School authority head calls for performance-related fees

Increases in school fees should be tied to performance instead of economic factors, the head of Dubai's school authority has proposed.

DUBAI // Increases in school fees should be tied to performance instead of economic factors, the head of Dubai's school authority has indicated, because the high cost of rents for schools and teacher accommodations has fallen significantly. "What we are saying is that decision ought to be revised because the climate has changed," said Dr Abdulla al Karam, the director general of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA). "It has to be revised on a federal level, because we don't want to be inconsistent."

Dr al Karam said his agency was in talks with the Ministry of Education about fee caps and expected a decision before April, when Indian and Pakistani schools start the new academic year. Dr Maryam al Ali, the director of the ministry's commission for private schools, confirmed that federal fee caps were under review. Under the present caps schools cannot increase fees by more than 30 per cent over three years.

Last year the KHDA, with permission from the ministry, tied school fees to performance on Dubai school inspections. Dr al Karam said schools had been permitted double digit increases for the past few years to compensate for steep increases in rent and inflation in general. But, he added, "the reasons that existed in the past, they don't exist anymore". The double-digit annual increases of the past few years, he said, were justified by "inflation in double digits and rent increases in double digits". Now, Dr al Karam suggested, schools should increase their fees only to improve their educational performance.

A new rent index is being developed by the KHDA and the Real Estate Regulatory Authority in Dubai, to cap the amount that landlords can charge schools. Dr George Robinson, the superintendent of the American Community School in Abu Dhabi, said that while he thought there was no need for double digit increases, the situation in Dubai was not the same as in the capital. "Rents haven't dropped in Abu Dhabi," he said.

klewis@thenational.ae