education cost
Picture used for illustrative purposes. Image Credit: iStockphoto

Dubai: Putting a child through nursery to grade 12 can cost a parent in the UAE anywhere between Dh200,000 and over Dh1 million depending on the choice of curriculum, bearing in mind that tuition fee increases with grades.

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Plan for children’s education

For Sharjah-based Indian expatriate and retail professional Ritesh Mohan after house rent, children’s education is the highest annual expenditure. He spends roughly Dh14,000 and Dh8,000 on tuition fees for his daughter (aged 17) and son (aged 7), respectively, enrolled in an Indian curriculum (CBSE) school in Sharjah.

“The tuition fee structure is quite transparent in the UAE, as clear information is available on the KHDA (Knowledge and Human Development Authority) website,” Mohan said. “Any hike in tuition fee is based on the school’s ranking on the scorecard based on multiple factors, which is properly explained to parents.”

However, tuition fee is only the starting point as parents have to account for additional components including uniforms, books, stationery, transportation as well as meals.

Besides tuition fee, we have to account for annual transportation expense of Dh4,000 per child, based on the distance between school and residence

- Ritesh Mohan, Sharjah-based Indian expatriate and retail professional

“Besides tuition fee, we have to account for annual transportation expense of Dh4,000 per child, based on the distance between school and residence. Add to that Dh800 for two to three sets of uniforms per child that lasts them for the full academic year. My children prefer home-cooked meals over eating in the school canteen that would otherwise cost us Dh25 per day, per child,” Mohan added.

Along with school bags, books and stationery, children also need gadgets such as laptops and tablets. Mohan prefers buying good quality supplies for his children that lasts long. On an average he spends around Dh4,000 annually on buying supplies for his children. Every two years, he spends Dh4,000-5,000 to buy new models of a Windows-powered laptop for his daughter and an Android-based tablet for his son.

When asked if there were any pandemic related relief, Mohan said that due to virtual learning throughout last year, transportation cost was zero. Other expenses remained constant.

Something to consider: Besides the above overheads, private tuition can easily add a few more thousand dirhams to the total annual expenditure on children’s education. For example, Mohan spent around Dh7,000-8,000 annually for his daughter’s private tuition including two subjects. Depending on the choice of subjects, private tuition fee can cost anywhere between Dh300 and Dh500 per month for Arabic to Dh700 and Dh1,000 per month for specialised subjects, he shared.

UAE parent cost-effectively budgets for children’s education. Here's how
Ritesh Mohan's children's study table. Mohan spent around Dh7,000-8,000 annually for his daughter’s private tuition including two subjects.

Account for field trips and extracurricular activities

All work no play is not ideal and education institutes are quite mindful of this. That is why almost every school organises field trips and makes provision for extracurricular activities. And parents have to be mindful about some extra expenses on such activities.

“Before the pandemic, we used to spend around Dh300 monthly on field trips for both children. Such field trips were organised once a month and gave children the opportunity to visit museums, nature reserves as well as jungle-themed restaurants like the Rainforest Café at The Dubai Mall,” Mohan shared. “That aside we spend around Dh700 on annual swimming membership accessed by both children.”

Something to consider: Based on the child’s interest, they opt for online resources, subscriptions and tutorials that tend to be expensive. For someone like Mohan’s son who is interested in gaming, courses such as animation and coding can cost as much as Dh1,000 per month. Such courses may last up to three months or more. While his daughter likes to read and spends around Dh600 on books almost every month. According to Mohan, parents are open to spending some extra money to let children pursue hobbies that teach them life skills.

Smart budgeting tips

A strong believer in the philosophy “money saved is equal to money earned,” Mohan follows some simple yet smart budgeting tips that he has successfully imparted to his children.

Follow the envelope system: At the beginning of the month, Mohan puts aside money in different envelopes to keep a track of expenses. He keeps aside roughly Dh1,800 every month in the envelope allocated for children’s education to make the quarterly tuition fee payments of Dh5,500.

Create a shoebox piggybank: Mohan has created a shoebox full of chits with denominations ranging from Dh10 to Dh50. Every week his children pick out a chit for Mohan to keep aside the mentioned amount in a homebank. Even if Dh10 is saved for 52 weeks, it creates a fund worth Dh520 at the end of the year, which serves as an emergency kitty in the Mohan household.

Teach children financial planning: While schools teach a variety of subjects and life skills, it falls on parents to teach children the value of financial planning. Along with the above activities that are often fun, Mohan teaches his children the value of financial planning by buying books and through everyday accounting activities.

Mohan’s annual expenditure on children’s education at a glance:

Mohan’s annual expenditure on children’s education at a glance