Six out of 10 parents believe school fees in Dubai are too high

A new survey polled 3,000 families across the emirate

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 03 SEPTEMBER 2019. Clementina Kongslund and her two daughters Valentina and 
Benedicte. Parents in Dubai say schools are too expensive, according to a new survey. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Anam Rizvi. Section: National.
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More than six out of 10 parents believe school fees are too high in Dubai, a new survey has found.

The study also showed 80 per cent of families spent between five and 25 per cent of their household income on their children’s education.

Of the 3,000 parents surveyed, about 64 per cent said they currently received no contribution towards schools fees from their employers.

The figure compares with nearly half of all parents saying their employers did assist with fees when the same survey was conducted in 2014.

Shaun Robison, director of Education Intelligence Group, a Dubai consultancy which co-authored the research, said he recognised the substantial burden school fees could place on families.

He said parents should be looking to spend 15 to 20 per cent of their income on housing, and 15 per cent on school fees.

“There is a need for affordable schools across [the emirate] as parents need more choices of mid-market schools,” he said.

“The schools that have opened in the affordable segment have enrolled a high number of pupils, such as Gems Founders Al Mizhar that opened with 1,500 pupils last year.”

The new survey, released on Tuesday, was conducted by both the EIG and Property Finder, a digital real-estate platform in the Middle East.

The average age range of parents was between 31 and 44, with 15.5 per cent earning less than Dh10,000 a month, 23 per cent earning up to Dh20,000 per month and 16.8 per cent earning up to Dh30,000. Around 20 per cent declined to give salary details.

Responding to the findings, some parents said the high cost of school fees was forcing them to consider home schooling.

Others revealed how some families frequently changed schools in order to take advantage of new discounts sometimes offered.

Clementina Kongslund, 42, a Romanian with two children aged six and nine, said the cost of their education amounted to 20 per cent of the family’s income.

She said they now paid around Dh120,000 per year for both after moving to a lower cost school, Gems FirstPoint, The Villa, making a saving of between Dh30,000 and Dh40,000 a year.

“Education is important for us so I am not going to run after the cheapest school in Dubai,” said Ms Kongslund, who is the founder of Dubai Mums, an online community for parents in the emirate.

"Every time the school’s fees are frozen I wonder what the impact will be on my children’s education.

“Schools will not cut their profits and the first thing they will cut are teacher’s salaries.

"Parents are demanding cheaper schools. Some parents jump from one school to another to get founders discounts, which are offered by new schools to boost enrolment.”

Carla Hugo, 51, a South African mother-of-four, has lived in Dubai for 18 years.

She also highlighted the need for more affordable education, particularly for children with special needs.

She said school fees had doubled in the emirate since she first sent her eldest child, now 28, to school.

She currently spends around Dh36,000 each month on her 13-year-old twins' education, one of whom has special needs.

The significant cost had led her and her husband to consider sending the twins to a boarding school in South Africa or the UK, which they believe will offer better value for money.

“Schools have become more like factories - all about money and not about children,” she said.

"I have four children who attended school in Dubai and school fees have become very, very expensive.

"My school fees for my son who is 24 now was Dh80,000 a year and his university fees in South Africa are less than that.”

Alison Rego, 37, a single parent from India who now lives in Sharjah, said the high cost of fees was forcing some parents to home school their children.

“There’s nothing that is taught at a school that charges Dh100,000 a year that is not taught in a school that charges Dh20,000 annually,” she said.

“While Some British curriculum schools are charging as little as Dh15,000 why are other schools with the same curriculum charging Dh100,000?”