x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Federal authorities over-rule regulator and allow schools to raise fees

Education ministry allows at least four Dubai private schools to raise fees, although Knowledge and Human Development Authority says it has not yet approved any increase

DUBAI // At least four Dubai private schools have been granted permission to raise fees by the federal Ministry of Education, apparently overriding the Dubai Government's regulator for schools. Among the schools given permission to increase fees in Dubai are at least four Indian schools run by Gems Education, the UAE's largest private school operator.

Earlier this year, officials from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) warned Dubai schools that, as a result of the economic climate, increases would not be granted unless there were "extraordinary" circumstances such as the relocation of a school. This week, however, Gems sent out a letter informing parents at Our Own English High School Dubai that fees would go up by 15 per cent. The Kindergarten Starters, The Millennium School and Our Own High School Al Warqa'a are the among others that will also put up their fees. Fees for Grade 1 at Al Warqa'a will increase from Dh5,385 (US$1,400) to Dh6,193.

Ali al Suwaidi, the director general of the ministry, confirmed yesterday that several Dubai schools were given permission to raise fees. "They have the right to increase their fees according to the [ministry] bylaws," Mr al Suwaidi said. The ministry's bylaws allow schools to raise fees up to 30 per cent over a three-year period. But according to Mohammed Darwish, the chief of the regulations and compliance commission of KHDA, Dubai schools cannot increase fees without written permission from his agency.

Mr Darwish said the KHDA had received 46 requests for fee increases in Dubai and, to date, none had been granted. "The regulations and compliance commission of KHDA is looking at fee restructuring requests from schools after a thorough study of the situation and keeping in mind the current economic climate," Mr Darwish said. "KHDA has not yet approved any fee increase for any schools this year. No school in Dubai can change its fee structure unless KHDA confirms this to the respective school in writing. This is imperative as all schools operate under KHDA's mandate and are issued educational services permits by the authority. Additionally, no fee changes can be implemented once the academic year has begun."

For Gems Indian schools, that would mean fees would be frozen until next April, when the new school year starts. Richard Forbes, the director of marketing and communications for Gems, said the new fees would put the company in a "stronger position" to retain teachers at Indian schools by raising their salaries. "From a GEMS perspective, a restructuring was essential to ensure the sustainability of our older Indian schools that have served the community so well for many years," Mr Forbes said. Even with new tuition levels, fees were "significantly" lower than at new Indian schools, he said.