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Roundtable with parents and Dubai schools proves an education

Parents face nightmare with school admissions

Dubai schools justify the need for the 'infamous' 500 dirham processing fee...

March 26, 2013 6:09 by

Ambareen Musa certainly isn’t Dubai’s only disgruntled and frustrated parent – but she has recently written a column on Kipp (Kids or cash: what is the real priority for UAE schools?) discussing the nightmare of trying to squeeze your child onto the waiting list of any decent school in the emirate – let alone an actual placement. Suffice to say and much to her shock, ‘why didn’t you plan for this when you were pregnant’ was a typical response she’d received from more than one school.

Today, Kipp attended a roundtable discussion organised by (the comparison site Ambareen had founded) to bring the media, parents and school representatives face-to-face to discuss the shortcomings (for a lack of a better word) of private schools in this country and possibly the infrastructure of legislation that governs their practices. It was a heated discussion, to say the least. Heated, but fair.

I’ll be honest with you Kippers. When we left the discussion, we had a severe case of information overload. Interesting information, opinions and concerns no doubt – but an overload nonetheless. Also, towards the end, we had only just begun to scratch the surface of the issue, so there is a lot to relay and much of it was inconclusive, but Kipp will relay some of the more interesting points to you.

For starters, most of the contacted schools and representatives declined to be present (one can guess why) but the ones that agreed to attend were Clive Pierrpont, Director of Communications at taaleem, Saleha Khateeb, Registrar at Horizon School, Jonathan Price, Head Teacher at Jebel Ali Primary School and Diane Thorson, an assistant manager at GEMS Education.

The infamous 500 Dirham fee

Kipp was well aware of how sticky this subject is, but until we attended this morning’s discussion, we had no idea just how sticky. Some strong opinions were voiced – including our own – and the general notion was that not only does this expense seem unnecessary and unaccounted for from the parents’ point of view, but with many schools, it’s also a matter of unethical practice. Parents around the table shared their horror stories of being bulldozed into applying to a number of different schools – all of which asked for the 500 dh processing fee – only to later find their child had no chance of getting in.

It’s true that every school is obliged to pay a 500 dirham fee to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority in Dubai each time a new student is enrolled, but that still leaves a lot of money unexplained and unjustified.

In a nutshell, most parents end up paying thousands of dirhams in ‘processing fees’ just for the mere hope of their child getting a decent placement. On the other hand, as Jonathan Price, Saleha Khateeb and Clive Pierrpont pointed out, while they do charge that 500 dirham fee, they make sure not to accept ‘registration requests’ unless there’s a valid chance of admission – meaning they don’t capitalise on false hope. And even then, they’re honest with parents about their refund policies.

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  1. Shambavi Rajagopal on March 27, 2013 12:52 pm

    Good reporting. I would however agree with Mr Jonathan Price that the criteria for which the school has been applauded must be considered before seeking admission.
    Though we live in a country where job guarantees are not there and most teachers are females on Husband’s visas, we should seek stability in teaching. At least the teacher should be committed to work the whole academic year unless there is an emergency. Many years back Kuwait made it compulsory for teachers to be on school visa so at least the academic requirement of the child for one year was complete. KHDA should try and give those assurances to parents and for a person who studied in 13 different schools in 12 years of education due to parents’ transfer, all I can say is School is only the beginning of education and not the whole education. Mr. Ravi Thomas , Principal of Emirates National school, Sharjah, said once, We are so busy preparing our children for a future that we forget to let them enjoy the present.

  2. M. Aldalou on March 27, 2013 3:05 pm

    Hey Shambavi, I really appreciate you taking the time to leave that comment.

    I think you’re absolutely right and Thomas’s quote really encapsulates the mistakes that schools and teachers can make.

    We hope the KHDA does step in

  3. Alia on April 4, 2013 7:07 am

    We have recently moved from London and one of our children was born prematurely and was diagnosed with a mild form of diplegia which has resulted in him not being able to ambulate independently . He is 3 years of age and besides the walking issue he is doing fine and is a keen pupil at his current nursery. We have however been extremely frustrated upon arriving to Dubai to notice how many schools do not accommodate for students with disabilities and as such are really at a loss at what to do in terms of providing him with the proper educational environment in order for him to thrive and learn.
    We applied for seven schools and paid the 500 dirhams fee to find out during our follow up that 6 of those schools do not have the facilities for kids with physical disabilities.
    In my opinion, I think KHDA should impose certain criteria on schools before giving them the licence to open and current schools should make the necessary adjustments for their premises to accommodate for students with physical challenges.
    Most schools in UAE discriminate against students with physical disabilities.

  4. M. Aldalou on April 4, 2013 9:39 am

    Hey Alia, thank you so much for posting this comment and may I say it’s also very brave and honest of you. Yeah, this is a subject that was (unfortunately) only briefly touched upon during the round table but it is definitely something the KHDA needs to enforce soon, because what happened with you and your son is utterly unacceptable in my view.


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