Around 14 per cent of Dubai schools have decided to not increase tuition fees this school year, with many more offering discounts and scholarships.
Out of the 159 schools that were eligible to increase fees, 22 decided to freeze fees, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) has confirmed. No further requests to increase fees were received by the KHDA, which did not name the 22 schools that froze their fees.
However, Taaleem, which has a portfolio of 11 schools, with at least eight schools in Dubai, had already announced it will not be increasing fees this year.
Meanwhile, details were not available on how many GEMS schools, if any, are also not increasing fees.
Also providing some relief for parents is a 25 per cent drop in the Education Cost Index (ECI), which serves as the basis for fee increases.
The ECI, announced by Dubai Statistics Centre, fell to 2.4 per cent from 3.21 per cent last school year.
It means schools this academic year were eligible to increase fees from 2.4 per cent (the ECI) to 4.8 per cent (twice the ECI), depending on their KHDA rating.
Annual private school fees can be lower than Dh5,000 or higher than Dh100,000 in Dubai, which has over 16 different curricula catering to parents of all income levels. However, 57.5 per cent of students pay less than Dh20,000 per year, according to the KHDA.
Additionally, the opening of around 10 new schools this year, following a record 15 new schools last year, has increased competition among schools.
However, salaries of many parents have also remained unchanged, meaning any increase in any outlay puts pressure on their school budgets as well.
o ease the pressure on parents, Taaleem said it decided to hold its fees. The school group said in a statement: “In November 2016, Taaleem announced that we were freezing school fees for the academic year 2017-18. We understood that families were feeling the pressure in an often difficult and uncertain financial climate. As a school group, we wanted our parents to know, that we listened to and understood their concerns. We did not want a potential rise in school fees to become a further source of added anxiety or economic stress.”
It added: “This early announcement was greeted appreciatively by our community, who in turn could plan their future education budget with certainty and accuracy.
“We also introduced sibling discounts that brought further relief to families. We were also proud to be chosen to partner with the government and the KHDA to pioneer the Mohammad Bin Rashid Programme for Distinguished Students.”
For example, at Taaleem’s Dubai British School, a sibling discount of 10 per cent on tuition fees for the third (youngest) and subsequent child in each family is being introduced this year, according to the school website.
Meanwhile, the Mohammad Bin Rashid programme facilitates full scholarship opportunities for high-achieving Emirati students to study in leading private schools in Dubai.
Shaikha Ali, an Emirati mother of four children who have been enlisted in the programme, said: “I was very excited to know that four of my children were given the opportunity to be part of the programme.
“We, as a family, believe that education is the most important thing that you can give your children. My children are high achievers, who excelled in their studies.
“I know the transition might not be easy; however, staff and teachers at Dubai American Academy were very supportive and assured a successful transition that will enable my children to adapt to new settings.”
A spokesperson for GEMS, which is a partner in the programme, said: “The country’s leadership is dedicated to ensuring that the UAE’s education system is recognised as one of very high quality … As one of the region’s leading education providers, we are proud to be an integral partner of this programme and have offered scholarships to outstanding Emirati students across our network of schools.”
GEMS schools also offer sibling discounts, discounts for those parents using their GEMS co-branded credit card, and for parents who refer others families to a GEMS school.
The spokesperson added: “This year we are excited to also launch our GEMS Rewards programme that aspires to make tuition cost-neutral for our families through discounts and special offers.”
For example, GEMS has in place a Refer-a-Friend offer at around 12 of its participating schools in the UAE. Typically, for each referred child successfully enrolled in its schools, the referrer will receive a four per cent discount on annual fees.