UAE | General

School fees cost UAE expats up to 30% of income

First-of-its kind survey finds parents in Dubai spend less than their Abu Dhabi counterparts

  • By Sharmila Dhal, Senior Reporter, XPRESS
  • Published: 20:55 May 1, 2013

  • Image Credit: GULF NEWS ARCHIVES
  • HIGH PRICE EDUCATION: One in five families spend more than 30 per cent of their monthly income on education of theit children according to a new school survey

Dubai: Education is a major expense in the UAE with one in five families spending more than 30 per cent of their monthly household budget on school fees, a new school survey has revealed.

The Education UAE Survey was conducted in March-April by, a dedicated school guide for the UAE.

It targeted expat parents through mailers to collect independent opinion on various schools, their performance, value for money and related heads. A total of 596 households responded — 46 per cent from Abu Dhabi, 43 per cent from Dubai, nine per cent from Sharjah and the rest from Al Ain and Ajman. cofounder James Mullan told XPRESS: “Our survey has revealed that 46 per cent of parents in Abu Dhabi pay 21 per cent or more of their household income on their children’s school fees, as opposed to 36 per cent of households in Dubai. Overall, close to one in five families spends over 30 per cent of their monthly household budget on school fees. The most common answer from respondents is between 11 and 15 per cent of their combined incomes.”

Several factors determine the exact percentage, he said. “The school curriculum seems to make a big difference. There is a significantly higher percentage of parents of children going to Indian curriculum schools who spend less than five per cent of their household incomes (24 per cent) than parents sending their children to IB (11 per cent), British (12 per cent) or American (13 per cent) schools. Indian schools are, of course, cheaper than IB or British schools and cater to an audience with wider income differentials. Middle class Indians having a good income will be better off than parents earning similar incomes but sending their children to British, American or International curriculum-based schools,” said Mullan.

“If you take the next price range — between five and 10 per cent of household income — Indian curriculum families emerge even further ahead. Eighteen per cent of Indian curricula families pay this level of fees, as opposed to six per cent of American curricula families, 13 per cent of British curricula families and 18 per cent of IB-based families. Combined, the results for families spending 10 per cent or less of their household income on education would be Indian curriculum schools: 42 per cent, IB 28 per cent, British 25 per cent and American curriculum schools 19 per cent.”

Mullan said the survey is significant as it “has a large representative sample and covers all major curricula and population centres. It is a compelling snapshot of the education sector in the UAE.”

Dispelling “expat packages” as a myth, the survey showed that 62 per cent of respondents got no help at all from their companies, 24 per cent some contribution and just a lucky few — 13 per cent — got their school fees covered. “If you are employed in Abu Dhabi, you have a better chance,” said Mullan. “Interestingly, having your fees paid by your company makes you see a school in a different light. Sixty eight per cent of such respondents would recommend their child’s school, a figure that drops to 58 per cent for parents paying the fees themselves.”

But do the fees represent good value for money?

“Given how much noise is made over school fees, we expected a low percentage of parents to say it represented good value for money. In actual fact, responses were evenly divided between ‘Agree’ (33 per cent), ‘Partially agree’ (37 per cent) and ‘Disagree’ (30 per cent). Parents are more rational and objective than they are given credit for,” said Mullan.

The survey also found teachers’ qualifications are the most important criteria in choosing a school, followed by choice of curricula. While six out of 10 parents said they would recommend their child’s school to others, 53 per cent admitted they have, at some point, thought about changing schools. This is evident at the primary level. Almost half (49 per cent) of respondents did not see any change in the education landscape with new schools taking up the increasing demand for places.

School Inspection Results Out

Twelve schools in Dubai have been were rated ‘outstanding’ in the latest round of inspections conducted by the Dubai School Inspection Bureau. The 2012-13 report card , announced by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority on April 29, showed that nine of these schools were UK-curriculum schools, two Indian and one US- curriculum based.

Of the 143 schools inspected between October 2012 and April 2013, 51 schools have been rated ‘good’ and 67 schools were graded ‘acceptable’.

The outstanding schools include Kings Dubai, GEMS Wellington International School, Jumeirah College, Jumeirah English Speaking School, Dubai College, GEMS Jumeirah Primary School, Jumeirah English Speaking School - Arabian Ranches, GEMS Dubai American Academy, Dubai Modern High School, The Indian High School, Dubai English Speaking College and Horizon School.

Comments (12)

Your comments
  1. Added 10:29 May 2, 2013

    No matter how much fees you pay or which school your child goes to, the quality of education in the UAE is simply not top class. More than 50% of the teachers are not professional; they are mostly into this job because their spouses or parents are working in the UAE. There is only minimal competitive education in UAE. The students here are unfortunate since they have no choice because of their parents' jobs.

    R.Vasudevan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 09:17 May 2, 2013

    Parents complain: 'Fee too much.' Teachers complain: 'Salary is too low.' Where does the money go?

    Raju, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 09:03 May 2, 2013

    I am paying more then Rs12000 every month as my son's school fees who studies in KG1 in a school in Sharjah. At the time of admission, the school tols us that the fee would be Dh750 per month. I was shocked after getting a mail from the school that the school fees have been increased by Dh50 per month and along with the medical fees. Why didn't the school management mention this at the time of admission. By paying the same fees of Dh850 per month my son can get the admission in much better school. I personally feel they have cheated every parent.

    Mohammed Zubair, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 08:41 May 2, 2013

    The schools are increasing fees every year without proper justification. Even during the economic melt down, this has been the case. My daughter is in Grade 3 this year. Our Own English High SChool Sharjah has been incresing its fees every year for the last 5 years. How does the educational authorities in the UAE even allow this? Poor parents have to cut down on everything to manage the hikes. Is there an end to this? Here, I recall Mr. Sunny Varkeys statement some time back in a newspaper that schools charging less than Dh15,000 an yaer will have to close down in future. This indicates these increases are all planned and not prompted by situations/to improve facilities.

    Thomas, DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 08:26 May 2, 2013

    School fees have increased in Our Own English School, Sharjah for Boys and Girls branch. They are saying that MOE-Sharjah approved it. I would like to request XPRESS to find out more about this. Our Own English School asks an additional Dh140 without any receipt for school activity. This amount is paid by cash and we do not get any receipt. The school also increased the medical fess from Dh150 to Dh200.

    H.Patel, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 08:16 May 2, 2013

    It's better to say education is big and profitable business in the UAE. Who cares for the common man?

    Vinod, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 08:06 May 2, 2013

    Yes, on top of this most schools charge around Dh200 for books from every child and also asks the teachers to buy the stationery for creative works.

    Shafraz, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 07:53 May 2, 2013

    The fee structure in the UAE is much higher as compared to the education offered worldwide. Schools are running very profitable businesses and are often exploiting residents.

    Ahmed. I, Dubai, Pakistan

  9. Added 06:42 May 2, 2013

    The cost of books and stationery taken by the school are extremely high. The price of CBSE books printed in India are sold here at a very high price. Authorities should take measures to check if these prices and school fee are fine with the quality of education and infrastructure that the school provides.

    Mohammed, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 00:36 May 2, 2013

    Education is now a business. My 4 kids are studying in a school in Sharjah and the school is increasing fees after 1 year. This year the bus fess have also increased from Dh150 to Dh180 within Sharjah, which is 25% to 30% more. I don't understand the formula for increasing the fees. What kind of investment does the school make? Why increase the transport fees when the petrol price is still the same -- Dh1.7 per litre?

    kashif, sharjah, United Arab Emirates

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