Photo for illustrative purposes. Image Credit: Antonin Kelian Kallouche/Gulf News

The decision to freeze the fees in the UAE’s private schools for the academic year 2021-22 is a timely and welcome step that will help families cope with financial challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Close on the heels of Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) rolling out a freeze on fees for the second year in a row, the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) announced yesterday that schools in the emirate won’t be permitted to increase their fees in the ensuing academic year.

For the tens of thousands of students enrolled across nearly 450 private schools in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the decisions come as a major relief.

It’s a well-known fact that school fees comprise one of the most significant chunks of financial responsibilities for families in the UAE – according to the KHDA’s private school landscape report for 2020-21, the average annual fee paid for a student in Dubai is around Dh30,000.

After a difficult and challenging year for all, it is therefore imperative that the fee structure in UAE’s schools continue to remain the same to ensure stability in the education sector as well as to mitigate the financial hardships faced by many families.

In fact, several schools in the country had already voluntarily announced a freeze in fees well before the regulator announced the decision. It’s important for the rest of the schools in the city to follow their lead and continue to support parents as they navigate the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic.

It is also vital for educational institutions in the UAE to adopt a compassionate policy for financial relief and fee discounts to families genuinely affected by the pandemic.

In many cases, the freeze on school fees along with the school’s humanitarian considerations directly support the continuity of education for many children.

The proactive decision also demonstrates the UAE's commitment to ensuring that the private education sector continues to deliver value to parents, investors and school operators, and that UAE remains an attractive place to live in for families.

With a host of safety protocols undertaken by the KHDA and health authorities due to the pandemic, Dubai’s education institutions have shown great resilience in delivering quality education to students — whether in campus or through online learning.

That’s one reason why the KHDA’s latest data shows that 53 per cent of all students in Dubai have returned to face-to-face learning, while 47 per cent continue to study through full-time distance learning.

In a further boost to the blossoming education sector, student enrolment increased by 2.6 per cent in the last three months, along with the opening of 25 new schools over the past three years. The decision to freeze school fees for another year will only add further momentum to the sector in the months ahead, while maintaining the quality of education and enabling the growth of a knowledge-driven society.