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Big bucks for the ABCs

Dubai Schools

Is living in Dubai still the wonderful haven it once was? What happens to your money that you save from the tax-free city once you need to put a child, two or even three in private schools?

July 15, 2012 12:00 by



The most common question that adults who live in Dubai get asked is ‘what’s the appeal?’ More often than not the answer usually involves the words ‘tax-free’. While some may declare their love for the sun, let’s face it. It’s all about the money.

However, if we talk about an expatriate’s earning potential here (in a “tax-free” city) then we still must consider the heap of other expenses that one may normally not concur in his or her home country.

The big elephant in the room that continues to scare more and more expats away is the astonishingly rising cost of private education in the United Arab Emirates. And while the no tax scene sounds exciting; how much are you really saving after you cough up thousands of Dirhams a year to get your child a decent enough education?

Over the last few years there has been a lot of tension between hard working parents and school fee systems. It appears that schools in Dubai (and other Emirates, generally) have been given a green light to raise their annual tuition fees if they perform well but is the sky the limit?

Recently, The Knowledge and Human Development Authority announced that even schools that don’t perform exceedingly well might still be allowed to have a fee increase; only their limit will be less than those that achieve outstanding ratings. Although the authority is now trying to impose a tighter fist on the matter, only time will tell.

 ”Many schools in Dubai are run by companies for their shareholders’ profit and such commercial enterprises should not be allowed to take advantage of parents desperate to give their children the best education they can find,” said Gulf News in its today’s editorial.

Well put! But this isn’t a revelation or an epiphany. In fact, most parents are aware of the incentive behind schools achieving higher ratings; and that’s money. The real spot in the dark is what can the general population do about it.

 ”No one wants more government control, but if the profit-making schools refuse to acknowledge their social responsibilities, they must be forced into compliance and the KHDA may need to require schools to offer such services at a cost”, GN concluded.

I remember when I attended High School in Dubai (which wasn’t that long ago!), the fees of a solid school was approximately AED 20,000 per year. Now a parent would be lucky if they could find a decent nursery for their toddler for that amount.

The bottom line is that Dubai has its many strengths and although the academic standards are progressing it still can’t be considered an educational country. Expatriates are finding it close to impossible to send their children to schools here and are subsequently forced to have them schooled back home. There simply isn’t enough incentive for parents to want their children studying in UAE schools and can we blame them?



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