“What were you doing when you were pregnant?”

“We are an extremely popular school as you know.  All parents want a spot at our school so really you should have thought about it earlier.”

Seriously? This is how as a parent looking for a place for her 18 months old get spoken to?

For the record, when I was pregnant I was busy enough working full time and learning how to be a new mum in a new country where I have no relatives as a support group.  I was not sitting around twiddling my thumbs thinking of what to do each second of the day.

So which part of the equation did I get wrong? I always thought that schools were there to set the example and provide children an education that will allow them to live in a society where they care for people around them, where they can adapt very easily and where they can build strong relationships. 
If that is the attitude the schools are projecting as their first contact to parents, what are they going to teach my daughter? How to be rude on the phone?

Now, as the founder of Souqalmal.com, which has now diversified in the comparison of UAE schools and nurseries, I wanted to bring up this topic of admissions within our next roundtable discussion to be held on the 26th of March between parents and schools.  The biggest hurdle of this event was to get schools to attend.

For many of the schools, it was harder to get through to the PA of the principal than to the PA of the Dean of Harvard business School ! (Trust me, I tried yesterday and got through on the first call!).

“If we are interested we will let you know, if not, you will not hear from us”

“You must understand we get thousands of invitation every day and I need to filter and decide which ones the principal will look into”

Just shocking.

The experience has made me worry about my little girl being in an environment where the basic sense of politeness does not exist. Are these “institutions of learning” dedicated to the education of our future generations or are they businesses who fill up the order book and then stop caring?

In a world where Corporates try to be increasingly customer focused, some of the major UAE schools do the opposite!

Not all is bad though.  Of course there are many schools that succeed in providing a very different experience. We will have the pleasure of hosting 4 different schools who projected the level of approachability, openness and engagement that one would wish for from an educational institution – they were approachable, a pleasure to interact with and they accepted to be part of the discussion on admissions process – already a sign of commitment and transparency towards parents.  Those are Jumeirah Primary School, the GEMS group, the Taaleem group and Horizon School Dubai.

This promises to be a very interesting debate… and hopefully provides a good platform to start addressing some of the broader issues and show the ‘right way’ forward.