Dedicated to the CAUSE OF EDUCATION

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Aparna Verma

Aparna Verma

The Scholars International Group (SIG) has been educating children for over 40 years now and is dedicated to providing high calibre, achievement-orientated schools to develop the next generation of leaders. Aparna Verma, CEO, SIG, talks to Elets News Network (ENN) on the group’s journey so far, its vision, achievements, expansion plans and system challenges to primary and secondary education in the UAE

SIG has been imparting education for over 40 years in the UAE. Please share the group’s profile, number of schools it runs and the journey so far.

SIG’s vision is to develop quality schools across the region. We currently have three institutions under our umbrella and are looking to expand. Our expansion is driven by our desire to maintain the integrity of our school’s offering and our promise to parents.

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Describe your vision for SIG improvement. To what extent have you been able to translate your vision into reality in your schools?

At the end of the day, we want to be the best and we can be. We have a number of expectations which we measure against ourselves from students’ achievement to parents’ communication.

All our schools go through a continual process of self-evaluation, which is embedded in the culture of the schools. This is not only a responsibility we owe to our most important stakeholders (the children), ourselves.

With increasing competition, (the UAE is now the largest private school market in the world after China), we need to stay abreast of trends in the market if we are to stay relevant. Our focus is not just on where to improve, but how do we continually deliver on our improvement goals while maintaining a strong and cohesive organisational culture. This requires an engaged, strong leadership within each school, who can effectively shepherd change.

How do you ensure best standards in education? What are the big challenges in primary and secondary education landscape in the UAE?

Ensuring best standards in education is easy to talk about, but a very arduous and ambitious goal to achieve. At SIG, we are constantly engaged with the global educational community and the research that exists with regard to what works and what’s new. Each of our schools has its own characteristics and parent base. We recognise that each child is different and learns differently. What we attempt to do is to ensure that we get the highest quality teachers, who can meet the individual needs of each child. All our schools, regardless of their fee bracket, are known for the quality of the teaching staff. This is our focus.

As to challenges facing primary and secondary education in the UAE, there are a number of inherent challenges, but that is to be understood given that the UAE and its educational infrastructure have grown very rapidly. The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) has done a phenomenal job in a short time to raise the quality of education. I am confident that they have the vision and determination to continue with that growth. The biggest challenge that the sector faces is the lack of quality teachers.

With increasing competition, we need to stay abreast of trends in the market if we are to stay relevant. Our focus is not just on where to improve, but how do we continually deliver on our improvement goals while maintaining a strong and cohesive organisational culture

Lacking an indigenous teacher development programme, most teachers have to be hired from abroad. General global supply and demand is making this an increasingly tenuous situation. Also, Dubai schools have to pay high competitive salaries, which has a tangible impact on the schools here.

What has been your biggest achievement as a premier education group? How big is your alumni size?

Our proudest and premiere achievements are the outcomes of our students. The list of universities they attended includes Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and more of the top universities.

We have a large alumni body and are now working on our 40th anniversary of Dubai Scholars, galvanising our worldwide alumni to participate. In their careers, they are working at Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc., and they return to give back to the school and recognise the role of the school in the successes.

What systems and processes have you used to ensure the effective running of your schools on a day- to-day basis?

Our Quality Assurance (QA) is student- centred and maintains a balance with the needs of the other stakeholders. It is aligned with the school guiding statements and is a process of auditing and improving on the school’s programmes and services. The QA process is over- seen by the Head of School, who is ultimately accountable to the SIG Management. The framework is built using systems, resources, risk assessments, checklists, evaluations, procedures, policies, personnel and professional development to help effectively guide and support the myriad of functions that make up the running of a school. All supporting material and documentation is on the school intranet with appropriate access provided. The framework is additionally supported by the third party accountability, such as KHDA.

Staff ’s professional development, awareness of roles and responsibilities, and corporate standards create an environment for high productivity.

We heard that SIG is launching another school—Clarion School— in Dubai. Can you your expansion plans?

We are very excited about the opening of Clarion School in Dubai.

The opportunity to affi liate our- selves with the Bank Street College of Education, the gold standard in education, will help us develop what we feel will be the leading American curriculum school in the region. We feel we are bringing something different to Dubai and creating a shift in the paradigm as far as education is concerned. Progressive American education is giving children the necessary skill sets to thrive in this ‘new age’.

We are exploring other opportunities, both internally developed and from approaches by other parties. Our expansion plans are measured. We are very particular about every project we undertake, as they must refl ect the ethos and commitment of our group.

Keeping their children’s education in mind, parents have many priorities? What is your USP and what parents should expect from you?

There are a number of good schools in Dubai. We are unique in the high quality of our teachers. Our focus, our values and our ethos are delivered by our teachers. Parents should expect and deserve a quality education for their children and we are committed to providing that to every child, whose education is entrusted to us.

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