The Abu Dhabi Education Council has called for nearly Dh4 billion to be invested in private education by 2020 to meet expected demand for places in schools in the emirate.
The council is right to identify and create investment opportunities in the education sector for private companies. Companies have expertise in raising capital as well as the business and management skills that will allow them to efficiently provide an essential service to the necessary standards. The companies need to be able to make a reasonable, sustainable profit, while government must enforce regulations which ensure high standards and prevent abuses.
However, companies have been reluctant to invest in the sector because of a lack of data about the education sector and a lack of clarity on regulations, according to a council official. To address these concerns, the council plans to release a report on education demand, the number of schools and pupils and areas for investment. This is very necessary, not only in Abu Dhabi, but across the UAE where private companies and institutions are expected to provide education services.
A public-private partnership model could also require that government provide support and assets — such as land — to companies. This will help them to invest in essential services, even if the business environment is not ideal. Education is key to the success of the UAE and government and companies must work together to provide citizens and residents with the best possible service.