x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

School fees high and too few places, parents say

In the capital, there are 184 private schools with about 10,000 teachers, 14 different curriculums and about 200,000 pupils, an Abu Dhabi Education Council report says.

ABU DHABI // Parents have expressed concerns about excessive fees, standards of teaching and lack of places in the country’s international schools.

There are about 439 such schools in the country, a recent report by International Private Schools Education Forum shows.

In the capital, there are 184 private schools with about 10,000 teachers, 14 different curriculums and about 200,000 pupils, an Abu Dhabi Education Council report says.

Adec said there were 126,294 students in 305 national schools, with 10,758 teachers.

In public schools 73 per cent of the students are Emiratis, as opposed to private schools, where the rate is 25 per cent.

A Canadian parent, R N, said newcomers to the city faced problems finding school places as they are put in long waiting lists.

He said there was a particular shortage of school places for mid-income families.

Tuition fees are another major concern, with parents saying some schools are only run to make profit.

“Education should not be treated as a commodity and cannot be hijacked by big businesses,” said H G, an Indian mother.

“Education is really a big expense and parents are spending a lot of money on daytime and after-school activities, even after paying a huge school fee, which is not fair,” she said.

“This is where most of our money goes,” said D W, an Australian parent.

Parents suggested Adec should put a cap on private school fees.

N T, a Turkish mother with children at a British curriculum school, said that fee increases should be determined by the quality of education provided.

“Fee raises should be linked to improved service,” she said.

“Schools should not be allowed to raise fees if they cannot provide increased levels of service.” She believed that expatriate teachers needed to learn more about the region and culture before they began teaching here.

“Teaching quality is great, however, teachers are generally new to the region and have to go through a learning phase of their own,” she said.

Several parents said there were inadequate methods to evaluate the quality of teaching staff.

“We must invest in teachers,” said H G. “Teachers should get better remuneration packages.

“We hear a lot about school buildings and facilities but it’s rare to find any parameter where the quality of teachers can be evaluated.”

R N suggested that teachers should be contracted for more than two years to ensure they were fully committed to their pupils.

“As a parent I am not satisfied,” she said. “We need more trained teachers. Because of unprofessional attitude of some teachers, we are pressurised to provide extra tuition to the child.”

D W said that many schools did not have adequate facilities for pupils with learning difficulties or mild disabilities.

“My daughter has learning difficulties and I have paid for a special series of tests for her learning challenges that cost Dh7,000,” the father said.

But overall, the parents said they were satisfied with teaching standards in the UAE.

They said the multicultural environment in the schools helped their children to become more accommodating and understanding of each others’ cultural values.

They also appreciate the availability of basic facilities across all the schools.

“The availability of different curriculums and the presence of a multicultural environment in the schools gives the children an insight into different cultures,” R N said.

akhaishgi@thenational.ae