DUBAI // Parents of children at private schools in the emirate will not face rising fees for the next academic year.
The official inflation rate for the cost of running a school in Dubai has been calculated at minus 1 per cent this year.
According to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority's fee framework, this means none will be able to apply for an increase. The authority, or KHDA, regulates all 138 private schools in Dubai and introduced its fee policy in April last year.
Schools must use a formula to apply for a fee increase: points for the result earned in the annual school inspections, multiplied by the rate of inflation set by the Education Cost Index.
The index, released each year by the Dubai Statistics Centre, uses indicators such as the cost of salaries, rent, maintenance fees and electricity and water rates to calculate the rate.
Data for the calculations are supplied by the KHDA and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.
Last year's index was set at 3 per cent. According to the KHDA fee formula, this meant schools rated Outstanding during inspections could apply to increase fees by double the cost index – that is, 6 per cent.
Schools rated Good may apply for the index multiplied by 1.5, which meant they could apply for a 4.5 per cent rise last year.
With a negative inflation rate, schools will not be able to apply for any increase this year.
But Good and Outstanding schools may put forward a case to increase fees if they can show the money will go towards making substantial upgrades to facilities.
Inspection results are only due out in June for most schools, but last year 65 schools were rated Acceptable and 13 Unsatisfactory.
Less than half (60 schools) were Good or Outstanding.
Indian and Pakistani schools received their results last month. Nine were Good or Outstanding and 17 were Acceptable or Unsatisfactory.
Vatsala Mathews, principal of Elite English Speaking School, an Indian curriculum school rated Acceptable, said the news was a major setback for her school.
"We need to increase the fees or we will not be able to cope with the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau's recommendations," said Ms Mathews, whose school has 1,100 pupils.
"Last year's 3 per cent increase only amounted to about Dh10 to Dh15 for every child and that is just not enough."
She said the owners had spent between Dh250,000 and Dh300,000 on new facilities.
"The rent has gone up and we need to constantly invest in teacher training," Ms Mathews said. "There is hardly any profit for the school to develop."
Owners of The Central School, which charges between Dh2,600 and Dh4,800 a year, were looking forward to a 20 per cent increase this year.
Syed Mirza, principal of the school, said it was running at a loss.
"We are struggling to retain teachers because we can't raise salaries at such low fees," said Mr Mirza. "After gaining some experience with us they move on to other schools that offer better pay packages."
The school, rated Acceptable in all four years of inspections, has been asked to better engage pupils in lessons, improve provisions for those with special needs and review health and safety.
But it was good news for Suma, whose children study at The Indian International School.
"It's ridiculous to allow schools to increase it annually," she said.
"If they have not been able to improve quality with the last increase, I don't see the need for an increase now."