x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The true cost of a good education

Judge a school on the prices it charges to enrol, but don't ignore other factors such as standards and quality

Few subjects keep parents quite so engaged as education - and with good reason. Many parents view the business of finding the right school for their children as one of the biggest decisions they can make: get that choice right, they will tell you, and their children will become happy, successful and confident adults. Put your child into the wrong school and you may be doomed to watch all the promise of your child's formative years founder through lack of sufficient inspiration and motivation.

It is no surprise then that The National's coverage of the recent proposed fee increases at the British International School in Abu Dhabi (Bisad) has occupied the minds of our readers, as witnessed by the opposing views that are represented in our letters section today.

It is, of course, perfectly normal for parents to disagree on the subject of schools. You only have to witness the daily ritual of drop-off and pick-up at any school in this country to see parents engaging in conversations that might openly praise or be downright hostile about the education institution their child attends. Schools are bricks, mortar and people, but they are also more than that. They have an intangible quality about them that provokes differing reactions in those who walk through their halls.

The education system here is complicated by the fact that the majority of children attend fee-paying schools - more than 88 per cent of students in Dubai, for instance, attend private schools - and once you introduce the notion of paying for a service, the customer will expect high standards.

The subject of rising tuition costs also reveals how parents and those who manage schools often operate in almost completely different spheres when it comes to fees: the former will often equate levels of teaching and competency with the price they have to pay. The latter, meanwhile, will often be as concerned with balancing their budgets and, indeed, turning a profit. Neither approach is without its flaws.

In the end, schools rise and fall on the quality of their overall package: the facilities they offer, the standard of the teachers they employ, the results their students get in their final exams and even the expressions of the faces of the children as they walk out of school at the end of a long day.

One can certainly judge a school on the price it charges to enrol and even its annual hikes in fees, but ignoring the rest of those important factors misses the ultimate point of an education.