Sherwood Academic school children leaving for home after attending their first day classes of the new academic year in Abu Dhabi. Picture used for illustrative purposes only Image Credit: Abdul rahman/Gulf news archives

Abu Dhabi/Dubai/Sharjah: It’s no secret: paying for a good education is expensive. However, when schools increase their fees year after year with no apparent change in what’s on offer, parents start to question if the fees match the quality of education.

Many parents told Gulf News they do not believe they are getting their money’s worth when it comes to education, but the rule of thumb here is that expensive education is not necessarily the best education — at least that’s what the regulatory authorities for education services keep reminding parents in the UAE.

“Fees definitely do not measure the quality of education. I took my daughter out of her school to a more expensive one. I was not happy with the new school so I moved her back the next academic year and she really had to struggle to catch up to her peer’s level,” said Suzie Al Ganem, a mother of one, whose daughter goes to a school in Dubai.

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) also agrees that higher fees do not necessarily mean better education as it has previously stated many schools that got ‘good’ rankings charge between Dh10,000-Dh15,000 a year.

For example, Al Diyafah High School, which received a ‘good’ ranking in the inspections, charges Dh9,595 for Kindergarten 1 (KG1) and Dh17,180 for grade 12. Its bus fees range from Dh4,500 to Dh6,750 and the registration fee is Dh500.

One the other hand, Raffles World Academy, which received the same ranking, charges Dh26,125 for kindergarten and Dh73,150 for grade 12.

While Al Diyafah High School is perceived as one of the schools with the lowest fees in Dubai, schools such as Gems World Academy have the highest as it charges Dh55,386 for KG1 and Dh96,140 for grade 12 (including books). The school’s bus fee ranges from Dh5,600 one-way and Dh8,100 two-way (within Dubai).

The KHDA’s fee framework allows schools to increase their tuition fees based on how they perform in inspections.

“They keep saying that they charge more because of their ‘state-of-the-art’ facilities. I feel schools’ high fees represent facilities and prestige and not the actual quality of education,” said Hassan Joudeh, a father of two children who go to school in Abu Dhabi.

Schools with low fees in Abu Dhabi, such as the Iranian Private School, which charges as little as Dh3,100 for Kindergarten 1 and as high as Dh3,800 for Grade 12 students (this includes tuition fees, books and bus fees).

On the other hand, schools with higher fees such as Brighton College (Bloom Gardens School) can be as much as Dh57,000 for Kindergarten 1 and Dh82,693 for grade 12 (these rates include registration, tuition, buses and uniform).

“I don’t understand — are my children going to school to learn maths, English and science or are they going to learn rocket science! I don’t see it as justifiable to ask parents to pay large sums of money to get a good quality of education. Education should be open for everyone and not only the rich,” said Hamad Kazouh, a father of two.

In Abu Dhabi only schools that are in Band A (have a very high rating) are eligible to increase their fees and not all Band A schools have high fees.

“I do not get why prices have gone up so much. The tuition fee of my son in grade 10 which is Dh46,000 is equivalent to the rent of my three-bedroom apartment,” said Jordanian national Samar Al Khateeb, a mother of four children who go to a school in Sharjah.

Huge problem

In Sharjah low-priced schools such as Delhi Private School have fees as low as Dh8,620 for Kindergarten 1 and Dh11,530 for grade 12. Its bus fees range from Dh2,100 to Dh3,060

Higher priced schools in Sharjah, which include Victoria International School, charge KG1 students Dh29,200 and grade 12 students Dh61,200 (including books). Its bus fees range from Dh4,750 to Dh7,750 while the assessment fee is Dh2,000.

“The huge problem is that after you pay a large sum of money for school fees, books, uniforms, buses and school essentials you find that your children are not learning from their teachers and you have to put another large sum of money into private tuition,” said Manal Eid, a mother of five whose children study in Sharjah.

“I pay Dh200 per hour for private tuition in maths and Arabic. This is not acceptable; I believe that the authorities should do something because education has become the biggest financial burden that my family faces,” added Manal.

With no sign of fees going down school tuition fees remain a real concern for parents.