Parents may soon breath a sigh of relief as Dubai's school authority clamps down on rising education costs. As we report today, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) has sent a letter to private schools questioning an anticipated increase in yearly fees. "We are asking school owners one simple question," the letter reads. "Do you really need a fee increase at a time when inflation is low and almost all other costs have dropped too?"
Because the increase must be approved by the KHDA, it seems as if this round of hikes - one of many these past years - may be stopped before it is even proposed. Expect a fight, however. Last year, the KHDA stepped up its regulation of private schools by launching inspections and linking fee increases to school performance. This has caused no small headache for school administrators, particularly in schools that need more money to improve standards and to meet the new benchmarks.
Dubai, and the UAE in general, has a difficult task regulating this diverse network of private schools. It does not make sense for the Government to assume full responsibility for the education of children of expatriates, many of whom are transient guests in the country. But education is too important to let private schools run it like any other business. All the more reason for the KHDA's involvement, especially in light of efforts to reform the educational system. Dubai's education strategy for 2010-2020 calls for no less than a school system that meets the highest international standards.
Such ambitions require support. School fees can decide who has access to education and who is denied. If the country is to come into its own, particularly as a knowledge-based economy, the basic building blocks of science, maths and the liberal arts must not be restricted by unnecessarily high fees. "All of us must equally share the enormous responsibility to make sure that the children of Dubai do not have their education disrupted because of the economic downturn," the KHDA tells schools. We give that statement top marks.