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Closure of school was a business decision by GEMS

Should schools be allowed higher fee increases in order to survive or are parents struggling too much already?

December 17, 2012 2:08 by

In a recently revealed ‘letter to the parents’, GEMS Education expressed their regret about being forced to shut down The Westminster School in Dubai. Due to their inability to operate profitably, the 2014/15 academic year will be the last for them.

TWS is one of the education provider’s biggest institutes in the emirate but they’ve said that they can no longer operate with the fee cap placed by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority. If they want to survive, they need to be able to charge parents more.

‘At The Westminster School, over the past five years the average fee increase, per annum, has been just 167 dirhams,’ reads the letter. “That equates to around 13 dirhams a month. For two of the past five years there has been no fee increase at all. We simply cannot offer a high quality education at this level that we see as our duty to provide. Indeed, salary increases during the same period have been at a level higher than any fee awards.’

The KHDA governs and rates all schools in the emirate, deciding the ones that deserve the most substantial annual fee hike based on their overall performance. The fee hike restrictions were put in place to control the soaring prices of private education in Dubai – as parents were and still are trying to keep up with them. In fact, Many have argued that schools – particularly those rated ‘acceptable’ – shouldn’t be allowed to hike their fees at all. And it’s worth noting that this school falls under that rating.

Quoted by Arabian Business, an anonymous parent says that GEMS has put money ahead of student welfare. “Why close a school rated as acceptable?,” said one parent. “The reasons given for the closure simply do not add up. GEMS has put profit margins ahead of the welfare of the children at Westminster School. Thanks for the pre-Christmas slap in the face GEMS!”

There are approximately 5,000 students attending the Dubai-based school and naturally, all will need to find replacement institutes before the end of 2014. The parents have been informed in the letter that their children would be able to transfer to various other GEMS-owned schools.

‘Students from TWS, Dubai will be given priority placement in the following GEMS schools from 2013 onwards. This is subject to meeting normal admissions procedures.’

When Kipp questioned the KHDA about the closure, and whether they schools ought to be allowed higher increases, they told us that as with all other schools, TWS was governed by the same regulations and that it was a business decision taken purely by GEMS.

“GEMS submitted an application to close The Westminster School at the end of the academic year 2014-15. It was business decision taking by GEMS. The School Fees Framework governs all fee increases at Dubai’s private schools. The fee increases at The Westminster School were also governed similarly,” says Mohammed Darwish, Chief of Regulations and Compliance Commission, KHDA.

Should schools in the emirate be allowed to hike their fees in order to survive or do you think the closure of this school is better in the long run?

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