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File photo of students going to class at Indian High School in Dubai, for illustrative purpose only Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Parents and schools have welcomed the Tuesday’s announcement by Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) to freeze fees for the next academic year.

According to KHDA, there will be no increase in school fees at private schools in Dubai for the next academic year 2022-2023, which starts in September for most schools.

American father Tom Koenig, whose second child Margot attends French school Le Lycee Français International de l’Aflec, said the news could not have come at a better time. “My wife and I have no jobs. We sold property back home in the USA in order to maintain the privilege to stay in the UAE and benefit from the good schools here. So Kudos to KHDA for thinking about the situation of parents. A lot of us have been feeling the pinch of what is going on in the world. The last thing we would have wanted was a school fee hike. Many are facing the tipping point in their lives and this news comes as a huge relief,” added Koenig.

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Tom Koenig (second from left) with his family Image Credit: Supplied

Pakistani mother Almas Abdul Ghaffar, 54, said: “It goes to show that KHDA is taking into the consideration of parents, many of whom have lived here for long in the UAE. Unfortunately the pandemic put a lot of stress on everyone. Some families have struggled to survive due to the financial constraints. So this [decision on fees] goes a long way forward.”

Indian mother Mahima Mehra, whose daughters Manya, 18, and Misha, 12, study at Jumeirah College, said: “The last two years has been tough financially and emotionally for everyone. This is a great news after long time. It is great that we are being considered.”

Mehra pays Dh90,000 per year for her older child in Year 13 and Dh77,000 per year for her younger daughter in Year 7.

Mahima Mehra with her daughters
Mahima Mehra with her daughters Image Credit: Supplied

Why freeze fees?

KHDA’s decision to freeze private school fees is based on the approved Education Cost Index (ECI) issued by the Dubai Statistics Center, and private schools have been officially notified of the index. ECI, which measures annual changes in the costs of running a school, including salaries, rent and utilities, has been set at -1.01 per cent this year.

The ECI and the Fee Framework were developed in collaboration with Dubai Government entities, including Dubai Statistics Centre, Department of Economic Development, and Dubai Chamber of Commerce, among others.

Enrolment at Dubai’s private schools increased by 5.8 per cent per cent since February 2021. Dubai has witnessed the opening of around 21 new schools over the past three years, taking the total number of schools to 215 private schools.

Mohammed Darwish

Mohammed Darwish, CEO of the Regulations and Permits Commission, KDHA, said on Tuesday: “Dubai’s private schools continue to demonstrate strong growth and resilience, driven by the trust and confidence of families. Our robust fee framework ensures complete transparency and balances the expectations of families and schools.”

Schools respond

A GEMS Education spokesperson said: “Apart from the exceptional fee increases, private schools in Dubai have not raised fees for the past two years in line with the ECI and KHDA directives. The latest announcement for next academic year has been well noted by GEMS Education, and we are now working through its implications for the running of our schools in the emirate. Regardless of such directives, GEMS families can be sure that they are receiving the best and highest quality education possible – and this remains our first and foremost priority.”

Punit MK Vasu

Punit MK Vasu, CEO, The Indian High Group of Schools, said despite the KHDA confirming that The Indian High Group of Schools is eligible for a tuition fee increase this year, the school has decided against it.
He added: “We remain true to our core of being a not-for-profit community group of schools that puts the interests of our learners and parents first. We hope this move will provide significant financial benefit, help and relief to over 13,000 families that are part of the learning community across our group of schools and we remain committed to providing high quality education at one of most affordable fee structures across Dubai. We are also continuing to accept need-based bursary applications from those who are still financially affected.”

Vasu said: “The learning community across the world has perhaps been most affected by the pandemic and the effects thereafter. The move to maintain status quo on tuition fees across private for profit schools in Dubai will provide financial relief to parents who have been greatly impacted.”

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Shiny Davison

Shiny Davison, Academic Director, Gulf Model School (GMS), said: “This news is most favourable for the parent community as they are all reviving back to a normalcy. The fee framework of Dubai schools ensures a balance for the expectations of families. For a school like GMS which has the most affordable fees, it will be a little hard to manage the finance. But we are looking into the benefit of our parents as we do understand the reasoning behind this decision. We will ensure that we deliver the best to our students and that learning gaps are always addressed.”

Exceptional cases

In select cases, despite the general freeze on fees, certain eligible schools can be granted an exceptional permission by KHDA to increase fees by a set amount. The exception is based on clear eligibility criteria as outlined in KHDA’s exceptional fee framework guidelines.