Minerva Education Business Solutions: Transforming UAE Schools

Aryeah Mohasses, a seasoned expert in education and the creator of Minerva Education Business Solutions, is leading the ever-changing educational landscape of the UAE. With more than 15 years of involvement in the UAE’s K-12 education sector, Mohasses offers a vast reservoir of knowledge and proficiency.

Through Minerva, Mohasses is spearheading initiatives to support schools and investors in navigating the changing educational landscape, emphasizing innovation, differentiation, and commercial competitiveness.


“The transformation of the UAE’s educational offering over the last two decades is nothing short of extraordinary,” Mohasses tells EdDesign.


In this exclusive interview with EdDesign, Mohasses sheds light on the evolution of the UAE’s educational market, innovative strategies for school success, and the pivotal role of collaboration in shaping the future of education in the region.

Aryeah Mohasses

EdDesign: Can you share your background and what led you to establish Minerva?

Aryeah Mohasses: Although I am originally from Canada, I am a product of the UAE’s K- 12 education system, having been lucky enough to live here since 1997. Education has always been a part of my life; coming from a family of educators, I was always passionate about making a real impact in the field.  Soon after graduating from the University of Toronto,  I returned to the UAE to begin my professional career in education. 

With over 15 years of experience in K-12 education within the Emirates, including senior roles at GEMS Education and Aldar Education, I have witnessed the dynamic growth of education in the UAE firsthand. I have had the opportunity to support over 70 existing schools and 40 new schools in my career to date. I have led strategy, innovation and business transformation for some of the largest school groups in the region.

Born out of a desire to further support the growth of outstanding education in the region, in 2022, I founded Minerva Education Business Solutions, a specialist consultancy that supports both investors and existing schools in the region that want to be more commercially competitive.


EdDesign: How has the UAE’s educational landscape evolved during your journey through its K-12 system?


The transformation of the UAE’s educational offering over the last two decades is nothing short of extraordinary; the rate of growth and breadth of options for parents today make it a very competitive and attractive investment space. Today parents are offered a wealth of choices when selecting schools, being able to pick the curricula, fee points and education environment that best suits their child and their individual needs.
Aryeah Mohasses, Seasoned expert in education and the creator of Minerva Education Business Solutions
Aryeah Mohasses


EdDesign: How would you describe the current UAE education market for potential investors or operators, and are there specific demands or gaps you'd highlight?

Aryeah Mohasses: Dubai’s education market [have witnessed] a remarkable 12% growth last year, a significant rise from the historical averages, with about 39,000 new students joining Dubai's schools. Parents are increasingly discerning, seeking schools aligned with their child's needs. This shift has made education less ‘sticky’, prompting movement between schools and creating space for new entrants catering to specific demographics or tailored programs. Through Minerva, we have been able to help schools emphasize their Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) and differentiate their approach to teaching and learning from the competition.


EdDesign: What innovative marketing strategies have you seen schools employ to attract parents in a crowded market?

Aryeah Mohasses: In today's education landscape, schools recognize the inadequacy of generic descriptors like "outstanding British or American education". Parents seek nuanced information and understand the value of individualized learning and the unique needs of their children. To stand out, schools now need to carefully consider their positioning within the market and their associated parent engagement strategy. Some schools focus on how to prepare students for future careers in entrepreneurship, while others emphasize sustainability, integrating eco-friendly practices across their campus. However, as the market matures, effective communication becomes paramount. Schools must learn to effectively articulate their USP clearly, distinguishing their institution amid competition, and ensuring clarity in a crowded educational sphere.


EdDesign: As a parent, how do you balance trust in official ratings like the KHDAwhen choosing a school for your child?

Aryeah Mohasses: School inspection ratings can be very important and play a significant role in the development of a school but they are just one of a handful of factors that influence enrollment decisions. In addition to school ratings, the personal connection parents and their children feel towards a school is critical when making their final selection.


Interestingly, in the UAE, families often prioritize selecting a school before a residence; underscoring the importance of finding the right school. Balancing official assessments with personal connections is key, reflecting the weight parents place on their children's education.
Aryeah Mohasses, Seasoned expert in education and the creator of Minerva Education Business Solutions
Aryeah Mohasses


EdDesign: When opening a school in the UAE, what curriculum advice do you offer? Does demand vary by location and demographics, or are certain curricula generally in high demand?

Aryeah Mohasses: Selecting a curriculum for a school hinges on the community's demographics and location; tailoring offerings to the catchment area is crucial. Demographic analysis and understanding anticipated population changes for your target plot 8 to 10 years in the future is vital to ensure you develop a school with a consistent pipeline of new enrollments.

A great school can also act as a phenomenal anchor to a residential community, driving investors and renters to the residential property market while fostering a vibrant neighbourhood's development. This synergy between residential areas and education can strategically shape housing communities, enhancing the overall appeal and viability of an area.


EdDesign: In the collaborative model between developers and educational operators, how does the selection process typically occur? What's the most effective way to initiate such collaborations for mutual benefit?

Aryeah Mohasses: In an ideal collaboration between developers and educational operators, the master developer would have an initial vision for a community and strategically plan the school as a central core element. Through understanding the target demographic, family personas are created to tailor the school to their needs, making it an anchor for attracting families. This proactive approach prioritizes the school, ensuring its integral role in attracting residents to the community. Emphasizing the school's commercial value in creating a vibrant, education-centered community, where the school becomes a key driver in developing attractive living spaces.


EdDesign: Do developers usually use in-house architects or external firms when building schools? Are there notable architectural firms in the UAE known for designing schools?


Some of the best examples of new school builds are the result of when educators and architects can work hand in hand to develop creative solutions to real problems educators face when operating their schools. Some developers have in-house teams while others may prefer to partner with specialist school design firms but with over 220 schools in Dubai alone, local talent and expertise in school design are abundant in the region.
Aryeah Mohasses, Seasoned expert in education and the creator of Minerva Education Business Solutions
Aryeah Mohasses


EdDesign: Can you highlight a school that you find innovative in its design and approach, something that stands out and showcases a modern and creative educational environment?

Aryeah Mohasses: It is always hard to pick just one school but a key trend we have been seeing is that schools are starting to push back on traditional teaching methods and are more open to utilizing unconventional spaces like cafeterias to develop mixed-use learning spaces. A greater emphasis on vocational learning has also prompted inventive designs, fostering dynamic education experiences that are more practical and hands-on.

One of the few positives that came from COVID-19 was that it sparked a shift towards flexible and adaptive learning environments designed to give students greater agency over their learning, specifically where and how they learn.


EdDesign: Do you foresee boarding schools becoming more popular in the UAE?

Aryeah Mohasses: Boarding is an intriguing model, but historically, UAE families exploring boarding options often look overseas, considering programs in North America and Europe. Boarding does become particularly interesting when developing unique programs, such as an elite sports academy. A boarding program could be compelling as it would allow an academy to offer sports training throughout the entire day and accommodate classes around a rigorous training schedule. However, when considering more conventional school programs, boarding isn’t as prevalent in the UAE with only a handful of schools currently offering boarding programs


EdDesign: Do schools need specialized equipment for STEM and STEAM education?


I think the best integration of STEAM programs within schools is when they are creatively integrated throughout the school rather than confined to dedicated labs. This approach fosters creativity and maximizes the use of available funds whilst also enabling broader student engagement. While well-equipped labs are crucial, their effectiveness hinges on effective timetable and integration across the curriculum.
Aryeah Mohasses, Seasoned expert in education and the creator of Minerva Education Business Solutions
Aryeah Mohasses


Another factor that cannot be underestimated is investing in teacher professional development. Investing in advanced equipment without training teachers is a recipe for disaster. Effectively placed professional development will ensure schools get the most out of their investment in equipment and has the added value of helping drive teacher retention and engagement.


EdDesign: How can facilities like planetariums and observatories be kept vibrant and utilized regularly, considering their high demand in various countries?

Aryeah Mohasses: Whilst having custom-designed, single-use facilities such as a planetarium or an observatory may sound impressive, the effectiveness of such spaces depends on how well they are utilized and how well-trained the teaching staff are at operating the space and incorporating them into the curriculum.

Through Minerva’s work with schools in the region, we have generally seen a move away from fixed-used spaces like planetariums as they lack adaptability to cater to the evolving needs of students. Instead, schools are moving towards mixed-use, adaptable spaces that inspire students and can be transformed to meet various educational requirements across several disciplines.


Cover Photo: Minerva | Education Business Solutions.


March 2024

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