Parents call for more flexible learning and lower fees at Dubai's private schools

Annual school inspection results leads to concerns of fee increases at top performing schools

Police secured the premises of a school in Dubai on Wednesday after 'suspicious activity' by a parent was reported. Satish Kumar / The National
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Parents say Dubai's private schools need to move away from 'bookish education' and towards flexible learning.

Their suggestions come two days after the Knowledge and Human Development Authority announced results of their annual school inspections.

The new inspection results found that 17 schools were rated outstanding while 28 were rated very good, 74 were rated good and 52 were ranked acceptable, and five schools were deemed weak.

This year, unlike previous years, schools that have improved in rating will be able to increase fees — as will schools that maintained standards.

Last month, The National reported that parents felt schools that maintain standards but do not improve overall should not be allowed to hike fees.

This week, TN, a Lebanese mother of three, said she is satisfied with her children's American curriculum school but believes the institutions and the standards for their inspection need to be adjusted.

"A school is not just a place where children go to learn Mathematics, English, and Science” she said.

“It is also a place where their personality is shaped and where they are exposed to different things that they can’t get exposure to at home.

"If they [the authorities] feel that pupils should collaborate more and work on projects then why is it that at the end of the day, pupils are evaluated on the base of their grades?

"If you are asking pupils to be innovative and creative why are we going back to the evaluation system?”

She said that children receive grades which show that they are meeting the requirements in different subjects but do not highlight the uniqueness each pupils brings to the table.

"What makes them [the pupils] different? No one cares about how children are doing in sports or music unless you get a transcript for it.”

She said her eldest daughter is doing well at university because she worked on non-academic aspects. TN said more flexible learning is needed at schools.

"Pupils who are homeschooled can have diving as an elective course, why can't pupils at a school opt for that?

"Schools need to evolve. We should not keep applying things that are 10-20 years old.

"We are asking them to collaborate but tying them to the same things we were raised on."

Bhavana Sood, an Indian resident living in Dubai, has two children, aged 13 and 16, attending British curriculum schools. Her son's school was rated acceptable this year while her daughter’s school was rated good.

She agreed with TN saying schools need focus more on topics like time management, financial literacy, budgeting, public behaviour, and social skills.

"Now is not the time for bookish learning. Now, everything is related to technology.

The mother of two said the schools give her value for money but would appreciate lower fees.

"Both my children get equal time for activities and academics and my son does a lot of volunteering as well.”

The mother of two-suggested schools arrange workshops or internships through which children can get first-hand work experience.

The KHDA report was a mixed blessing for one parent, whose daughter attends Safa Community School.

Dubai, U.A.E., August 27 , 2018. 
Parents facing high costs to buy school uniforms.  Stephanie  Hughes with daughters Florence- 4  (in her Safa Community School uniform)
and Yvie-2.
Victor Besa/The National
Section:  NA
Reporter:  Patrick Ryan
Stephanie Hughes with daughters Florence, 4, and Yvie, 2. Ms Hughes is concerned that improvements in school rankings will lead to an increase in fees. Victor Besa / The National

“I am really happy and proud that our school has increased its grade from good to very good,” said Stephanie Hughes, a 35-year-old mother of two.

“I know that everyone in the school works really hard to make it such a fantastic place for our children and the fact they are recognised for that is well-deserved.

“As a parent, it is reassuring to know that our children are receiving a great education in a safe and fun environment.”

She is, however, worried that the school’s improved grading would lead to an increase in school fees next year.

“It puts a downer on the school’s success though to know that it might lead to an increase in what we are paying out in September,” the British resident said.

Ms Hughes said that an increase in fees would only put more pressure on families who are already struggling financially.

“Families can’t afford high fees as much any more,” she said.

“Some schools have actually dropped their fees which gives an indication of where the economy is.

“Hopefully the schools will take this under consideration and will not increase their fees.”