School costs hit parents again
With the beginning of the school year getting closer, parents in Dubai face increased tuition fees and extra charges for all things related to the education process. People complain about the fees structure at private schools and claim they are paying thousands of dirhams in excess of fees authorized by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).
Annual private school fees are regulated by KHDA and schools must get KHDA approval for any fees charged directly by schools. Still schools are free to charge for third party services which are not yet regulated.
These third party services vary from school to school, but generally cover books, uniforms, bus transport, meals and extra curricular activities. Frustrated parents claim these extra costs can add up to thousands of extra dirhams each school year. At the top Dubai schools the extra charges can amount well over 10,000 Dirhams.
The annual fees for British and American Schools ranges from Dh35,000 to Dh85,000. At Asian schools this can be around Dh5,000 to Dh30,000 each year.
There are 148 private schools in Dubai and 79 government schools.
Outsourcing of services by the schools remains unregulated. In many cases, the schools offer third part services or even in-house services for additional obligatory payments. For example, at Repton school in Dubai, books are not provided, but parents should pay for it at he school store. The uniform’s set could come up to 500 Dirhams, although it is not provided by a third party, but directly ordered and delivered by the school. The meals at the school canteen costs over 50 Dirhams a day. The outsourced buss service alone costs in the range of 10,000 Dhs. Teachers often decide to take the students for educational purpose to the theme park of Atlantis or a British touring play, for which the ticket is no less than 200 Dirhams. So, the extra charges that Repton school can accumulate from the average parent can total an amount in the range from 15,000 Dirhams to 20,000 Dirhams. The school charges tuition fees between 45,000 Dirhams and 85,000 Dirhams, while its KHDA ratings still remain “Acceptable” and “Good”. At present, the school charges some 20% to 25% extra charges, in addition to the tuition fees.
At other Dubai schools, parents say outsourced companies are often sister concerns of private schools.
The KHDA School Fees framework reads: “Fees and costs for non-tuition services provided by third parties must be optional for parents and are subject to the supervision and control of other government agencies.” But in many cases, parents are not given the option to choose. If you wish your child to learn, you should purchase school books. For a child to attend school, it is obligatory to wear school uniform. Not participating in paid school activities could prompt negative attitude.
Explaining the KHDA standpoint, Afra Al Qamzi, cluster manager of the Schools Permit Department at KHDA, told Gulf News: “KHDA can only regulate the services offered by education providers that it licenses.
“Tuition fees cover the essential mandatory component related to curriculum delivery. Mandatory components of the curriculum delivery vary from school to school and curriculum to curriculum and depend a lot on the education board they follow.” In Dubai, the 54 British schools are some of the most expensive ones, although most of them are rated simply “Good” by the local regulator.
Afra Al Qamzi also insisted that parents are free to procure books and uniforms for their children from anyone in the market and not necessarily from schools or their outsourced agents. But this is not possible, as each school follows its own ideas about school books. Some schools develop its own text books and do not sell these to outside students.
The cost of schooling in Dubai is a big issue for the majority of parents. The business of running schools is flourishing and is yet to be properly regulated, providing rich turf for profiteers.