ABU DHABI // Education chiefs in Abu Dhabi are offering free land to investors to build private schools to tackle a growing shortage of places.

Adec, the Abu Dhabi Education Council, hopes new schools on the free land will create 11,000 places by the academic year 2015-2016. The places are needed to partially offset a shortage that will grow further when Abu Dhabi government rules requiring its staff to live in the emirate come into force next month.

Demand for private school places already outstrips supply by about 25,000, and the council estimates that by the 2015-2016 academic year demand will have risen by a further 25,000.

In the last academic year about 175,000 children – 60 per cent of all pupils in the emirate – attended private schools in Abu Dhabi. Of the 183 private schools, 70 per cent were oversubscribed.

“Currently there is a demand to provide 201,744 private school seats and supply is 175,441. By the 2015-2016 academic school year we expect this demand to rise to 225,521,” said Tareq Al Ameri of Adec.

“Thus we are involved in providing all opportunities possible to facilitate the opening of new private schools.”

Plots of land will be offered in Khalifa City A, Al Wathba and Al Falah and Adec is inviting serious investors with expertise and a track record in education to apply.

“Providing this land is part of Adec’s strategy to offer high quality affordable education across the private school sector and to increase the supply of school seats in populous areas in Abu Dhabi,” said Hamad Al Dhaheri, executive director of Adec’s Private Schools and Quality Assurance department.

“For that reason, Adec is reaching out to qualified investors on a local, federal and regional level who have excellent educational experience, strong financial capabilities and a proven record of managing schools.”

Mr Al Dhaheri said there was no more land available on Abu Dhabi Island, so outlying areas such as Khalifa A were selected as these were popular with families and still relatively close to the city.

“The island of Abu Dhabi is saturated,” he said. “In addition these areas are growing by the day and are attractive for many families who chose to relocate there.”

Adec declined to specify how many plots would be made available, but said the new schools would offer the most in-demand curriculums – Indian, American, British and Ministry of Education.

Investors will be asked to start applying for the land from September.

Adec said it would provide support ranging from help with obtaining licences to providing business development expertise and guidance during construction.

Bushra Hayatli, a mother of four school-age children, cautiously welcomed the move.

“Having more school seats is a good step but it will only be effective if Adec sets a ceiling for the fees for these schools,” she said.

It was not merely a lack of places that was challenging for many parents, said Mrs Hayatli, it was that even when places were available, they were often not affordable.

“The problem is that many schools are increasing the fees so much that many low and middle income families can no longer afford them.”

source: http://www.thenational.ae