The Education Cost Index in Dubai serves an important function, because it prevents schools from raising their fees without the approval of education authorities and it links increases to performance. However, the current system gives some established private schools an advantage over other schools seeking to forge, or turn around, their reputation. As The National reported yesterday, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority announced that schools rated as "outstanding" in the latest inspection reports will be eligible to increase fees by 4.8 per cent.
This is good for plenty of schools but doesn’t address the core problem affecting the education sector. How can underperforming schools gather the resources necessary to improve their standards and compete with the best if they can’t raise their fees? Without an increase in fees or outside support, it is difficult to see how comprehensive change can be delivered. Poorly rated schools desperately require investment to reverse their fortunes. School reform demands better management and, perhaps more critically, a bigger budget to improve infrastructure, hire better teachers and equip schools with up-to-date learning resources.
Several experts warn that private schools are expected to face even more challenges in the coming years due to rising operating costs and more competition for the best teachers. This means that without any additional support, these schools could also have to close their doors, which would affect the education of many children across the country.
This is not a problem that will solve itself. The reality is that even those schools that underperform play an important role in this country and will do for as long as demand for places outstrips supply.
The solution to this problem could arrive in several forms. The system this newspaper envisages is one in which poorly performing schools could be helped by teachers and educators who have experience of delivering change in schools. Additionally, financial assistance could be extended to underperforming schools in the form of a bond or loan repayable when ratings improve.
It is in all our interests that those schools that do not meet the highest standards are not left to fester and grow more distressed than they already are.