Private schools in Dubai becoming over commercialized


The opening of a new Starbucks branch in the central reception area of Gems’ Jumeirah Primary School (JPS) has created much contradictions between parents recently.

While Starbucks is a  popular brand in Dubai, parents are concerned about the potential threats that a coffee shop introduces to children. It is not understandable why  will educational institutions  empower  food and beverage franchise to fundamentally alter the environment the school is responsible for creating. Schools are associated with strictly academic activities and are not supposed to offer leisure facilities and spoiling choice of food.

Parents are worried that their kids will overindulge in the unhealthier selection of food offered by the coffee chain. Muffins, donuts, delicious cookies and sugary caffeinated drinks  should not be offered to primary school kids.

Definitely, children have a choice what to consume, same as parents, but experts’ studies show that children tend to consume what is most readily available to them. Even something as simple as putting the orange juice cartons on the lunch line closer within a child’s reach than fizzy drinks bottles, increases the child’s consumption of orange juice cartons. Choices are strongly influenced by availability, which is up to the school to provide.

Parents were also are concerned about the security of their children. While staff and service employees are generally entrusted, other visitors are viewed as strangers.

However, the deepest concern is the general attitude of the Dubai schools towards the  school business. In this particular case, Starbucks has agreed to share sales proceeds with the Jumeirah Primary School (JPS), as a way to boost funding for school programs. But generating revenues is not the primary purpose of school’s activities. The school may decide venturing into more businesses with the time. For example, Subway may be more profitable than the Starbucks. Already some schools based uniform shops, as for example in Repton and Deira International School are competing with Mcgrudy’s  specialized uniform store. Books and sports equipment stores can also be profitable, along with wider selection of food providers, in similar to a food court arrangement.

How the choices the school makes on behalf of students and parents contributes towards the academic foundation children are supposed to receive is a broad subject. The problem with outsourcing revenue to an alternative source is that the system becomes dependent on influences that may negatively affect its effectiveness and directly contradict its purpose.

At a glance, there is nothing wrong with having coffee shop in the school. The educational institution is merely providing a venue for parents to meet and discuss issues, as they can do any where else in Dubai. Parents have agreed with the choice of a coffee shop to be imposed on them and their children, by selecting the particular school. Students should accept the choices already made for them by their parents and the school. Finally, if the school decides to open a coffee shop  in the school reception area to offer coffee and cheese cakes to students and parents, as Repton school did, everyone  is expected to be happy.

However, school administrators have to consider the deeper implications of having various business establishments operating on their premises. Private schools in Dubai already generate good revenues from high tuition fees, that do not always correspond to their levels of achievements. According the recent KHDA School Inspection report, only five schools have been classified as “outstanding”, while majority of the rest simply as “good” and “acceptable”.

Perhaps, school administrators and governors should focus on what exactly is the main purpose and concept of schooling. Dedicating less time and efforts on negotiations and discussions how to hook students and parents on cream-laden skinny lattes could help them achieving better academic standards.



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