x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Parents unhappy with decision to allow fee increase at Dubai schools

Thousands of parents will pay higher fees for the rest of the school year after the federal Ministry of Education granted some Dubai schools permission to increase their prices.

DUBAI // Jai Paliwa was disappointed to learn on Thursday that fees are going up at Millennium School, where his daughter is a pupil. "It is quite a significant increase given the state of the markets at the moment," he said. "Almost Dh1,000 is a lot of money considering we are still in a recession." Mr Paliwa is one of thousands of parents who will pay higher fees for the rest of the school year after the federal Ministry of Education granted an unidentified number of Dubai schools permission to increase their prices.

Ali al Suwaidi, the director general of the ministry, told The National on Thursday that the schools "have the right to increase their fees according to the [ministry] bylaws." The ruling came despite a promise from the Dubai Government to keep fees down. On Thursday, Gems Education, the largest private school operator in the country, informed parents at five Indian schools that fees would go up.

Richard Forbes, the director of marketing and communications for Gems, said the increases were "essential to ensure the sustainability" of its older Indian schools. The move will allow the company to increase teachers' salaries. In March, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) - the schools regulator in Dubai - told school operators that they would be barred from raising fees in light of the recession unless there were "extraordinary" circumstances, such as relocation. But that decision appears to have been overruled by the federal ministry.

When asked about the increases, Mohammed Darwish, the head of the KHDA's Regulations and Compliance Commission, said Dubai schools were not allowed to raise fees without permission from his agency. No school in Dubai has been given that OK, he said. He added that KHDA barred schools from raising fees after the start of the school year. If enforceable, that rule would prevent Indian schools from raising fees, because the school year started last month.

For many parents the news came as an unwelcome surprise. Anu, who asked that her surname not be used, will pay Dh5,136 this school year to send her son to Kindergarten Starters, a Gems school, up from Dh4,466. "I was not expecting increase this year and I'm shocked that this has happened," she said. "We will be OK but I think there will be some parents who will be very worried. "The financial situation means people are more careful with their money. They will not have budgeted for this. I don't understand why it has been allowed to happen."

Anil Lawania, whose son is at Our Own English High School in Dubai, described the increase as "unfair". "Every year they are increasing the fees without any justification," he said, adding that the decision should have been announced earlier. "It is not something that I was expecting or supporting." Not all parents are upset. "The increase here has been pretty reasonable I think," said Ravi Rao, whose two sons also attend Our Own English High School.

"On an ongoing basis schools in the UAE need to upgrade themselves." klewis@thenational.ae munderwood@thenational.ae