The only American International School in Ras Al Khaimah has just opened. Principal Larry Audet admits teething problems, but predicts huge growth in private education in the emirate.How do you plan to develop the school in the near future?
We've only been open a couple of months, so we haven't opened up all the grades yet. We're opening up a middle school, from grades 6-8, on the existing site in September 2009.
We plan to have 50 students registered by the end of the year. The elementary school has capacity for 300, and when we get the middle school it'll be 500. Our class maximum is 18 students in kindergarten and first grade. All other classes are closed at 23 students. Class size is one measure of quality that parents yearn to have. It's not a big school, but there's so much demand, I honestly think that we'll be full by the start of our third year.
What challenges have you faced in running the school so far?
Initially, utilities. Power and water service in a new developing city is always a challenge, so we used generators to keep the school powered until electric connection was approved. We opened later than we had hoped, waiting for final approval from different government agencies and lost a certain number of students who had to get in to a school somewhere. We remain optimistic that our numbers will grow quickly after the winter holidays in December.
What was the teacher recruitment process like?
We began in May and had all of our overseas teacher hired from North America by the middle of July. Because we started as small school, our recruiting numbers were fewer. There is a lot of interest in working in the UAE, and work outside of Dubai was of particular interest to most of our hires. Being in a free zone helps, and of course housing is much less expensive than in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
Where are the students from?
We are finding that many expatriates prefer to commute to the big city. To date, our population is 100% American enrolment, but we remain small in numbers. If we follow other American expatriate schools in the UAE, we anticipate our largest enrolment will be from North America, the UK, northern Europe, and then the Middle Eastern countries.
We're finding that UAE nationals have more of a preference for religious studies and segregation of boys and girls, so when they find out that we're a co-educational international school, some people aren't comfortable with that.
How do RAK American School's facilities and school fee structure compare with schools in Dubai?
The facilities provided for our students are among the best to be found anywhere in the international school market. There's a covered swimming pool and play areas, a pre-school exploration center, wireless computer network, and full service library and resource centers.
Art, music, physical education, Arabic culture and language and more are part of the extended enrichment for student learners. Our fee structure is a bit less than the Dubai and Abu Dhabi American premium schools.
We truly believe the cost is worth the quality our students receive. This first year we've offered a 25% discount, and next year a 10% discount. All of our textbooks, workbooks, computer usage, and instructional supplies for learning are included in the total fee package.
Has RAK American School been accredited?
We will go through the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which is the oldest accrediting agency in the US. We want at least minimal standards being met and so accreditation is truly important.
The standards we're using now are the best of American school standards. We use ‘outcome based' research. The established curriculum is written and continually revised, reviewed, and improved through teacher professional development and guided teaching practice.
How will the market for education in Ras Al Khaimah develop in the next 3-5 years?
RAK is right on the edge of a community boom in development for a variety of industries. Ask any parent with a child in a crowded school in the bigger cities and they'll say there's a genuine need for quality, accredited international teachers with experience and training to deliver the highest standards in resource and materials available. We are extremely excited about the prospect of opening more schools in the very near future.