Dubai parents say school fees should not rise unless standards do

Many said that with fees already difficult to afford, schools that keep the same KHDA rating should not be rewarded with increases

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - February 14, 2019: General views of Delhi Private School. Rahhal programme is in its second phase and heads of schools are discussing the challenges it faces. Thursday the 14th of February 2019 at The Gardens, Jebel Ali, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Schools that maintain standards rather than improve each year should not be rewarded by being allowed to hike up their fees, which are already hard to afford, Dubai parents have said.

Their comments come in reaction to Monday's announcement of a new school fee framework, which will allow schools to increase their fees if they either maintain or improve standards based on their Knowledge and Human Development Authority inspection rating.

A school that slips in rating will not be able to increase its fees, while a school that improves its rating can increase its fees by a larger amount. The move follows a two-year freeze on fee rises.

Parents said that they would be happy to pay increased fees, but only if a school was improving.

"Instead of penalising a school for dropping its rating, schools should be penalised for not improving,” said Bhavana Sood from India, who has two children, 13 and 16, in British curriculum schools in Dubai.

"If the school has stayed on the same rating level, then it should not be able to increase fees.

"Schools are very expensive here compared to schooling worldwide. With the UAE focusing on providing an international level of education, schools should be motivated to perform better.

Ms Sood said the now-abolished fee freeze had been welcomed by parents as schooling is increasingly hard to afford and the situation is “not good for most families in Dubai". She said she pays close to Dh90,000 in tuition fees a year for her two children.

The mother suggested that the authorities conduct more random inspections of schools, similar to a visit by a mystery shopper, to get a more accurate picture of how well they are performing. Under the current system, schools are often warned of a visit weeks in advance so they have time to prepare.

Ron Hodkinson, principal of Ontario International Canadian School, also believes anonymous inspections would "level the playing field”.

Under the new fee framework, which will come into force in the next academic year, schools that retain their rating after inspections will be able to increase fees by 2.07 per cent. However, a ‘weak’ school that improves its rating to ‘acceptable’ or ‘good’ can charge 4.14 per cent more.

A school rated 'very good' that improves to 'outstanding' can hike fees by 3.1 per cent.

Lebanese mother of two, TN — who did not want to give her full name — said that schooling is expensive and that the authorities have not taken into consideration the rising cost of other necessary expenses when they decided to unfreeze the fees.

"The cost of education is always a concern for me as a parent, especially because it is not only the school fees that need to be considered, but the extras that are affecting our budget such as uniforms, books and stationery," she said.
"The KHDA and government are monitoring tuition fees but forgetting other elements that can add up to more than the fees themselves.

"With the rise of the cost of living and now education fees, many families will opt to send their children back to their home countries either by themselves or with one spouse, which will affect well-being and happiness levels in the emirate.”

The National wrote last year about parents who were frustrated at the rising cost of school uniforms as they were having to pay thousands of dirhams per child.