Sharjah approves tuition increases

23 of 30 requests for fee hikes assessed so far have been allowed

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SHARJAH // Twenty-three private schools have been given the go-ahead to increase their fees by as much as 30 per cent for the coming academic year, officials said. They were chosen from among 54 private institutions in the emirate that applied for permission to raise fees in the 2009-10 school year. Schools that do so without permission face fines of up to Dh10,000 (US$2,720), said Fauzia al Gharib, the director of the Sharjah Education Zone.

"Our committee has so far visited 30 schools and assessed their fee-increase requests," said. "Out of these, we have only allowed 23 and rejected the applications of seven schools." There are 74 private schools in Sharjah. The names of those whose fee rises were approved and the amount of the increase have not been released. A committee was formed at the end of last month to look through the applications and outline the evaluation criteria. Charges cannot rise by more than 30 per cent over three years, Ms al Gharib added.

She said the committee was continuing to look through the remaining 24 applications; it should finish by the end of the month. Ms al Gharib said that among the reasons for rejecting the seven schools was that some had increased their fees less than three years ago, making them ineligible to do it again so quickly. Schools must apply about two months before the end of the academic year. An Education Zone committee then visits each school to assess changes and improvements, such as buildings, labs, libraries and staff. Ms al Gharib said schools were divided into three classes - excellent, good and average - each assigned a range of allowed fee increases.

Mustafa Musa, the director of Al Maarifa private school, said the differences in fee structures in the emirate resulted from which curriculum was being used: Ministry of Education, British or American. "The second two curriculums are quite expensive, especially since most schools have to get the teachers from exactly these countries; this is why these schools would charge relatively high," he said.

Tarqi al Shaikh, the director of Al Noor private school, which follows the Ministry of Education curriculum, said it sometimes became necessary to increase tuition more often than every three years, simply because it was costly to outfit a school's classrooms and labs and improve education standards. Another headmaster said that the current economic crisis should not stop schools from increasing the fee structure as many parents were realising they had to keep their children in schools to have a better future.

"Actually there is an increase in demand for education and in a free-market economy like that of the UAE, fees should increase as well," he said.