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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Shortage of affordable quality private schools in Dubai must be addressed, study finds

There is a growing move towards more affordable education in Dubai

Nigel Cropley, principal of Gems Founders School Al Mizhar, said the model for a more affordable education is proving popular with parents. Reem Mohammed / The National  
Nigel Cropley, principal of Gems Founders School Al Mizhar, said the model for a more affordable education is proving popular with parents. Reem Mohammed / The National  

There is a growing need for more affordable private schools in Dubai - as parents look for top quality alternatives to high-end education, a new report has found.

A "persistant shortage" of schools from kindergarten through to grade 12 with mid-range fees offers a "gap in the market" for new schools, according to a study by PwC Middle East, an auditing and consultancy company.

The majority of schools rated 'very good' and 'outstanding' in government assessments charge in excess of Dh40,000 per year, with those receiving 'good' or lower rankings levying fees of under Dh26,000.

The report states that this provides an opportunity for schools to provide a top quality education at good value for parents.

“The market gap for high quality schools in the Dh30,000 to Dh50,000 range unfortunately looks likely to persist,” according to the Understanding Middle East Education: UAE Country Profile report.

Sally Jeffery, a global education and skills network leader said the PwC survey was based on analysing private schools at various stages of maturity.

We continue to see a persistent shortage of affordable quality private schools. There is a clear market opportunity there,” she said.

The issue is all the more pressing as demand for private education is set to continue to outstrip that of public schools.

The report found that enrollment in private schools was likely to be four times higher than in public education, with PwC estimating that more than 150,000 new students would enroll between 2016 and 2021 in private schools from kindergarten to grade 12.

The findings also showed enrollment in nurseries was expected to grow in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with 200 nurseries in Dubai, around 50 more than the number in the capital.

“The UAE is one of the more mature education markets in the region and remains a draw for investors, educators and students,” Ms Jeffery said.

Thirteen new private schools opened this year alone in Dubai – taking the emirate's roster to 206 – with a growing trend to move to a more affordable price bracket in order to find a place in a competitive market.

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Nigel Cropley, principal of Gems Founders School Al Mizhar, which opened this year, previously told The National the school had cut costs by not building a bespoke auditorium or having a swimming pool, with those savings reflected in the fee structure.

Mr Cropley said the affordable model has paid off, as the school opened with 1,576 pupils - exceeding the expectations of starting off with 1,000 filling the classrooms.

“Top-end schools with high fees have reached a ceiling. Top-end new schools are not going to be opening with 1,600 pupils. I think it’s the affordability along with the reputation that makes it an attractive model,” said Mr Cropley.

“The Founders Model focuses on staff and facilities with an international mix of teachers, some having a lot of experience and some not having much experience.

“Although the facilities are great, perhaps we don’t have those high-end facilities.”