Lowest tuition fees in UAE, so Pakistani school needs help

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Arab Pakistan School may not top the lists of best schools in the country, but it is definitely among the cheapest.

A worker at Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Arab School on Muroor Road in Abu Dhabi scrapes old paint from an exterior wall. Delores Johnson / The National
Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Arab Pakistan School may not top the lists of best schools in the country, but it is definitely among the cheapest.

Tuition fees at the school range from Dh3,400 to Dh5,000 a year.

This makes it a popular choice for many Pakistani families to send their children.

It has about 2,000 pupils being instructed by 185 teachers.

But the school’s managers say the low fee structure means it lacks resources, limiting the amount of improvement that can be made.

“We have the cheapest fee structure in the UAE ” said Muhammad Ilyas, the vice principal. “This has made it possible for thousands of low-income Pakistani expatriates to educate their children here.”

It and the other six Pakistani schools in the country operate under the supervision of the embassy of Pakistan.

Asif Durrani, the Pakistani ambassador, said the scant resources sometimes meant the schools did not reach some standards set by Abu Dhabi Education Council, or Adec.

“Unfortunately, due to lack of resources, we have not been able to provide the standards that Adec has benchmarked for schools in the UAE,” said Mr Durrani.

The ambassador accepts the fact that these schools are facing academic challenges. “Since almost all of our funds are spent on improving our infrastructure, as per Adec requirements, we have not been able to focus our energy on improving academic quality, especially teaching staff,” Mr Durrani said.

But he said his team was committed to improving teaching standards in the schools, which have about 8,500 pupils and 450 teachers.

“To improve teaching standards we need to improve the salary scale, and our present resources do not allow us to invest in that,” says Salman Sharif, first secretary at the embassy.

The government of Pakistan used to subsidise the school fees but stopped a few years ago. Mr Sharif said increasing school fees was not appropriate as many pupils’ parents were on low incomes.

“It will be difficult for them to pay increased fees,” he said.

The school has even exempted two months of summer holidays from the annual fee structure.

The ambassador appealed the Pakistani community to help the school out of hardship.

“Allah has given a lot to Pakistani expatriates in the UAE,” Mr Durrani said.

“They are one of the largest investors in the UAE real estate. I urge them to also invest in education. Investing in the future will yield better results.

“It is a community welfare school and hence we are planning to establish an endowment fund for fund-raising.”

Despite the challenges, Mr Durrani said he was generally satisfied with the pupils’ performance and quality of the curriculum.

“We have produced hundreds of successful professionals. We are so proud that, despite our shortcomings, they have succeeded in their careers,” he said.

“If we can deliver some great minds in difficult circumstances, imagine what wonders we can do if we get enough resources.”