Private education has become a business, according to directors of the educational zones in UAE.
Many schools charge high tuition fees that does not match their educational standards, they said. The schools also collect money much above cost from students for several events.
The high tuition fees charges by many schoolsis in violation of the instructions of the Ministry of Education, indicating lack of control of private schools by the ministry.
This is probably because many education officials are owners of private schools, they said.
Another reason they cited was there were only one or two government employees to monitor each educational zones consisting of 25 to 30 private schools.
Though the law permits private schools to raise their tuition fees only once in three years, the reality is very different, they said.
ObaidSaeed Al Matroushi, who has long experience in education, said some schools charge as much as Dh50,000 a year as tuition fees though their educational standards don’t match their fees.
If any private school is found violating any law, fines upto Dh10,000, which is equal to the tuition fee of one student, would be imposed, he said.
If the management of a private schools opens a class without permission of the education zone, it could be fined Dh10,000, he added. An average class of 40 students brings an income of Dh400,000 to the school.
Al Matroushi said teachers are poorly paid in private schools, earning no more than Dh3,500 per month at best.
A government official in charge of an educational zone said, on condition of anonymity, that some schools even organise picnics with the aim of making a profit of thousands of dirhams. Some schools organise events like graduation ceremonies and charge up to Dh50 for a graduation ceremony photograph from the students though its cost is not more than Dh5! Forcing students to wear a specific uniform only for the graduation party is also a clear violation of rules, he added.
Most private schools charge students for books supplied though tuition fees should cover the cost of books, he added.
Private schools charge Dh15 for ratification of certificates and up to Dh50 for a duplicate certificate in the event of loss of the original, he said.
Some expatriate parents are even forced to seek the help of charities like Red Crescent for paying the school fees of their children, he added.
Most parents do not complain to the educational zone again if they don’t get a positive reaction after the first complaint, he said. They should complain repeatedly if the school management is violating rules.
He also urged the ministry to review its policy on controlling private schools. An increase in the number of staff of educational zones is also needed, he added.
Dr Sulaiman Abdullah Al Za'abi, chairman of the Education Committee of the Sharjah Executive Council,said private schools make up 80 per cent of the total number of schools in the emirate.
Al Za’abi said profit is the main aim of the private schools, adding that he is only against excessive profit.
He said the Ministry of Education allows private schools to increase tuition fees every two years.
AlZa'abipraised the Ministry of Education's efforts to track complaints of parents but pointed out the absence of trust between parents and private school managements.
'Emirates24/7' called DrReem Al Ali,director of the office of supervision of private schools at the Ministry of Education,to find out her opinion. She promised to call back but did not.
Khalid Al Mulla, director of quality and control at the ministry, also did not respond to repeated calls.
No school has yet applied for fee hike: KHDA
Although the education regulatory authority Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) has approved the fee hike for this academic year, Dubai schools are yet to file for the mark-up.
“We are yet to receive any applications,” said Mohammed Darwish, Chief of Regulations and Compliance Commission (RCC) of KHDA.
The educational institutions, he elaborated, can apply for the fee increase only after the results of the school inspection are out.
“The Indian and Pakistani schools already have their results now and can apply within 30 days of receiving the communication from KHDA,” he added.
The process, however, will differ for schools, which marks the beginning of the academic year in September. “(Those) schools can only apply once the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB) has publicly announced the results.”
Detailing the process, Darwish explained, “Depending on the nature of the request and the level of analysis required, processing time for fee applications may take between 5 and 15 working days.”
The decision of whether to hike or not, the KHDA clarified, lies with the schools. “Schools may or may not choose to increase fees. This decision lies with the schools themselves. However, once they have chosen to increase fees and apply to KHDA, they can only do so in line with KHDA’s approval,” he explained.
The KHDA framework also directed the schools “to handle all parental input and queries that are connected with the increases that are in line with the fee framework”.
The move to raise school fees has created quite a stir, with parents rejecting the decision by stating it’s unfair to overburden them at a time of economic uncertainty and the schools backing it by affirming that it’ll help upgrade the quality of education.
As per the KHDA guidelines, the increase will be determined based on the inspection grading and the Educational Cost Index (ECI), devised by the Dubai Statistics Centre. Schools that are rated outstanding will be allowed 6 per cent increase, while schools marked good allowed 4.5 per cent, and those listed as satisfactory and unsatisfactory allowed 3 per cent.
Also, this could become an annual exercise, with schools permitted to apply for a fee increase again next year, but only within the criteria set by the KHDA.
The framework elaborated that some schools could even get special KHDA permission to hike more than 6 per cent. And those that will be considered under this bracket are the not-for-profit, embassy and special needs schools and also those investing in infrastructure expansion. The permission, if granted, would mean those schools will have to cap the hike for the next three years.
The fee hike is also disallowed for new schools and will be applicable only after it has clocked three years.
Dubai school fee had remained constant for the last two years following a government decision, and only a few, who obtained the nod from the Ministry of Education, were exempted.