x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Private tuition fees are too high, parents say

Classes at private schools may be drawing to a close, but the debate over high fees will continue well into the holidays.

DUBAI // Classes at private schools may be drawing to a close, but the debate over high fees will continue well into the holidays.

More than half of parents paying for private schooling said they believed the fees were unjustified given the standard of education, according to a recent government survey.

A year of private schooling in the Emirates can cost between Dh15,000 and Dh92,000. But the quality of education had not risen in tandem with the escalating costs, prompting authorities to pass stronger regulation.

Part of that regulation included a survey seeking parent feedback about their satisfaction with private schools.

The results of the survey were made available this month.

Dr Mariam al Ali, director of the Private Schools Supervision and Control Office at the Ministry of Education, said increases cannot be arbitrary, and must be related to the services and quality of education the schools deliver.

"I am a parent myself; it is amazing how the tuition rate keeps increasing," said Dr al Ali.

"Some schools here charge higher than university."

Her team is part of the new Private Education department set up as part of the Ministry of Education restructuring this year. The department aims to increase control over the private education sector, which educates the highest number of students in the country.

Anse Francis, 36, whose children attend an Indian school in Sharjah, said the government must involve parents in decisions about fees.

"There must be a cap on fees because the cost of living is increasing but our salaries don't," she said. "There should also be a valid reason that the ministry must look into before granting an increase."

According to the 2010 education report released by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, many schools that follow international curricula in Dubai are not meeting standards.

Of the 30 schools that follow an American curriculum, 23 do not offer the choice and diversity offered in the US.

The British National Curriculum is also not being implemented by some schools that claim to offer it, the report found.

Sherry Farid, whose six-year-old son attends an International Baccalaureate school in Dubai, agreed with the findings of the report, which was published in June.

"The school is good but does not actually provide the full scope of what I would get if I were in Europe," said the Egyptian mother.

"Most schools are businesses, and to make more profits, they may not invest in the best teachers."