A pink taxi

A pink taxi

May 18, 2011

Education Choices

I have always been surprised by parents, ourselves included, who want things to be different for their children.

In Dubai, the old timers, the ones that grew up here in the 80s, attended Choueifat school, in Sharjah. My siblings also commuted to Sharjah to the French Lycee. These were the best options for International and French education. When I bump into someone who says he/she grew up here, I always suppose they attended Choueifat and they agree, mostly with a litany of laments.

The Choueifat system is a very academic one, based on examinations and is very strong in sciences. The graduates often get admitted to the top American universities. This is what I tell anyone who moves to Dubai, in search of an International education in English. The Choueifat graduates seldom, if not, ever, put their children there. They say, they don't want their kids to memorize, they think it was too strict and stressful and they don't want their own children to go through the same strenuous experience as they did. They do not admit that they got a very solid education.

I somewhat understand them. While my children are following in my footsteps, by attending a French school (with the added Arabic bilingual program), I would not imagine sending them to Florimont, the Jesuit boarding school I attended in Geneva. If I were to live in Switzerland, I would find a good alternative in Swiss public schooling.

The reason behind my rejection of my former high school stems from the feeling of discomfort I felt while attending. I performed better than I ever did while I was in Sharjah, I aquired very good study skills and I cannot criticize its system. However, the daunting feelings of homesickness, the severity of the place, the cold and ugly corridors do not make it a prestine setting. I don't want my children to think that education is punishment!

I was chatting with an acquaintance who told me her kids attended JPS. I know the school well enough because I have many friends, some of them ex-Choueifat, who have put their children there for all the reasons that vary from the objectives set by a school like Choueifat: very good sports, less exams, less stress and more hassle free!

In our conversation, she inquired about Arabic and Hindi tutors. For the latter, I pointed to My Own English High School, which has a very high success rate because of the excellent academics (Indian education). She blushed and admitted she had graduated from there: obviously she had chosen an upper-scale Gems system for her children, but the irony is that the higher the tuition, the more lax the system.

The only friends who come to mind who have chosen Choueifat for their children and happen to be very content there,  are a French educated couple.... yet another example of wanting a different educational choice for their children!


  1. Chouiefat was named after a little village in the outskirts of Beirut.Its founder Charlie Saad was an educator who catered for problemetic kids who were kicked out or were not accepted at the top schools :The American International College,the Jesuits Jamhoor College ,Brummana Highschool of the British Quakers or the Lycee of the French system.
    Charlie Saad became famous because he offered a future for those rejected by the snobby schools,and his first investment abroad was in Sharjah due to the civil war in Lebanon and then into London and other places.
    Choosing a school or a syestem for your loved ones is rather difficult,in that it becomes a reflection to the parents' educational background.I am inclined to state that most schools are good,but special ones are needed for kids who are now distracted by so many extracurriclar activities.Most important now is that KG cost is almost equal to highschool cost which is almost as expensive as university cost.I just heard that 4 years at Princeton will make you $ 400,000 poorer.

  2. Hi! Love your blog. I do have a comment about Choueifat though.
    Basically i represented several universities and colleges in the US who wanted to increase their international students and were targeting kids from this part of the world. I therefore spent over 20 years visiting the Gulf, Levant,Turkey meeting with students from the 'top' schools and those who were considered the top of their class. most of these kids had excellent recommendations & very good-superb grades at least 3 years in a row.

    I represented 3 Ivy leagues and 2 sister ivy leagues in the US.

    I am commenting mainly because what i am about to say is not just my opinion but something many of us agree on who were in this field handling the area. Choueifat students did make it to the top schools. Only thing is their students had the highest transfer rate to less competitiev schools that we had ever seen. Many changed majors to something less demanding and so so many took more than 4 years to finish their undergrad. The majority of their students could not carry through because of the system they were used to of being spoon fed and required to memorize so much. most got through the first 12-18 months struggling and then the crash. The concept of being able to research, collect and interpret information, solve problems just wasn't there. with the exception of few, most students were average or just above BUT performed very HIGHLY in choueifat because intelligence has nothing to do with memorization. Commitment, dedication and consequences and disicpline do-and thats what they had. Cont....

  3. Cont...

    The academic system which before required the retention of vast amounts of information became outdated in the US a back in the 60'S. Ability to work your brain in many creative ways and continue to grow your capability to excel in ALL subjects and...to have at least 1 musical instrument AND 1 sport that is performed impressively is somehting the US schools have always looked for - these traits are some of the basis of intelligence.
    Furthermore when we asess success of a student, we always look at where they went and what they ended up doing - where they are in 5 and 10 yrs. Choueifat believe it or not come last in comparison to the other schools we worked with - a very pretigious girls't school in UAE and Saudi as well as very competitive Indian schools in the region. 20 years later those students are much further ahead.
    I realize i sound like i have somethig personal against the school but no not at all. When i look at for example at the prestigious girls school in Saudi and UAE mainly the years of 1988-1998, 6 out of the 10 girls (10 per class on average) attended ivy league or most competitive universities. In the 20 years not a single one took more than 4 years to graduate nor transfered to a lesser school. Furhtermore at least 75% of those girls continued to just as competitive grad schools. Today i am still in touch with so many of them who are now already paving the way for their own children. Many are entreprenuers, senior positions and more impressively have made big changes to society whether through NGO work or founding charities, social organizations to better their part of the world. i can say the same for several of the Indian high schools where so many have excelled and become leaders in teh field of computer science, medicine and engineering. you have to look at percentages. 20 students a year to make ivy leagues out of Choueifat is not a large number considering the size of their graduating class. And again so many of those 20 don't graduate from the colleges and universities they started in.

    No matter how much further a choueifat student was from another at 15 or 19 yrs old, the fall back came later down the line.

    Todays world is not what it used to be - being able to regurgitate information does'nt impress anyone anymore. Solving problems does, making empires from modest begnnings and pioneering someting completely new and different. This is intelligence which is not necessarily present in students that excel in the spoon-fed, memorization system. Its very misleading for everyone but mostly the student who realizes they aren't able to perform outside of that rigid, moulded mainstream system.

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