Most parents say they spend extra money on private classes as their children struggle to cope or are pressured to score higher Image Credit: Agency

Dubai: Parents in Dubai are forced to spend hundreds of dirhams on private tuitions every month because they feel the quality of education in schools is not up to the mark, expatriates have told XPRESS.

Parents of children studying in schools rated ‘outstanding’ and ‘good’ by regulators said they spend extra on private classes as their children struggle to cope or are pressured to score higher.

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) told XPRESS that there are 14 licensed private tutors or training providers in Dubai. But in what is still an unregulated sector, hundreds of teachers and housewives offer their services from home, with parents preferring them as they come cheap and are ‘personalised’.

Fee range

The monthly fees for private home tuitions start from Dh200 for a subject or a set of subjects. Licensed operators charge up to Dh1,000. ‘Subject specialists’ from well-known schools, who attract a large chunk of the students through word-of-mouth, command varying rates.

“I spend Dh2,000 for my kids’ tuitions every month. And mind you, it’s only for French and Maths. Most tutors charge by the hour but I have no choice as the kids can’t manage with the teaching in school,” said Angela, mother of a Grade 9 boy and Grade 7 girl who study in an international school rated ‘acceptable’ by the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB).

A school teacher at an Indian school said the pressure to perform usually begins in Grade 9 where an average student spends Dh800 a month for private tuitions in math and the sciences.

“The money we spend on private tuitions could be as much as the school fees itself,” said a parent who pays Dh800 in school fees for her Grade 12 daughter in an ‘outstanding’ Indian school.

Chaya, whose son and daughter study in Grade 8 and Grade 5 in an ‘outstanding’ Indian school, said: “I feel children don’t get enough attention in school as there are too many students in a class. Also, the portions are so vast that teachers tend to hurry through the lessons sometimes.”

High turnover

Another parent who pulled her son out of the same school to enroll him in an international school, said: “If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed, it’s the private tuitions. My son is in Year 9 and is weak in math so he needs the extra push.”

She said the high turnover of teachers keeps private tuitions thriving. “My son had four math teachers and three geography teachers in a span of 12 months. How could I expect him to perform well without a tutor?”

The tutors are clear that their services are only a supplement. “Regular school learning can never be replaced. But often students don’t get personal attention. At tution centres they are grouped according to their ability in a particular subject,” said Vikram Gore of Gore’s Tutoring Centre, a licensed tutorial in the Knowledge Village.

He said unlike a school, a private tutor guides the students to excel in the board exams and focus on concepts and answering techniques.

Adam Hopewell, Adviser to SchoolPage, an online tutoring service, said: “A private tutor can be an effective support mechanism to lighten the load on students. Moreover, parents tend to have less time or ability to help their children with their studies.”

He said the most common age group of students seeking tutoring is 12 to 16, although they can start as early as eight. The subjects are mostly maths, chemistry, physics and biology.

SchoolPage students come from a mix of nationalities and spend between Dh500 and Dh5,000 a year on tutoring, he added.

Grade 12 students at Meccad-emia, a tutorial service for the Indian CBSE curriculum in Karama, said they pay Dh12,000 a year for classes in maths and science. “They have their own modules and prepare students for engineering and medical entrance tests,” said one of them.

But some students said they prefer home tutors who are never short in supply.

“Everyone from bored housewives to underpaid teachers is taking tuitions. All I have to do is ask around or browse through the classified sections of a newspaper or online forum to find them,” said a parent.

Under the scanner

Mohammad Darwish, Chairman of the KHDA’s Regulatory and Compliance Commission, said: “Private tutoring, whether provided by individuals, schools themselves or private institutions, is an issue of concern that needs to be put under the scanner. There are a handful of existing training institutes that already provide this activity and we continue to regulate them as a result. However, the authority has not allowed new providers to enter the arena, hence preventing unchecked growth in this sector.”

He said KHDA is conducting a thorough study and looking at drafting regulations for the sector if necessary.