One in seven parents unhappy with UAE's high school fees

Research suggests schools must provide value for money and stay competitive

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emitrates --- September 14, 2010 --- Parents keep their kids close as they navigate heavy traffic in front of GEMS American Academy-Abu Dhabi school. For the new school year, there will be increased traffic patrols at intersections and roads to ensure students' safety.    ( DELORES JOHNSON / The National )
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One in seven parents in the UAE do not feel they are getting good value for money when paying school fees, new research has revealed.

The study by YouGov found 15 per cent of those surveyed said they expected more from schools given the high cost of term-time.

In interviews with The National, some parents said unreasonably large fees were impacting the type of job they wanted or company they aspired to work for.

They said firms which offered the largest educational allowance for their children were almost always the most sought after.

“The standard of education being provided can be good but it’s not worth this much,” said Emirati Ahmed Abdulla, 40, who pays Dh65,000 per year for his daughter who is in year 4 at Repton Abu Dhabi.

“Parents are now trying to find the jobs which have the highest education allowance.

“When it [school fees] starts to dictate where you work, that’s mind boggling. No one is happy with the crazy prices nowadays.”

The YouGov survey collected data from more than 500 adult respondents from the UAE between January 14 and 21 this year.

It found nearly half of parents (48%) did believe their child’s school fees offered value for money, while a third (33%) said the cost represented greater value than they expected.

One in seven parents (15%), however, said the fees did not represent good value for money and seven per cent said they did not know.

The study also shed light on other areas of concern for parents of schoolchildren.

It found 96 per cent of those surveyed said a school’s curriculum was the most important factor when deciding where to send their child.

But it also showed only 82 per cent of parents were satisfied with the curriculum they opted for once they had direct experience of it.

Parent Um Khaled, said she knew friends who had removed their children from schools because of the high cost of fees.

Her son Mohammed, aged nine, goes to GEMS American Academy in Abu Dhabi where school fees are Dh71,000 a year.

“The prices today are exaggerated and I feel sorry for those who have more than one child,” she said.

“Yes, I feel like I’m getting value for money but it’s on the high side - especially if they increase the fees.

“By the time my son is in year 12, I’ll probably be paying Dh100,000.”

The YouGov study also revealed that 71 per cent of UAE parents pay for the full cost of school fees themselves.

Only one in six parents (16 per cent) said their employer paid all of the fees, while six per cent said the cost was split between themselves and their employer.

A spokeswoman for YouGov said: “Choosing where to send your children to school is a big decision for any parent and our research shows that, on the whole, most think they get good value out of the UAE education system.

“However, while almost all parents select their child’s school based on things such as its curriculum, we found that in many cases their overall satisfaction of these factors is less when their child attends school.

“Schools need to be mindful of this in their efforts to deliver value for money and stay competitive in the market.”