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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 January 2019

One in four Dubai parents opt for long school commutes to save money 

Different curriculums was also among reasons given by families for choosing schools more than 10 kilometres from their homes

Dubai has more schools than ever, yet on ein four parents still choose to send their children to schools that are over 10 kilometres away. 
Dubai has more schools than ever, yet on ein four parents still choose to send their children to schools that are over 10 kilometres away. 

One in four Dubai families are choosing to undertake lengthy school commutes, a study has revealed, with parents saying that saving money on school fees is among the main motivators.

Despite more options than ever before due to an increasing number of schools in the emirate, just over a quarter of families are opting to send their children to schools that are situated more than 10 kilometres from their homes.

That’s according to a study on the Dubai education sector that was conducted by UK-based property consultant Knight Frank.

It revealed that 27 per cent of students live more than 10km from their schools, despite there being 207 private schools in Dubai and a further 16 due to open in the next academic year.

Shehzad Jamal, partner at Knight Frank, said that proximity was not always the most compelling reason to send a child to a particular school.

“Some schools have unique selling points that are attractive to parents and these include more affordable fees,” he said.

He said that the price of fuel, significantly cheaper than it is in the home countries of many foreign nationals, was outweighed by the savings made on their children’s education.

Nicole Wickham, who runs her own travel business from her home near Arabian Ranches, arrived in the country in January, sending her son to the Smart Vision school in Barsha. It takes between 25 and 30 minutes to get there, but the schools that are situated closer to home are almost double the price.

“We love the school, too, which means we are happy to stick with it,” said the South African, 36.

This table shows the weighted average fees in each curriculum group, though individual schools vary significantly, with some charging more than Dh100,000 per pupil per year. Roy Cooper / The National
This table shows the weighted average fees in each curriculum group, though individual schools vary significantly, with some charging more than Dh100,000 per pupil per year. Roy Cooper / The National

Another mum, Jenny Najm Kassis, who lives in the Springs, sends her children to school at the Clarion American school near Business Bay, which is around 20km away.

She said it was the opportunity to ensure her children received an American curriculum education that attracted her to the school, and that it was more important than avoiding the hassle of the commute.

She also said that it was too expensive to move closer to the school.

“We were looking at moving closer to the school but we had to stay within a certain budget,” said the 36-year-old who runs the group American Mums in Dubai on Facebook.

Kenza Brki, from France and who lives in Arabian Ranches, also wanted to ensure that her son received an education in her country’s curriculum.

This means a 60km round trip to Lycee Francais Georges Pompidou school in Dubai’s Oud Metha.

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Another factor for some parents in choosing a school outside of the area where they live was the specialist care that some schools provide.

Chris Dailly, 42, lives in Dubai’s Jumeirah Golf Estates and one of his two teenage daughters has both dyslexia and dyscalculia, which is a condition that creates difficulties when trying to understand mathematical concepts.

“Although we live in Jumeirah Golf Estates with lots of primary schools in the area, we were having difficulty getting a school to work with the dyslexia,” said Mr Dailly, who runs his own real estate fund.

This meant that Mr Dailly, from Aberdeen, Scotland, and his family have a 65km round trip commute each day, costing up to Dh450 in fuel a week.

“We send her to Dubai English Speaking College, which has an 'all pupils are welcome' philosophy. They are not overly concerned with results and have a different mindset to other schools,” he said.

Mr Dailly said that if he sent his daughter on the school bus instead of driving her to school it would cost the family Dh3,000 per term.

British schools in Dubai charge an average of Dh37,071 a year, while American curriculum schools charge Dh29,495.

Updated: December 12, 2018 08:18 PM

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