School dilemma over fees and inspections

Schools say they need to increase fees to improve their performance but they are allowed to increase fees only if their performance improves.

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DUBAI // Schools say they need to increase tuition fees to improve their performance, but they are allowed to increase fees only if their performance improves.

The apparent Catch-22 is widening the gap in quality between schools that cater for the wealthy and those that do not, education professionals in Dubai say.

In 2009, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) aligned fee increases with inspection results. Last year it banned any fee increase in light of the tough economic climate, a decision later overruled by the Ministry of Education in the case of the two largest education groups, Gems and Taaleem.

However, schools with both low ratings and low budgets are struggling to improve the standard of education they offer.

SSU Tabrez, the principal of the Emirates English Speaking School, said his school was on "a shoestring budget" and could not make changes without increasing fees.

"Linking the fee increases with inspection results defeats the purpose of trying to improve schools with few resources," he said.

The school's annual fees range from Dh3,000 to Dh5,000. Mr Tabrez said raising them would burden several parents who were already struggling to meet the current cost.

"But what other option do we have?" he asked. "Essential areas and facilities have suffered because of our inability to fund changes. This reflects on our performance in the inspections too."