Opened in 2017, Amity Early Learning Centre in the Emirates Hills area of Dubai is one of a limited number of ELC's permitted to educate children aged 3-5 years in addition to babies and nursery-age children.
The story so far
Established by Amity Education, a not-for-profit Indian based group that educates some 150,000 students globally, from babies to PhD students, Amity Early Learning Centre opened in the Emirates Hills/Jumeirah Islands area in 2017. The ELC is one of four operations in the UAE - the others include Amity University at Dubai Academic City, UK curriculum Amity International School in Abu Dhabi and CBSE curriculum Amity School Dubai, based in Al Ghusais.
Early Learning Centres have had a somewhat chequered history in Dubai, with a number having opened between 2014 and 2018, before the initiative was put on hold by the KHDA whilst clarification of a UAE-wide approach was sought. For those that did open, ELC's aim to bridge the gap between nurseries and Early Years education, where in the UAE at least, the official age to start school is during the academic year in which a child turns six years of age. Whilst it is the norm in the UK, for instance, for children to begin their formal school education at the age 3, in many European and Southern hemisphere countries (notably Australia), school often does not begin until age 6 or even 7 years. An Early Learning Centre provides a smaller environment, whilst offering the same Early Years curriculum offered in school.
Amity ELC says that it offers a "friendly, caring community where children learn by having fun". It aims to ensure that children are able to be happy and have fun, whilst learning through play, allowing each child’s imagination to run wild. The staff also believe that integral to the child's development, he or she must feel safe and secure, by being supported and feeling valued as an individual and that each child should stay healthy, through developing an understanding of healthy eating and the importance of exercise. All staff are qualified with EYFS experience.
What about the curriculum?
Amity ELC follows the British Early Years curriculum, incorporating best practices from Reggio Emilia and the Montessori system, with the aim of developing an all round love of learning from an early age. The Centre encourages interaction with the natural environment and, respecting the multicultural society of Dubai, has designed a “Peace Programme” which encourages collaboration and understanding through play.
Children as young as 40 days (six weeks) to FS2 (aged 4-5 years) are accepted at the Centre. Children are organised across 5 separate sections within the Centre, with babies from 40 days to "Confident Walker" joining the Babies Room where the Sure Start Birth to Three programme is followed. Once the child is confidently walking, he or she will move to the Toddlers' Room where the focus is on the development of fine and gross motor skills through programmes of art, circle time, story time and outdoor play. Two to three years olds join the pre-school programme, where the child will learn to develop their social skills and vocabulary, and build his or her independence through play-based learning.
Three to four year olds join FS1, moving on to FS2 between the age of four and five following the EYFS curriculum. The aim of the EYFS programme is to help every child to achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes: Staying Safe, Being Healthy, Enjoying and Achieving, Making a Positive Contribution and Achieving Economic Well-Being. The seven key areas of learning of EYFS are Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Literacy, Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy, Knowledge and Understanding of the World, Physical Development and Expressive Arts and Design. Children following the programme at Amity ELC will be able to join Primary school at Year 1 (KG2) if this is their parents' preference.
What about facilities?
Located in a purpose-built facility at the edge of Jumeirah Islands, and surrounded by greenery and waterways, the playrooms and classrooms are provided with plentiful natural light and each looks towards an outdoor space. With a number of themed gardens, and grassy banks for play and picnics, children enjoy plenty of fresh air. A Performance Hall encourages creativity and builds each child’s confidence as they take part in small plays and assemblies for parents. A library encourages a love of stories and reading from an early age whilst the indoor gym helps with to develop motor skills and provides an active indoor space during warmer weather. A shaded outdoor water play area with colourful equipment is also an exciting play space.
For families who want or need a premium, purpose-built and highly professional Early Learning environment from the youngest age to those seeking a later school start, there is no question that Amity Early Learning Centre is a good option. Staff are highly qualified and this really is very similar to a school environment on a much smaller and less formal scale.
Parents considering the option of Amity Early Learning Centre should not expect this to be an extension of Nursery from a fees perspective. This is certainly not a cheap option, with fees being in line with or above Foundation/KG fees in many schools. Fees are standardized across the ELC at AED 40,600 per child from 8am to 2pm for five days per week (there is a three day option). Additional extended options are also available, with an early start programme from 7am to 8am, and the option for children to remain from 2pm to either 5pm or 6pm. Of course, these extra hours come at a price - an additional AED 15,000 per year for the later afternoon session. There is also a very hefty non-refundable application fee of AED 2,500.
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