High school fees and the regular hikes are a common concern among parents in the UAE. The schools in the country charge according to the curriculum they offer, with international ones coming on top of the fee pyramid and Asian ones being more affordable.
However, most parents, irrespective of the curriculum, maintain their children’s school fees are a major expense of their household budget.
An analysis of a new report on GCC Education by Kuwait Financial Centre (Markaz) shows that average kindergarten fees in the UAE is the cheapest among its GCC peers, but the average school fees and Year 12 fees are the highest in the region.
The report highlights the dilemma of parents of school-going children, and states that private schools in the UAE are fact are the most expensive in the GCC when looked at in totality.
“If we split it country-wise, private schools in the UAE are most expensive, with fees ranging from an average of $6,000 [Dh22,038] for Indian schools to $13,797 [Dh50,676] for British schools,” says the report, which is based on Cost of Living report, Middle East.
The average school fees that UAE schools charge is $10,250 (Dh37,648), the highest in the region, with parents in Bahrain shelling out the least ($7,242, or Dh26,600).
Average fees in GCC countries in US dollar per annum, Q4 2013
In fact, as the chart above illustrates, the average Year 12 fees in a private school in the UAE is $18,237 (Dh66,984) whereas the average fee charged by private schools in Bahrain for the same year is $10,788 (Dh39624), or almost 41 per cent less than what UAE parents pay.
Previous studies highlight that most parents are unhappy about the fees that schools charge and some maintain that it is becoming difficult for them to keep up with the annual fee hikes.
According to a WhichSchoolAdvisor.com poll, expatriates spend about 30 per cent of their income on their children’s education and find it a drain on their household budget.
However, other studies point out that parents are not averse to paying the high cost if they have quality education for their children.
A previous study by YouGov Education Investment surveyed approximately 500 parents throughout the UAE to understand the key factors that impact a school’s reputation and revealed that academic record, extracurricular activities and technology outweigh the importance of fees and location when choosing the right school for their child.
The study found that when evaluating schools, parents placed a school’s academic record as the most important, followed by its overall reputation, the range of subjects taught, the range of extracurricular activities on offer and the school facilities available.
Functional attributes such as the proximity of the school to home, ease of access and school fees were deemed less important, suggesting that parents in the UAE are more willing to pay higher costs or travel further in order to place their child in a school with a strong academic record.
The survey found that, overall, 44 per cent of parents believed they receive good value for money from their child’s school, citing factors such as the quality of the class teacher, positive word of mouth recommendations, and the quality of the head teacher as attributes which contribute significantly to their perception of value for money.