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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

High school fees ‘necessary to attract best teachers’

Schools have to strike a delicate balance between paying for the highest quality teaching staff available and keeping fees affordable for parents.

DUBAI// One of the country’s major education providers defended the high cost of school fees as necessary if schools are to attract the best teachers.

Clive Pierrepont, director of communications for education provider Taaleem, said schools had to strike a balance between paying for the highest quality teaching staff available and keeping fees affordable for parents.

“It is an absolute truth that the quality of a school never exceeds the quality of its teachers,” Mr Pierrepont said.

Schools in the UAE, he said, faced stiff competition from educational institutions around the world during a global shortage of talented teachers.

“We compete in a global market to recruit and retain the very best of them, with the right experience, a proven track record and specific skills,” he said.

“To employ the very top teaching talent we have to offer highly competitive rates of pay, plus benefits. About 70 per cent of our schools’ costs are usually allocated to staffing.

“There are only two realistic ways of cutting costs, firstly employing cheaper, less qualified and experienced teachers and secondly, increasing the number of students in each class.”

Mr Pierrepont’s comments came after Mohammed Alabbar, founder and chairman of Emaar, said on Wednesday that most parents could not afford the increasingly high school fees.

“Paying such high fees to private schools is sucking the life out of parents,” he said during a panel discussion on the Arab Youth Survey. “I don’t know if edu­cation should be private because some of the fees are so high.”

On average, costs increase by between 5 per cent and 10 per cent a year and although Taaleem schools try to absorb costs through efficiency and cost reviews, it is not always possible. Despite this, fees at its schools will not increase next year.

“Whilst being eligible to raise fees for next academic year, we [Taaleem] listen to our parents, many of whom have shared with us that they have recently found it difficult to make ends meet,” Mr Pierrepont said.

“As a direct result of their comments, and considering the current economic climate, we took the decision to announce back in November 2016, that we would not increase school fees next year.”

He said that parents at Taaleem schools had introduced the freeze as well as sibling discounts and a scholarship programme.

Fee increases are monitored by the Abu Dhabi Educational Council and the Knowledge and Human Development Authority in Dubai.

Schools rated as weak are not allowed to increase fees, while there is a gradual scale for those rated better.

Mr Pierrepont said it is important that parents have a choice of schools, at different price points, that give great value for money.

“The KHDA has done an excellent job of bringing new offerings to the market that provide a choice of location, curriculum and a variety of fee structures.”

In April members of the Federal National Council raised concerns that fee increases needed to be addressed more seriously.

“Parents should be made aware of which schools are rated weak and which are rated strong, so they will know they are receiving their money’s worth,” said Dubai member Azza bin Suleiman.

Education authorities at the time said they would examine the issue more closely.

nhanif@thenational.ae

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