Communities should help their schools

Compatriots and home governments could help private institutions raise their standards

Private schools could look to their communities and home governments for assistance. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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A good education is the key to a bright future. That much is universally acknowledged, especially in the UAE where education has been identified as a national priority. But education comes at a cost, and some families on lower incomes face challenges in finding the right school for their children at the right price. As The National has reported, 19 private schools, with a combined total of 20,712 pupils, do not measure up to Abu Dhabi Education Council standards. Many of them have failed to improve despite warnings.

Adec has a duty to ensure that all schools perform to a high standard and are incentivised to do even better. But in the case of low-fee and low-performing schools, there is a dilemma. Some of them are caught in a Catch-22 scenario. Because their standards are low, they are denied the right to charge higher fees, which means they can’t spend money on the teachers and resources they need to improve their standards. The ultimate result could be closure, which would only further disadvantage the pupils and their families.

There is a limit to what the authorities can, or should, do to help private schools. Although it may be possible for Adec to offer guidance to schools that are failing, it can’t be expected to prop them up financially or to pull them back from the brink. It is up to the schools to find creative solutions to their funding and academic problems involving the community they cater for.

Expatriate workers make a valuable contribution to their home countries through remittances. Could their governments give something back in terms of subsidising schools to help them raise their standards? Given that most expat children will end up in their parents’ homeland, it would be an investment in the future.

Then there are the local communities here in the UAE. Those institutions that teach an Indian curriculum, for example, might be able to tap into the broader Indian community. People who have prospered here could direct some of their charity dollars, or their companies’ corporate responsibility funds, towards school maintenance, teachers’ salaries or student scholarships. Even in-kind help would be welcome – from simple working bees to donations of unneeded furniture, sporting equipment or other useful items.

People in expatriate communities have shared interests and common goals; it makes sense to pool some of their resources to benefit the next generation.