At home with learning. Aaron and Hannah attending classes from their Al Warqa residence Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/XPRESS

Dubai: The rising cost of education is prompting a spike in the number of parents to home school their children in the UAE, XPRESS has found.

Cody Claver, general manager of icademy Middle East, a Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA)-accredited online school based in Knowledge Village, said the American curriculum school has seen a sudden spurt in enrolments, driven largely by mounting educational expenses in regular schools.

“Demand for our online schooling has soared by 12 per cent in recent months and we currently have 750 students in the region,” Claver said, claiming that home schooling is becoming increasingly popular because of its affordability and flexibility, besides greater inclusiveness and adaptability.

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“At K12, the fees range from Dh18,322 for kindergarten to Dh27,000 in Grade 12, which is a third of what some American (curriculum) schools charge. K12 also works with families to understand their circumstances and their child’s individual learning needs. So whether you are an aspiring athlete or a musician with a busy schedule or a child who is a slow learner or has special educational needs, we have a place for you.” 

Al Warqa-based Diane Menzies, whose son Aaron, 18 and daughter Hannah, 15 both study at K12, said Hannah’s performance vastly improved after she left regular school and took to online learning.

“Hannah was the first to join K12 and we could see the change in just six months. Soon, Aaron also asked to be moved. Today, they are both learning at their own pace with Hannah choosing five subjects in Grade 9 and Aaron six in Grade 10.”

Cheaper option

She said she pays an average of Dh24,000 in fees per child, “way cheaper” than what she was paying in regular school earlier.

A Dubai dad who is enrolling his son, four, in kindergarten at the school said: “At a yearly fee of Dh18,000, I think it is a great option. My wife has just lost her job and schooling our son from home will not only help save money but also the physical running around.”

Claver said students use the online learning system to access their daily lessons and submit their assignments directly online. “They participate in live web classes, join interactive discussions, connect with their teachers and reach out for extra help whenever they need it. They can also take part in online clubs and virtual field trips.”

K12’s physical campus in Knowledge Village is an added bonus for students who wish to have the traditional interface with their faculty or peers.

Claver said students have flexible start dates throughout the year for both part time and full time courses. They are required to cover both core and elective subjects.

“As an example, a Grade 12 student typically has to take four core subjects – English Math, Science, Social Studies. He or she has 160 subjects to choose from for two electives over two semesters. Depending on the course, assessments are done at the end of each unit with an exam at the end of every semester.”

India’s National Institute for Open Schooling (NIOS) also has many takers as it is cheaper and provides a flexible Indian curriculum module for higher secondary and secondary education.

“My daughter was lagging behind and passed high school with great difficulty. She was nearly going to drop out when we heard of the NIOS option. It’s a no brainer that it is much cheaper than going to a regular school here. Its certifications are as worthy as those issued by other recognised Indian boards,” said one mother in Dubai.

Another parent said her daughter not only gets to select the subjects she wants but also has time to pursue dance and other extra-curricular interests which she could not do earlier - with huge savings. “We have so much peace at home now.”

Unlike their peers from regular schools who have to be up and about in the wee hours, online students say they can work with their own schedules from the comfort of their homes.

“I wake up leisurely and start my classes by 10am,” said one student. Claver claimed 93 per cent of K12 parents believe that the online school platform is a suitable learning environment for their kids. “Eighty two per cent say the low teacher to student ratio helps meet their child’s individual learning needs.”