Image Credit: Megan Hirons Mahon/Gulf News

Dubai: Private schools in Dubai can increase their fees for the 2016-17 academic year by a minimum of 3.21 per cent and up to a maximum of 6.42 per cent, depending on their ratings following annual school inspections.

This increase is based on the new Education Cost Index (ECI), which has risen from 2.92 per cent last year to 3.21 per cent, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) announced on Sunday.

The ECI is calculated annually by the Dubai Statistics Centre, which takes into account the consumer price index and school operation costs, including remuneration, rent and utilities.

Based on the new ECI, schools rated ‘outstanding’ in the next inspection results — due in April or May — can increase their fees by 6.42 per cent (double the ECI).

Schools rated ‘very good’ can increase their fees by 5.62 per cent (1.75 per cent of the ECI), schools rated ‘good’ can increase their fees by 4.82 per cent (1.5 per cent of the ECI), while schools rated ‘acceptable’ or ‘unacceptable’ can increase their fees by 3.21 per cent.

This ECI is only applicable for the 2016-17 academic year.

Mohammad Darwish, Chief of Regulations and Permits Commission at KHDA, said, “The fee framework has been updated to align with the new six-scale UAE School Inspection framework, which determines the quality of education in schools. It protects parents from arbitrary increases and provides an effective mechanism to balance the expectations of school investors and parents.”

The ECI takes into account school operating costs, which include teachers’ salaries, rent, maintenance, electricity and water charges, among a basket of other commodities.

Darwish added, “The ECI motivates schools to improve their quality of education and helps regulate inflation by adjusting the increase.”

The KHDA said inspections are structured around six performance standards, which reflect an overall performance judgement.

The fee framework, which has been applied for the past five years, has been developed in line with the strategic goals of KHDA and is connected with Dubai School Inspection Bureau’s quality indicators.

“The fee increase announced by the KHDA is a move that all schools will welcome. As always, the KHDA has a sound scientific basis and objective formula for all such increases, namely, the Educational Cost Index approved by the Executive Council. We appreciate the fact that the KHDA always looks into the best interests of all stakeholders,” said Ashok Kumar, CEO of Indian High School.

Parents react

While schools welcomed the increase, parents did not. In fact, those interviewed by Gulf News hoped that their child’s school would not increase fees. “Every year the school fees increase, it is becoming a burden. My son’s school is rated ‘acceptable’. Now I am hoping that they do not receive a higher rating and if they do I hope that they would not apply for a fee increase,” said Jordanian Hassan Najeem, the parent of a 10-year-old.

Sarab Al Khalili, a Palestinian mother of two girls who attend a Dubai private school, said if the ECI takes market prices into account, why are the fees allowed to increase when prices for everything else are falling. “Real estate is going down, petrol prices are going down, why aren’t school fees going down or at least freezing?” she asked.