A number of schools in Dubai have cut fees, given free textbooks, and made uniforms optional to reduce the financial burden on parents during the coronavirus pandemic.
They have also reduced the number of workbooks and notepads used during lessons to further reduce costs.
Lower school fees
Hartland International School, a British curriculum school in Dubai, has reduced its fees by up to Dh15,000 this year.
The fee for year one pupils has been reduced from Dh65,000 in 2019 to Dh49,800 this year.
Pupils in year 11 now pay Dh74,000, down from Dh78,000 last year.
"We have reduced our fees and have completely reviewed our fee structure,” said Fiona Cottam, principal at Hartland International School.
“We are mindful of the challenges people are facing at the moment, and know that parents have had to take salary cuts and lost many benefits.
"We want to be part of the solution and want to make education accessible."
She said the change was "reflective of the needs of the community" and ensured the school could help families financially impacted by Covid-19.
The school will stick to its new fee structure. It has accepted 100 new pupils this term, which Ms Cottam said is unusual in the current climate.
Taaleem, a school operator that runs 13 schools in UAE, announced fee reductions in November 2019 to keep up with the changing market dynamics.
At Dubai British Foundation, fees have been reduced by Dh10,000 per year in the foundation stage.
At Jumeira Baccalaureate School, another Taaleem school, fees in pre-kindergarten have been reduced from Dh56,131 last year to Dh39,750 in 2020.
Free e-textbooks for pupils
Some schools have offered pupils free e-textbooks or discounted hard copies of academic books.
"We tried to understand parents’ anxieties and see where we could reduce costs. We have reduced the number of workbooks and have a new platform called Phoenix where we can personalise work," said Meenakshi Dahiya, principal at The Winchester School, Jebel Ali.
The school has also reduced the number of notebooks they use.
The Indian High School has given free e-textbooks to pupils in the first term and has also heavily discounted the hard copies.
"On an average, a parent spends around Dh1,000 on textbooks but this year they had to pay around Dh140-Dh200 on hard copies of textbooks," said Punit Vasu, chief executive officer of The Indian High School.
New uniforms are optional
The Winchester School, Jebel Ali, has made no changes to their uniform this year.
Children can wear their old uniforms to school.
Prices at uniform suppliers, including Stitches, Magrudy’s and Zaks, vary across the country depending on the size, item and school, but parents often pay between Dh75 and Dh450 for a shirt, blouse, blazer or trousers.
"We have not insisted that pupils come to school in uniforms," said Mr Vasu of The Indian High School.
Pupils can also use their old uniforms this year.
Covid-19 initiatives at schools
The Indian High School has created a Covid-19 fund to offer financial aid to parents who were impacted by Covid-19.
The non-profit institute has more than 17,000 pupils, making it the UAE’s largest school.
"The Covid-19 initiative was massively popular, and we have been getting 2,000-3,000 admission applications per month since the pandemic started," said Mr Vasu.
"We always have more demand than supply. Our fees are already discounted and we looked at parents who were the most affected and gave pupils seats and moved them up the waiting list."
The Winchester School, Jebel Ali, had also offered some parents fee discounts and payment plans in the last term.
The school analysed their data to gauge how many parents had lost their jobs, faced pay cuts or other financial difficulties.
"We had some families leave because of the pandemic. We needed to understand what the community wanted and what their challenges were,” said Ms Dahiya.