubai, two boarding options are available for boarding students. Whether students stay weekly and return home to their families on the weekend, or only need to stay for a fixed amount of time, each child taken under SISD’s wing is afforded the full nurturing of our pastoral care environment, providing them with a home away from home experience.
SISD offers full and weekly boarding accommodation to girls and boys ages 11-18. The newly-furnished boarding houses have four floors each, with 14 rooms and en-suite bathrooms in each room, offering a total capacity of 100 students per house. Each floor has a fully stocked and equipped pantry, and a common room with plenty of leisure activities for when students want to relax. The dormitory building also features dedicated apartments for housemasters and tutors.